While in Florida in January, I was able to see and photograph a Great Horned Owl nesting in a very large, old oak tree. It was a highlight of my trip to Florida.
Great Horned Owls are commonly found throughout North America and their population is estimated to be over 6 million with about 45 percent in the United States. Chances are you have seen and photographed them too. I have seen and photographed them before, but on this occasion, all of the critical elements for capturing a really good (keeper) image came together.
I was prepared with the right gear: Nikon D800 mounted on a 600mm lens on gimbal head and tripod. At times, I used an SB-910 Speedlight with a Better Beamer for some fill flash and catchlight.
There were a couple of exciting moments. After about 30 minutes of watching and photographing, I noticed through the viewfinder a very little, young owlet popping its naked head up from the nest towards its mother’s beak. The owlet’s eyes were not open yet. It probably hatched the day before or early that morning.
My timing at the nest was incredible. I was probably seeing and photographing the owlet’s first feeding (below). Notice how the female owl, although feeding the owlet, is literally keeping an eye on me.
Before the owlet appeared, the mother owl was feeding on something in the nest. I could not see what it was. Later the owl pulled a dead mouse out of the nest. With the mouse in her beak, the owl looked around and then flew up into the tree, and quickly returned to the nest without the mouse.
Nature photography opportunities like this, when everything comes together, are rare. Sometimes it is luck, but more often it is perseverance and persistence, as well as being prepared. Images like these feed my desire to shoot more, even when it is very early in the morning, far away, cold or hot, wet, bug infested, etc.
And in conclusion, one more image…
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