Researching potential Short-eared Owl locations and revisiting Diamond Hill Wetlands
Feb 3, 2018
I got the bug to drive a few areas with potential for having Short-eared Owls, ending at Diamond Hill for the "sunset show"
Back in the "big year" for Short-eared Owls, 2014, the largest congregation of these Owls was at an organically farmed field with knee-high corn stubble left through the Winter. While doing research for our BOGS raptor run, I came across another such field. This one is between Junction City and Harrisburg, off of Ayers Ln. A field near to the corn-stubble field has a sign "Organic Farm - do not spray".
I checked this area around 4:15pm but didn't see any Harrier or Owl activity at all. However, I was only there 10 minutes and it was very bright out.
Also visible from Ayers Ln is the old Railroad trestle which crosses the Willamette River 1/4 mile South of Harrisburg.
I also explored Priceboro Rd, Dale Rd and Bowers Ln, which are near the southern boundary of Linn County, mostly west of I-5 between N. Coburg Rd and Powerline Rd. Priceboro crosses to the east side of I-5 and winds east and North until it reaches Gap Rd where Gap changes names to Diamond Hill Rd. A Short-eared Owl was seen on Dale Rd a few weeks ago. I didn't see any large fields which had good vegetation for ground-roosting Owls; but there were large fields with grass that might have been over 6" tall.
Bald Eagles are very common in Southern Linn County in February. This one was on Territorial Rd, which is at the North end of Halsey and runs East/West.
When I arrived at Diamond Hill it was around 4:10. I parked under the powerlines for 10 minutes and saw several SEOW way off in the distance near the wooded strip marking Pierce Creek which forms the Northern boundary of the private wetlands.
Once in a while one of the Owls would fly a little bit closer ...
I drove further East to the gated driveway and stayed there for nearly an hour as it got progressively darker up until sunset.
This photo looks quite a bit like my very first picture of a Short-eared Owl, which I took around 1976 at Finley Refuge using one of those small Kodak Instamatic camera. The Owl was pretty close to me so it did show up in the instamatic photo, but probably not as large nor as detailed even as this image.
Sometimes a juvenile Northern Harrier can look quite a bit like a Short-eared Owl. Not only does a Northern Harrier juvenile have the reddish streaks on its upper breast like a Short-eared Owl, it also has a facial disk which looks owlish! Here's a side-by-side comparison of such a Harrier I photographed earlier that same afternoon, on Lake Creek Rd, along with one of the photos I took of the Owls.
My camera auto-focus relies on contrasting areas in the image. When it gets dark there is less and less contrast between a bird and the field around it, for example. So by the time it got this dark I changed to using manual focus. This camera barrel has a focus ring like good old 35mm film cameras did. This is the first time I used it steadily on a bird important to me. And I did pretty well with it. But if my focus had been spot-on in this photo it would be much sharper and I would have enlarged a little more.
Time to go home
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