A Long-eared Owl and snow at Farmington Bay

Blowing Snow on I-215 Christmas MorningBlowing Snow on I-215 Christmas Morning – HTC One M8

It was snowing, blowing, cloudy and foggy yesterday morning heading north on I-215 towards Farmington Bay WMA but the traffic was light and as usual the “birds” were calling to me. Since I started photographing birds years ago it has become a tradition for me to go out into the field on holidays to find and photograph birds because there are fewer people out and about and Christmas Day is no exception.

Perched Long-eared Owl with falling snowPerched Long-eared Owl with falling snow – Nikon D810, f8, 1/1250, ISO 1250, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

The light was disappointing, it was cold and the falling snow probably didn’t help much but I kept hoping to find a bird to make my day.

Thanks to Dennis Hammer, another local bird and wildlife photographer, that bird was a Long-eared Owl that he pointed out from inside his black Jeep that he had spotted earlier. I am grateful he shared his find and respect him for doing it. I am certain I would have spotted the owl without Dennis pointing it out but I believe in giving credit where credit is due, it is the right thing to do.

I have to say that I was flabbergasted to see this Long-eared Owl at Farmington Bay because I wouldn’t expect to see one there.  I also have to say that I was delighted because it was the first time I had a Long-eared Owl in my viewfinder, a lifer on Christmas Day!

The owl didn’t open fully its eyes often so it was a waiting game to see if it would and when it did I was ready.

Long-eared Owl on a rusty postLong-eared Owl on a rusty post – Nikon D810, f8, 1/800, ISO 1250, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

As much as I would have preferred better light to photograph the owl in I like the mood of the images I took, I like the flakes of falling snow they contain and how fluffed up the owl was from the cold.

Long-eared Owl in winterLong-eared Owl in winter – Nikon D810, f9, 1/1250, ISO 500, +1.0 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

I took several hundred images of this Long-eared Owl as it perched on a rusty old post and most of those images will be deleted because I couldn’t see the eyes of the owl or the light had changed and my exposure wasn’t the best but I know that I will treasure the memory of this lifer I photographed on Christmas Day. It has also made me want to go out and find more Long-eared Owls to photograph in much better light. They are nocturnal and during the day they can be hard to find because they roost in trees and blend right in to that kind of environment.

Long-eared Owl landingLong-eared Owl landing – Nikon D810, f9, 1/3200, ISO 1250, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

The Long-eared Owl stirred on the post and I was able to get one image of it in flight that I didn’t clip as it headed towards a snow bank and landed next to the water. I should mention that three of the owl’s primaries had caused me concern while I photographed it perched on the post because at times they stood out at an odd angle and I worried that the owl was injured but it flew without any difficulties and Dennis had seen it fly a few times too. I’m still not sure why those primaries stuck out the way they did so any thoughts on the matter would be appreciated.

I am so thrilled that I was able to photograph this Long-eared Owl and snow at Farmington Bay yesterday.  What a wonderful gift.

Life is good.


Thanks again to Dennis Hammer for pointing out the owl!


  1. Mia McPherson December 30, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    Thanks again for all your comments! Seeing and photographing this lifer Long-eared Owl was a real treat, one I will treasure forever.

  2. Nancy Collins December 28, 2015 at 5:55 am

    It’s a great day when you cross paths with a Long-eared Owl! Beautiful bird beautiful photos! Thanks for sharing Mia!

  3. Humming bird lover December 27, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    HI! Beautiful Owl!! The colors are so bright! Great photo’s! I am so proud of you and your knowledge and work on Photography! Love mom

  4. Joan Carey December 26, 2015 at 7:55 pm

    He looks so regal as he awaits and watches for his Christmas meal…beautiful.

  5. dave sparks December 26, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    What’s stronger than WOW? You were really rewarded for braving the weather. But great bird, great shots in ANY conditions. Life isn’t always THIS good.

  6. Nicole Haller-Wilson December 26, 2015 at 4:51 pm


  7. Utahbooklover December 26, 2015 at 1:19 pm

    Wonderful images today and yesterday. Saves me from going out in the cold.

  8. Elephant's Child December 26, 2015 at 11:39 am

    What an amazing gift you received and shared.
    Thank you.

  9. Neil Rossmiller December 26, 2015 at 9:48 am

    WOW! WOW! WOW!
    Incredible tale of great fortune, Mia. …and a flight shot to boot.
    For it to be out in the open like that is even more amazing. They are communal, so there may be others nearby. So very cool!
    Being an animal of habit, I always come here first in the morning. So the next stop is at that Feathered Fella’s place and I know the answer to the hint he left yesterday.
    I’m so happy for you guys.
    Well done!

  10. Suz December 26, 2015 at 9:46 am

    Beautiful images. Love the addition of the snow. Here in England we are soggy and waiting for even a frost!

  11. Patty Chadwick December 26, 2015 at 9:43 am

    Crummy weather but great shots…especially like the third…sure hope these birds find enough to eat and to sustain them. Our temps have been crazy warm…50’s and 60’s whrn it should have been 20’s and 30’s…yesterday, Christmas, was 70! Big stotm expected tonight or tomorrow then back to warm….confusing to wildlife–to me, too.

  12. Sarah Mayhew December 26, 2015 at 8:36 am

    Very nice! Rarely get to see them.

  13. Bob Mcpherson December 26, 2015 at 5:57 am

    Absolutely beautiful images, Mia. Your Owl photos are the best. Please take a bow.
    I have some azaleas trying to bloom also.

    • Mia McPherson December 26, 2015 at 6:01 am

      Thank you Bobby! The birds are the real stars.

      The weather is weird and worrisome.

  14. steven kessel December 26, 2015 at 5:41 am

    Extraordinary photos. We sometimes get so obsessed with taking pictures in “good” light that we forget that its sometimes possible to get beautiful images — as you did here — in light that is less than ideal. Just outstanding work.

    • Mia McPherson December 26, 2015 at 5:43 am

      Thank you Steven. I think the “mood” of low light images can be amazing.

  15. Glen Fox December 26, 2015 at 5:33 am

    Gorgeous shots of a very difficult to see and photograph subject. What a beautiful and fitting christmas gift to you. Thank you for sharing this and every other image and observation with us. Glad you finally got snow. We are supposed to get winter within the week but there is no snow here and has not been so far this winter and temperatures have been in the 50s and 60s. The trees are budding! This is unheard of in this part of Canada and VERY worrisome.

    Wishing you and those you love a wonderful holiday season, and health and peace in 2016, with lots of terrific photography. Glen

    • Mia McPherson December 26, 2015 at 5:39 am

      Thanks Glen, I was thrilled to photograph this owl.

      About the weather, my family back on the east coast had upper 70’s to 80 degrees yesterday and it is usually much colder than that. My Mom has said that the trees are budding in Virgina and she has an Azalea that is blooming. I agree, the weather is VERY worrisome. Last year here it barely snowed in the valley so I am very grateful we are getting some now.

  16. Liz Cormack December 26, 2015 at 5:31 am

    Beautiful. I envy you your snow……raining in the Niagara area.

    • Mia McPherson December 26, 2015 at 5:35 am

      Thank you Liz, I hope you get snow soon.

Comments are closed.