Eastern Screech Owls with Canon 5DSR

This pair of Eastern Screech Owls has returned to nest in my friend’s property 8-9 years in a row.  Once the babies have reached about 3 weeks old, I returned back to Florida to spend some time photographing and capturing their behaviors.  I spent total of 10 evenings documenting and capturing their behaviors.  Each night, my friend and I spent about 1.5 hours with them and leave them alone for the remaining of the night.  4 owlets have fledged successfully.  I was able to witness and document the fledgling process on camera.

Each year, I love learning something new about the species that I photograph. The pair picked the natural palm this season with starlings nesting right below it. The cavity is so small that the adult had to squeeze through it to get inside the nest. Before witnessing this behavior, I actually thought they would use the momentum from the talons push from gripping on the outside of the nest but instead, the adults use the momentum from incoming landing to squeeze through the tiny hole with both talons in the air. Next, I will post a shot of the adult coming out of the cavity. 5dsR + 100-400 II, 1/160, f/16, ISO1600, HH. ‪#‎canon‬ ‪#‎canonusa‬ ‪#‎canonmalaysia‬ ‪#‎owls‬


Cricket for Dinner
~Adult returned once again with cricket for the owlets. It did a head turn before proceeding to feed it to the baby.
5DSR + 100-400II, 1/160, f/16, ISO1600, HH.

~The next night, I decided to photograph from the opposite end of where I usually stand. I was struggling with the position of my flash a bit but it worked to my advantage when I saw this image from the back of my camera. The light just barely hit side of the nest and lit up the adult perfectly. I caught this adult as it was taking a slight banking before lifting up and delivering the prey. Standing on the special made ladder with limited space for movement, I was so happy when I captured this in the frame. It was shot handheld.

First Sign of Life
~This evening, the oldest baby if all made his/her way all the way up, sticking its head out and got fed by both parents at the cavity. It was full of curiosity, paying attention to movements and sounds. I was distance away by the side of the nest and captured this moment.
5DSR, 100-400II, 1/50, f/18, ISO2000, HH_TLP0562-copy

~Due to the size of the cavity, the mommy had to squeeze her way out of it. 3/4 of her body would be all stretched out so she would be tall and long. That’s when she would give herself a downward push and dropping in altitude before her wings would open and lift herself up in the air. The shot was captured right after the downward push as she started to leave the nest. Those wings were just getting ready to stretch open. As the babies are older, this behavior would occur less frequently due to the need of her to feed the babies inside the nest. The babies now are taking turn being fed at the cavity.
5DSR, 100-400mm II, 1/160, f/16, ISO1600, HH.

~Mommy shooting out of the cavity like a bullet. She went hunting once again.
5DSR, 100-400mm II, 1/160, f/16, ISO1600, HH

~Since this pair of owls are nesting in the urban neighborhood, majority of the prey for the owlets consist of what you can find around the area. The no.1 source of protein came from lizards/geckos. At this stage, the owlets would only come up to the cavity infrequently. The pair often return to their favorite perch with the prey, making its call, almost like letting the owlets the prey is ready, fly towards the cavity and delivering it to the owlets.
In this image, the babies were not at the cavity at the time of delivery, the adult hovered in the area for a split second and landed on the palm.
5DSR, 100-400mm II, 1/160, f/16, ISO1600, HH.

Dorsal View
~This image illustrates how big their wings are for an owl that small of a size. This is not an angle that we normally get to see so I thought I would share this image. The adult came in with a lizard with the tail hanging in the air. This pair has raised probably about 30+ babies in the last 8 years according to my friend. They average about 3-4 babies each season. This year, all 4 fledglings left the nest successfully.
5DSR, 100-400, 1/160, f/16, ISO1600, HH._TLP0022-copy

Underwing View
~Previous post showed the dorsal view. In this post, it illustrates the incoming flight pose viewing from below, moment before the landing. The adult was delivering a lizard from the hunt.
5DSR, 100-400II, 1/160, f/16, ISO1600, HH_TLP_0367-copy

~Adult coming back to the nest. I went wide hoping to capture a different flight pose. I have been wanting to get a shot of this these wing positions for quite a while. This pair has raised 4 more owlets that have fledged successfully.
5DSR, 100-400mm II, 1/160, f/16, ISO1600, HHTLP_0164-copy



~As the owlets getting ready to leave the nest, I decided to stay up as long as I could to witness the fledging process. A few days ago, I learned that from another photographer friends who witnessed and photographed the the family of screech owls taking baths, my friend Mark decided to make a small pond for the birds nearby. Last night, the pair of Screech Owl continued to feed the babies and did not appear to be encouraging them to leave the nest. After hours have gone by, the feeding did not slow down. I started to browse on Facebook while patiently waiting for the brave one to take its first flight. That was when I suddenly saw an adult landing on the perch that was setup on the edge of the pond. I slowly got off my chair, backed away and got as low as I could. It was around 1.30am when the first adult owl came down and the male joined her shortly after for just a brief moment. They came down total of 5 times that evening. The only light source that I had for that evening was the flood light. I quickly dialed up my ISO, get the closest exposure I could and clicking away. Of the 5 times that they came down, I only was able to catch the female bathing. I decided to put together all the frames of the bathing sequence and make it a slideshow. Here is the link to the gif file: http://troylimphotography.com/wp-content/uploads/BathingSO1000.gif
Staying up all night for those moments made it all worth it. This pair of owls have taught me so much about the Eastern Screech Owl species and they are still my favorite owl in the state of Florida.
1Dx, 100-400II, 1/100, f/5, ISO32000, HH




~This shot illustrates the similar fledging process that I have witnessed in the past few seasons. The baby owlet would back itself out of the cavity then proceeded to climb up to the high point. It then waited for the adults’s guidance, took off and landed on the oak tree behind the nest.
All 4 babies have fledged successfully as of 4/17/16
1Dx, 100-400mmII, 1/160, f/20, ISO3200, HH.

Fledgling #2

~Owlet #2 climbed up and joined one of the adults. It was full of curiosity. The adult took off into the oak tree. Shortly after, another baby peeked out of the cavity, I was lucky enough to capture both of them together with nice eye contact. Shortly after, the owlet #2 took off and flew towards the oak tree while another one was stretching out and looking back.
All 4 babies have fledged successfully as of 4/17/16
1Dx, 100-400mmII, 1/160, f/20, ISO3200, HH.





Fledgling #4
~Owlet #3 fledged some time in the early part of the morning while I was sleeping. Shortly after sunset, the adult was calling for the last baby, landed on top of the nest encouraging the as baby to come out of the cavity. When it finally did, the adult returned with a prey trying to feed the baby but it was already on the top of the nest looking towards the oak tree. Seconds after the adult left, the baby took off towards the oak tree.
All 4 babies have fledged successfully as of 4/17/16
1Dx, 100-400mmII, 1/160, f/20, ISO3200, HH.