Barn 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 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.