Female Short-eared Owl and chick at nestFemale Short-eared Owl and chick at nest

I’ve said before that owls fascinate me; probably more times than I can count, and Short-eared Owls are always a delight. Although I see and photograph Short-eared Owls here in Utah I have had some very special photography sessions with them at Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in the Centennial Valley of Montana. Two summers ago I spotted a mated pair of them not too far from a road with the nest at the base of a Sagebrush. The nest was far enough away from the road that we could photograph them without disturbing the adults or the chicks.

Male Short-eared Owl with Centennial Mountains in the backgroundMale Short-eared Owl with Centennial Mountains in the background

The male hunted for his young from the air and when he found prey he would swoop down from the sky and then deliver the prey to the female. He did this many times while observing the Short-eared Owl family. The light was difficult to photograph in which meant I bumped my ISO up higher than I would have liked to get sufficient shutter speed, that left a bit of noise in the background and I applied some noise reduction to it. The Centennial Mountains make for a lovely background.

Male Short-eared Owl with prey for his youngMale Short-eared Owl with prey for his young

This image shows the male bringing in a vole to his family with the Centennial Mountains in the background, part of the Lower Lake and the grasses below. This male Short-eared Owl seem to be a proficient hunter.

Female Short-eared Owl in a fogFemale Short-eared Owl in a fog

This beautiful female Short-eared Owl who posed in a lake fog was very cooperative and I could have easily filled my CF cards several times in the 13 minutes I had to photograph her. She was close to the edge of the road perched on a fence post in the fog as the sun rose and began to warm the day. It felt magical to be in her presence!

Short-eared Owl with tufts showingShort-eared Owl with tufts showing

Last year the vole population of the Centennial Valley had crashed and it appeared that many of the Short-eared Owls had moved to more fertile hunting ground. This Short-eared Owl was among the few I saw on the refuge last summer but she sure was a beauty.

Will they be there this year? I don’t know for sure but I certainly hope so.


Please take a moment to view the proposal for the creation of a Federal Wildlife Conservation Stamp which could  provide a robust, parallel revenue stream for National Wildlife Refuges, preserving habitat and wildlife, while giving non-extractive users a funding tool and a stronger voice in habitat and wildlife decisions on our shared, public lands. If you agree it is time for this proposal to come to fruition, please consider backing the effort by joining our “About Us” page as a supporter.

This is a great read about Who Owns the Wildlife? written by John W. Laundré, Cougar Biologist State University of New York at Oswego