Sunday, May 27, 2012


John and Marilyn put up an owl box in their backyard a few years ago. This year they had an owl couple inhabit the house and raise a successful parliament. Yes, a group of owls is called a parliament, wisdom or study. A baby owl is an owlet. Cute name for a baby owl, almost as cute as they are when they are young. I only got to see John and Marilyn's owlets when they were already fledging. Last week I was at John's birthday party but was having so much fun I neglected to set my camera up and pre-focus on the owl box to enable me to shoot after dark. I was unable to get my camera to focus even with the focus assist light as I was some distance away. I did get lucky and got this one shot last week.

There was such a show on TOP of the house this night that I knew I wanted to go back and try again when I had the time to properly set up for the shoot before sunset. I knew the owlets were very close to fledging completely so I had John keep a look out to see if they were still around before I made the haul up to their place last night to try again. John confirmed they were still there. Last night as I waited for them to come out of the doorway, they surprised me and flew in from a surrounding tree to perch on top of the house! They weren't even in the house any more. The mom and dad owl are trying to convince the owlets to move away from the box and go off on their own but the owlets need more convincing. They associate the box with being fed and like that situation better than hunting for their own food apparently. 

There are three owlets all together. An owl couple usually has between two and three so this is a successful brood. I hunted forever to find what to call a litter of owls, John calls them a clutch but I couldn't find any reference anywhere to indicate there was a name for them. The above shot shows two of the owlets. I left the red-eye on these because when you light them up with a flash, you can see all the way back to their retinas. If you visit the gallery I put up you'll be able to decide for yourself if you like the red-eye reduced shots better or not. I couldn't decide which is why I have them both ways in the gallery.

This is the third owlet coming in. In the gallery you'll see it coming in for a landing, this is the shot after that one. It was so tempting to try and readjust the camera for composition. I had pre-focused on the doorway figuring enough DOF (depth of field) for the owls to be in focus on top of the house. BUT they never came out of the door, they flew in to the edge of the house so these are large crops. I knew better than to try and change my focus and composition after dark as I was unsuccessful last week trying so I decided a crop was better than nothing!

All three in place.

They were really making a lot of noise. Lots of hissing sounds, which is what they do to call each other. I think they were begging mom and dad for food. Mom and dad were having nothing of it. They knew they had to teach their owlets that they were not going to be fed at the box anymore and they were on their own. If you look close at the shot right above you can see their mouths open!

I probably won't get back up to John and Marilyn's until after this parliament of owls is gone. But next time they have owls in the box with owlets, I'll bring my 500mm lens along with another camera body and get serious about setting up a couple different scenarios so I may be able to make larger prints. These are ok for onscreen viewing, but printing large wouldn't be good. Still, a very fun time was had by me and Sterling. What a great experience! Here is the link to more photos: John and Marilyn's Owls

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Santa Rosa Plateau

On Mother's Day my oldest son took me out to Santa Rosa Plateau for a hike. We started off early and the coastal eddy was colliding with the inland air warmed by the rising sun. As we came over the top of the hills on the trail the valley had a pocket of fog tickling the landscape.

The fog cleared and it warmed up quickly into a beautiful Southern California day.

I was treated to many of my favorite things on this hike. It was really the most perfect way to celebrate Mother's Day for me. I love nature and walking trails.

This tarantula was very much in a hurry. It scurried out right in front of us and ran across the trail. I was lucky to get a couple shots of it before it scampered off into the grass along the other side of the trail.

The first time I visited Santa Rosa Plateau was with a couple of friends who are bird photographers. It is a great place to view a lot of different types of birds. I was treated to grabbing photos of a White-tailed Kite, Turkey Vulture, Red-winged Blackbird, Acorn Woodpeckers, a Western Meadowlark and a raptor I was able to get a photo of but not able to identify. The Acorn Woodpeckers were very busy packing a palm tree with acorns the way they are so fond of doing.

I put a small gallery together of things that caught my eye on the hike. We hiked about six and a half miles, so it was a short hike. It was quite rewarding and one of the very best Mother's Day treats! I'd love to make it a tradition and next time I'd like ALL my boys to go along! Here are the links to more photos and the slide show . I hope you enjoy!