Burrowing Owl Surprise

Burrowing Owl in low lightBurrowing Owl in low light – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/80, ISO 1000, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

There are Burrowing Owls on Antelope Island; I’ve photographed them hundreds of times, but yesterday I spotted one in a location I had never seen one before. It was close to the road which made photographing it from a vehicle easy the problem was heavy clouds made the light low and my shutter speed slow. Making sure my exposure was right using my histogram I fired off bursts which increased the chance that some of the images in the bursts would be sharp. And it worked.

Burrowing Owl PortraitBurrowing Owl Portrait – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/60, ISO 1000, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

I liked the how the water behind the owl created a soft, pastel background, how the owl’s eyes seem to glow with the enlarged pupils and even though the setting is a little messy it all seems to meld together well.

The light did get better before the owl took off but we had moved and there was a stem in front of the owl’s face that was distracting, those images got deleted.

It was a nice to find this Burrowing Owl surprise yesterday, I hope ‘ll see it again.



  1. Wally November 22, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Well, I have mixed feelings. Absolutely stunning images! But — I am SOOOO jealous! I keep chasing around trying to capture these guys digitally but so far it’s been an exercise in futility! Oh, well, it’ll happen. Patience….. In the meantime, thank you so much for sharing and demonstrating that it can be done, and done well!

    • Mia McPherson November 25, 2012 at 10:55 am

      Wally, I had a hard time getting images of Burrowing Owls in Florida too, the closest ones to me were more than an hours drive and Cape Coral was too far to drive to that often. I love these little owls. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Humming Bird Lover November 21, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    Hi! The Owl looks like he or she could jump out and perch on my desk and talk to me! It is so beautiful! great work you are so talented. I still talk to the Owls that are in the trees behind me and around in the distances. They really do answer me also. The one comes to the tree at nite and is no further than maybe 20 to 30 feet away. I love them so much. Thank you for sharing your Great pictures of all living critters!!!!!!

    • Mia McPherson November 25, 2012 at 10:49 am

      Mom, I’m glad you have your owls for company! Thanks for being so supportive.

  3. Karen Bonsell November 21, 2012 at 7:30 am

    Mia, what an exciting opportunity! Both are great shots, but I especially like the first one! He looks inquisitive!

  4. Earl November 20, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    I like the eyes with the graduated color. I seen one Sunday in a different place, Just before mile marker 3 headed to the ranch laying on the road dead. I picked it up and moved it off the road then I told the Ranch person.
    Great shots.

    • Mia McPherson November 20, 2012 at 4:07 pm

      Thank you Earl. I’m sad to hear that you found a dead owl on the island. Very sad.

  5. Scott (@NESASK) November 20, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    These are gorgeous, Mia. What a great expression from the owl in the first picture.

    • Mia McPherson November 20, 2012 at 4:04 pm

      Thanks Scott, these owls seem to have so much character.

  6. Nicole November 20, 2012 at 10:38 am

    they have such sweet faces!! superb photos, thanks so much!

  7. Prairie Birder November 20, 2012 at 9:55 am

    Burrowing Owls are so adorable. Beautiful photos, Mia!

    • Mia McPherson November 20, 2012 at 4:02 pm

      Thank you Charlotte.

  8. Tammy Karr November 20, 2012 at 9:48 am

    These are amazing images Mia! The Burrowing Owls are glowing!! The background pastels are beautiful.

    • Mia McPherson November 20, 2012 at 4:02 pm

      Thanks Tammy, the owl does seem to glow.

  9. Azstu November 20, 2012 at 9:13 am

    Aww. wonderful. I always remember your comment about how the eyes on some birds are like magnets; and this guy wins first place i think. especially the first photo. It would be in my top 10 list if I could ever fit all of your images I like into a list. Thank you.

    • Mia McPherson November 20, 2012 at 4:01 pm

      Thank you Stu, these eyes really do draw me to the birds. You are so very kind.

  10. Deb November 20, 2012 at 7:27 am

    Very beautiful, as always. I gotta ask though, how much time do you spend out there? Obviously these aren’t “just happened to be there at the right time” shots.

    • Mia McPherson November 20, 2012 at 3:59 pm

      Thanks Deb. I spend a lot of time on Antelope Island. If the sun is shining, if I am not camping or shooting at another location I am usually on the island. By spending more time there I think I increase my chances of seeing & photographing more than a casual visitor would.

  11. Robert King November 20, 2012 at 7:16 am

    Love the head tilt and the sharpness. Were you using your noodle?

    • Mia McPherson November 20, 2012 at 3:54 pm

      HI Robert, thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment on these Burrowing Owl images. I was using my Noodle to take these photos, it sure helps!

      • Larry Jordan November 20, 2012 at 4:32 pm

        I see they are on Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources Sensitive Species List. Similarly in California the Department of Fish and Game want us to report all sightings of the Burrowing Owl on their California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB), a “continually refined and updated, computerized inventory of location information on the most rare animals, plants, and natural communities in California.” Hopefully with diligence and revised conservation efforts, we can avoid further decline of this beautiful and fun species.

        • Mia McPherson November 25, 2012 at 10:39 am

          I truly hope we can avoid the further decline of this amazing and amusing species of owl.

  12. Larry Jordan November 20, 2012 at 7:14 am

    Gorgeous! And of course, my favorite bird on the planet 😉 As in California, listed as a Species of Special Concern in Utah due to declining numbers. You always catch the essence of thee beautiful raptors Mia. Thank you for sharing them with the rest of the world.

    • Mia McPherson November 20, 2012 at 3:53 pm

      Thanks Larry, they are actually doing a study with the Burrowing Owls on Antelope Island because they are a species of special concern, they banded 6 of the juveniles this summer. I hope we can do something for the western Burrowing Owls to stop the decline of the species.

  13. Robert Mortensen November 20, 2012 at 6:48 am

    Ahh…gorgeous Mia! There’s an image to capture the heart. Does the visitor’s center on the island sell your photography yet?! They should! You’re work is one of the best tourism advocates for the region.

    • Mia McPherson November 20, 2012 at 3:51 pm

      Thank you Robert, they are gorgeous owls. I haven’t thought about selling my work at the visitor center. Hopefully people see it on line though 🙂

  14. Laurence Butler November 20, 2012 at 6:28 am

    Wow those are some big pupils! Beautiful photos Mia, a great way to start the morning.

    • Mia McPherson November 20, 2012 at 3:49 pm

      Laurence, those pupils are huge! Thank you for commenting and for all of your comments.

  15. Bob Bushell November 20, 2012 at 5:47 am

    Love the Burrowing Owls, they make brilliant photos.

    • Mia McPherson November 20, 2012 at 6:16 am

      Thanks Bob, they are amazing birds and great subjects.

  16. Bob Zeller November 20, 2012 at 5:15 am

    I love the Burrowing Owls. They are such cuties. You did a wonderful job capturing these images, Mia.

    • Mia McPherson November 20, 2012 at 6:16 am

      Thank you Bob, I agree, they are cuties!

  17. Linda Dougherty November 20, 2012 at 4:51 am

    Mia, I absolutely love the photos of this burrowing owl! They are just beautiful – the colors are outstanding. You did a great job!

    • Mia McPherson November 20, 2012 at 6:16 am

      Thanks Linda, Burrowing Owls are super subjects!

  18. kim November 20, 2012 at 4:36 am

    I love these owls Mia, beautiful shots. I can’t help but smile whenever you post images of them, wish we had them down here.

    • Mia McPherson November 20, 2012 at 6:15 am

      Thank you Kim, I hope that one day you will be able to see and photograph Burrowing Owls. They are so cute!

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