Barn Owls are typically strictly nocturnal but during harsh winters with lots of snow they do hunt during the day here in Utah. It has been bitter cold for some time now and we have had lots of snow falling during recent storms and that snow makes it difficult for Barn Owls to find their prey. Cold makes the owls need more calories to survive so they start hunting during daylight hours. So while it makes me and other bird photographers happy to photograph them during the day it is also sad that if it doesn’t warm up and the snow doesn’t melt some of these beautiful owls will die because of starvation.
The flying Barn Owl above was photographed three days ago while it hunted marshy areas at Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area in northern Utah. I appreciated that the owl was flying south towards the light because that created a catch light in the owl’s deep-set eyes.
The Barn Owl above flew almost too close to photograph it, much like the Golden Eagle I had photographed on Antelope Island earlier in the morning. At least with this owl I didn’t clip the wings like I did on the eagle and even though the Barn Owl was flying away from the sun I was able to get some light in the eye because of the reflected light off of the snow below the owl. I wish I would have had a touch more room in front of and below the owl and even though I could add it in Photoshop I am not fond of altering my images to that degree, besides, I like this close up view.
Barn Owl fly by – Nikon D300, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 400, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited
When this Barn Owl flew past me I could see that it had some ice and snow on its feet, that makes me feel chilled just thinking about having to live and survive in such harsh conditions. There were still a few fluffy clouds when I took this image and I quite liked how they created this lovely pastel blue background with interest added because of those clouds.
I photographed this Barn Owl perched on a snow-covered Kestrel nest box yesterday morning, the hoar-frost is still visible on the owl’s facial disc and that was at 9:51 am. The temperature around that time had risen to about 6 degrees Fahrenheit. My right hand was bare while I photographed this owl and before leaving the owl my hand had gone numb, later I felt relief when my hand started to hurt as they warmed back up.
Barn Owls also fly during the day when they have chicks in the nest, especially large broods when they can’t catch enough prey at night to feed all of those hungry owlets.
They are gorgeous owls and I feel like I have been given a gift whenever I can photograph them during the day, I hope they survive this latest polar blast.
PS: it is -4F a few minutes before this post was published.