Every spring I spend some of my photography time capturing images of insects and spiders, often in my backyard. Whenever I am outside I listen for the calls of birds, particularly any that are unusual. Last week on one of my backyard safari’s I heard what I thought was part of the call of a Barred Owl (Strix varia). I am quite familiar with the call having heard it many times while camping, but I’ve never heard it in my yard. Great Horned Owls are regular visitors every winter and I get an occasional Eastern Screech Owl, but never a Barred Owl.
Barred Owls are medium sized brownish owls that have horizontal bars of white on the breast and vertical bars of white on the belly. They are nocturnal and generally roost during the day in dense foliage on a branch close to the trunk of a tree.
A few days went by and I then heard Barred Owls calling between 12 midnight and 4am over the last three days, and the calls were loud and close. It sounded like the owls must be in the trees to the side and rear of my property. Birders may be familiar with the call of the Barred Owl, but it would be quite a shock to hear it outside your window in the middle of the night if you don’t know what it is!
I decided to look for the owls roosting during the day, but the trees are now fully leafed out so I didn’t have any luck, until ….
This evening I was once again looking for macro subjects in the backyard, walking around the edge between my yard and the surrounding woods. As I approached a Maple tree where I have some bird feeders hanging, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. There perched on a branch about 10 feet up was a Barred Owl!
I was about 20 feet away from the tree, so I slowly backed up and made my way to the deck entrance door. What followed over the next few minutes was a frantic scene to change from my macro photography equipment to my bird photography equipment. When in the field, I like to be prepared, but I really didn’t expect to be capturing bird images this evening, so it took a few minutes to pull everything together.
I made it back outside in approximately 5 minutes and to my relief the owl was still there. Below are some of the images captured.
Like many other bird/nature photographers, I have traveled to many places to capture bird images, but sometimes there is no place better than your own backyard!
All images © Clarence Holmes