Barn Owl in a Winter White Out

Barn Owl in a snow-covered marshBarn Owl in a snow-covered marsh – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/640, ISO 640, +2.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 314mm, natural light, not baited

Four years ago I photographed a Barn Owl in a winter white out at Farmington Bay WMA and I have to admit that photographing it was tough. Tough because the light was so awful, tough because of snow and fog and tough on me because it was so cold. Even with heat packs in my gloves my fingers became numb very quickly.

The Barn Owl above perched on some phragmites in the marsh as it looked around for prey on a gray, gloomy winter day.

I’ve photographed Barn Owls in better conditions when the light was better and when it wasn’t so cold and I love those photos.

Barn Owl swallowing a voleBarn Owl swallowing a vole – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/640, ISO 640, +2.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

But these photos remind me of how hard it can be for these owls in our harsh winters, how they struggle just to survive the bitter cold nights, how they have to fight to get through the heavy snow that can cover the marshes and landscapes to locate prey and how difficult it must be for them to get through each day until the spring thaw.

The Barn Owl did locate and capture a vole after the first photo and flew close to the road to consume the prey it fought hard to catch. It might look like the Barn Owl in the photo above is smiling but it is really swallowing the vole whole and if you look real close you can see just the tip of the vole’s tail in the owl’s bill.

I always feel conflicted at this time of the year because I hope we don’t have a harsh winters so these beautiful owls don’t have to struggle so hard to survive but I also know we need the snow for spring runoff to fill the reservoirs that provide the water we need.

They are tough, beautiful birds.



  1. Mary Martha Murphy December 25, 2017 at 6:14 am

    Merry Christmas! What a beautiful photo to wake up to. Great work, Mia.

  2. Pepe Forte December 24, 2017 at 11:19 pm

    Gorgeous shots Mia. What a great way to welcome the season.

    Have a Merry Christmas…and thank you for all you give us during the year.

  3. Laura Culley December 24, 2017 at 11:06 pm

    Until I looked more closely, my first thought was that the vole was going the other way–coming out as a pellet. Thank you so much and a very Merry Christmas, a lovely day, a joyous holiday and much magic to you!

    • Laura Culley December 24, 2017 at 11:07 pm

      And aren’t barn owls just splendid?

  4. Walt Anderson December 24, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    All your Barn Owl shots are fantastic, but I especially love this first one. Kudos to you for enduring the cold to show us critters enduring the cold!

  5. April Olson December 24, 2017 at 11:33 am

    Beautiful photos. I know I am a softy but I too worry when we have heavy winters and again when we have no snow. I take solace in knowing I do what I can to preserve and promote the importance of wildlife and the preservation of their habitat.

    Merry Christmas and Happy Birdy-New Year.

  6. Elephants Child December 24, 2017 at 11:19 am

    Too many owls would be barely enough.
    Both you and Ron have given me owls for Christmas, and my thanks are immense.
    I hope that Christmas and the coming year(s) are WONDERFUL.
    And thank you.

  7. Jerry Ellison December 24, 2017 at 9:13 am

    Beautiful shots Mia and your sentiment is right on. These creatures are amazing!

  8. Tracy Yucikas December 24, 2017 at 8:22 am

    Fantastically sharp photos which capture the moment, and the struggle, of this large bird of prey … which is so well adapted to it’s year -round environment

  9. Patty Chadwick one of my favorite birds December 24, 2017 at 8:03 am

    That first shot has to be one of the best shots of a Barn owl!! I LOVE how the whites of the owl are echoed in the snow and the soft sienna of its feathers is echoed by the grass.. And the composition is spot on….BEAUTIFU!!!!

  10. LSClemens December 24, 2017 at 7:35 am

    Mia, THANK YOU for sharing your craft with us all year long! Merry Christmas!

  11. Marie Read December 24, 2017 at 7:12 am

    Great shots!

  12. Liz Cormack December 24, 2017 at 6:17 am

    Such beautiful birds & you capture them so well.

Comments are closed.