Barred Owl on Skinner Butte
Saturday, April 30, 2016
I had been unable to find the Owl for the first 10 minutes and was berating my seemingly lost ability to spot birds. There was only one Jay and at first the Jay was way up in a different tree. Once it started going after the Owl again, it did not take long for the Jay to give me a pretty good idea where in all that vegetation, where to search for the Owl. The first glimpse I had of it was only a band of its mid-breast, showing pale background with streaks which just "leapt out" at me.
At that moment I felt my brain had not lost all its ability after all, to detect and harken to a pattern not made by the vegetation - what Annie Dillard called "the naturally obvious" (in contrast to "the artificially obvious" of man-made things). Even then, each time I stopped looking it was hard to re-locate the bird again with my binoculars.
I should mention, for those of you who enjoy photography too, that the only way to get the Owl in focus, I had to use manual focus and bracketing mode (3 shots at different focal distances with each press of the shutter). Using manual focus on the Canon SX50 requires adjusting a dial to try to set the distance. This is awkward and takes time. Shooting this bird this way was arduous work partly because while fiddling with the camera that way , I had to bend down part way, awkwardly, and lean a little just to get the bird in view, then try to hold steady for the three shots.
When Janet arrived. She found several other viewpoints which offered different angles. One of those gave us the talons and one gave an almost unobstructed view of the face. My first viewing point only gave half of the face at best.
It was this Steller's Jay which had eventually given me the Owl's location. The Jay was flitting around in the small trees, making a lot of noise. I started looking around below where the Jay was moving around, and BINGO I saw some streaks (barring") amidst the leaves. Only once very briefly while I was there did the Jay actually land near the Owl, allowing the following photo.
Janet wrote later to say she and Jen went back up there at 7pm and the Jays were actually striking the Owl in their diving attacks. Also, the Owl was down lower in the bushes and harder to see.
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