Branching Owlet

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Screech Owlet landing in Fern Lake. I was only able to capture one late afternoon of branching baby owls at this nest before they moved higher into the grand oaks. I feel especially privileged to witness the fledging of several screech owl nests this year. Side lit by the light bouncing off a small stream of water, beamer was use to balance the shadow.
1Dx | 200-400L | 1/1600 | f/4.5 | ISO8000 | Fill Flash w/ Beamer | Bradenton, Florida

Baby Barred Owl

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During the early part of the nesting season, there was a period of about 15 minutes where the golden afternoon light would shine upon the nest.  I had been hoping to  capture the baby owlet during that time.  Unfortunately, by the time the baby was old enough, the angle of light had changed and would only light up part of the nest.  This image was captured during the first Saturday the baby made an appearance.  It was looking up at the female barred owl that was preening high on a perch.  I love how the light illuminates the baby barred owl, giving it a mysterious sense to the image.  I opted not to add fill flash in this shot.

1Dx | 1200mm | 1/320 | f/8 | ISO6400 | Manual Mode

Feeding

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March 5th, 2014

The feeding activity has increased within that week.  This image was captured after the female barred owl has left the nest for a short period of time.  She came back with a prey and stood on the edge of the nest.  After starring at the owlets for about a minute, she slowly stepped into the cavity.

1Dx | 840mm | 1/160 | f/8 | ISO3200 | Fill Flash | Manual | Full Frame

4th of July

Happy 4th of July to all of you.  I hope you are having a great day.  I went out to downtown area a few hours before the fireworks display this evening.   I came back with this image.  This lady was busy selling beer to the crowd outside the restaurant.  When I first noticed this scenery, I opted for zone focusing and fired a few shots from my side as I was walking by.  The expression on the worker on the left was very interesting.  What is your interpretation of this image?

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M240 | 35mm Summilux | 1/350 | f/6.8 | IS3200

 

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M240 | 35mm Summilux | 1/500 | f/9.5 | IS800

Off To See Fireworks

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Happy 4th of July

I just recent picked up my first Rangefinder.  I have been learning about the camera and have taken this shot.  I figure I would share this image with all of you to wish you a Happy 4th of July!

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M240 | 35mm Summilux | 1/90 | f/2.4 | ISO200

Whoo is next?

Shortly after the first one has left, it climbed a little higher.  It stayed there for a while before taking off to join its sibling.

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1Dx | 200-400L | 1/200 | f/8 | ISO2000 | Better Beamer

Eastern Screech Owl – Gray Morph

This was my first gray morph Eastern Screech Owl pair that I photographed early this year.  It was also the first nest that I got to witness the entire fledging process.  Adult flew in and posed next to the nest on this branch and was staring at the photographers.  One by one, the baby left the nest and flew into the palm tree to join the parents.  It was an amazing experience to have witnessed the entire process.

Here is an adult looking back at the photographers.

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Adult landed on the side of the nest trying to encourage the owlets to take the first step.

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Frontal pose

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1Dx | 200-400L | 1/160 | f/10 | ISO10000 | Better Beamer

Whoo Is Ready To Fly?

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This was one of the Eastern Screech Owl nests that I photographed this season.  Unfortunately, I only was able to visit this site twice this year.  On the second day, shortly after I started photographing this owlet, it climbed up to the top of the heart shape cavity.  It was standing there for a little bit and was paying attention to my right.  Shortly after, it took off and flew away to the nearby oak tree.  Next year, I will make sure to spend more time at the nest.

1Dx | 200-400L | 1/200 | f/8 | ISO2000 | Better Beamer

 

Screech Owl Success Secret Revealed

Many photographers have asked me how I have had so much luck in finding and photographing Screech Owls for the last few seasons. Besides locating the actual nest, here is part of the secret. With the help of my friend, Mark, we have spent some time placing the natural nest boxes made from Florida native sabal palms around the the area at the end of last year. We have had a lot of success having screech owls nesting the nest box. If you are a photographer and a bird lover, instead of buying the plywood box, why not considered having one of these in your backyard, it will also allow you to get some great photos. Below is what Mark says:


“I offer the perfect nest box for use in the photography of Screech Owls, American Kestrels and other small cavity breeders. These nest boxes are made from Florida native sabal palms. They are aged and carved out by hand. This tough palm log nest box will last for years with proper care and will give you photographs of the birds in there preferred cavities and not in a plywood box. The end results show in Troy Lim’s recent photographs of Screech Owls. Proven boxes tested over time with many successful nests. I am offering these hand carved logs at 75.00 each as there are hours of work in producing just one. They are easy to attach to trees or poles with copper wire. Let me know if you are interested.”

If you are interested is buying one of these, you can contact Mark directly at 941.465.9046 or email him at markrunnals@gmail.com

 

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The Effects of Flash on Owls: My Personal Experience

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At the end of 2013 I set a goal for myself to really focus on my favorite raptor, owls in the coming year 2014.  I must say it has been a great season for me with my owl projects.  Not only I was able to photograph my first barred owl nest, I have been fortunate enough to photograph several Screen Owl nests.

I just recently finished photographing a screech owl nest on private property.  The only difference between this nest and other nests was I decided to photograph it after dusk, which is something that I had not done before.  At the beginning I set limits that I would spend no more than 2-3 hours with the owls in the evenings that I was there.  This was to ensure that I would not interfere with them raising the owlets.   In addition, I waited until the owlets were old were enough and started peeking their heads out of the cavity before photography at this nest had even begun.

My setup is pretty simple, I am shooting with my 200-400L lens along with two Canon 600ex-rt flashes triggered remotely using Phottix Strato II system.  Both flashes were set up about 8 feet away from the nest on each side and flashing on each side of the nest and slightly away from the nest but not directly into the cavity.  An additional floodlight was used behind the nest.  I would photograph from a distance either on the car rooftop or the back of the pickup truck a distance away.

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During the two weeks that I spent photographing and observing this family the use of flashes never bothered them at all.  As soon as sun began to set the adults would start calling each other.  At nightfall both parents would come out onto their favorite perch.  They would start taking turns hunting.  One adult would disappear into the dark and come back with prey.  The prey consisted of lizards, moths, spiders, crickets and more.  Food exchanges often occurred from male to female and she could then prepare the prey and bring it to the nest to feed the babies.   The feeding occurred about 3 times per hour. Once the babies no longer to prey from the parent the young would decent back into the nest cavity and sleep.  The parents would hunt and feed themselves and once they were full they would get back onto their favorite perch preen, sleep and guard the nest.   My assumption is that several times a night this feeding the young took place.

Recently a few photographers brought up the subject of using flash on owls, stating it could cause temporarily blindness or cause harm.

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Below is what I found from Cornell Lab regarding the effect of flash on birds.

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/bp/

 

Questions and Answers

Q. Does the use of one or more photographic flash units harm the eyes of the birds?

 

A. There is no scientific evidence, one way or the other, that the use of one or more flash units creates a significant problem for the bird. Presumably the effect would be similar to what it is for humans, but no one knows for sure.

 

Photographers have been using multiple flash arrays since the late 1940s to document the entire nesting cycles of birds such as Great Horned Owls and various songbirds and hummingbirds. The process does not have a record of causing the birds to abandon the nest or of individual birds disappearing. Greater care should be taken when photographing birds that are actively feeding at night.

I am by no mean an expert at all in this subject. I have read articles from both sides on the effect of the flashes on birds. I know this is one of the hot topics in wildlife photography. Based on the articles that I read, there is no 100% scientific proof that the use of flashes actually causes harm to their eyes or alters their behaviors. Their pupils dilated when dark to let more light in just like human beings. The brighter light of the flash will cause the iris to constrict slightly to allow less light in.  What I noticed is that during day or night, after a flash went off, their pupils would adjust for a split second and then would return to normal.

I have been photographing Owls since the I started wildlife photography in 2009. I have used flash on almost all owl species here in FL.  All these years, I have NEVER seen them fly off into trees, windows or fences or anything else that would be in their flight path right after the flash went off.  I have never seen a change in their behaviors. This pair seemed to relish the added attraction of insects and such to the large oak that the flood light was pointed up into and continued to feed and hunt to raise four healthy young. They have brought in lizards, moths, spiders, crickets and more. All babies have fledged successfully.  This pair has nested for eight years in the same hole in a very congested area of town with bright lights, lawn mowers and everything else directly around and near their nest.  If the bright lights, flashes etc were such a concern the owls would not continue to nest in this location for the eight years.

I urge all photographers to go out and experience it and do not solely rely on studies that are online and passing judgment on others work without knowing how the images were made.