This gallery contains 4 photos. The nocturnal cousin of the diurnal Short-Eared Owl, the Long-Eared Owl is a migratory visitor to Southwestern British Columbia during the fall and winter, and I was privileged to see my first one as winter 2018 neared its halfway mark.
a rather cat-like stretch from my subject. notice the feathery feet! (Feb 2018)
f/9.0, 1/320, 500mm, ISO 800
On a tip from another birder, I was able to find a Long-Eared Owl sleeping on the blackberry brambles lining the ditch along a farm — right out in the winter sun. As many as six others of its kind were also dozing in the same area — but only this one chose to do so in full view of the photographers, and with the sun on its face. I can see how, at first glance, the ear tufts of the Long-Eared Owl could have one mistake it for a Great Horned Owl (another nocturnal hunter) — but the former is much smaller — about the same size as a Short-Eared Owl. It amazed me to discover just how small, small was–about the size of a crow!
an over-the-shoulder look, Long-Eared Owl style (Feb 2018)
f/6.3, 1/400, 500mm, ISO 320
Owls are the celebrities of the bird world — I’m not exaggerating when I say that you will have mobs of people flock to see one. Unfortunately, the bird’s safety and well-being are often overlooked. I have seen people stand less than a foot away and literally yell while they’re talking to each other, completely oblivious to the facts that (a) a nocturnal owl needs to get its sleep in the daytime and (b) owls have superb hearing (this particular owl was subjected to the very loud conversation of a few observers, but it didn’t bat an eye and continued to sleep away; I, on the other hand, wanted to throttle those imbeciles). To that end, the specific location of my subject(s) is not disclosed here.
is s/he laugh-dreaming? owl only knows (Feb 2018)
f/6.3, 1/400, 500mm, ISO 400
Sadly, some photographers have employed unethical practices to get that coveted shot (despite signs posted in the area, that clearly inform people not to yell at, throw things, or run at owls). On my first encounter with this Long-Eared Owl, there were only 3-4 photographers present, and we kept a respectful distance from it, as we waited patiently (around 2 hours), for it to wake up and bat those golden eyes at us.
the afternoon siesta is over, and we are treated to that golden gaze (Feb 12, 2018)
f/8, 1/200, 500mm, ISO 1000
From time to time, this vole control specialist would briefly crack an eye open, change its sleeping position, and even cast (regurgitate the indigestible remains of a meal — fur, bones, and claws — like their Short-Eared cousins, Long-Eared Owls keep the rodent population in check). It even appeared to act out its dreams! We were dazzled by every little move it made. It was completely at ease with our presence, and seeing one out in the open was an especially wonderful experience for those of us who had never seen a Long-Eared Owl before. To learn more about the Long-Eared Owl, please visit its Cornell Lab of Ornithology allaboutbirds.org profile.