Monday, July 30, 2012

Burrowing Owls: Grasslands, Pasture and Imprinted

Potter, the Burrowing Owl,
poses in Moose Jaw. © SB
The easiest way to get a photo of a Burrowing Owl in Saskatchewan is to visit the Burrowing Owl Interpretive Centre in Moose Jaw.

But, depending on background and timing, the resulting image (as shown at left) may not seem realistic...

For example, I adore Potter — last year's newborn and newly imprinted Burrowing Owl  but the photograph of him standing on a sheet-covered chair, with a bird poster behind, does not look at all like a Burrowing Owl in the wild!

Ditto, my shot of Potter, the Burrowing Owl in a floral arrangement, or this same little Burrowing Owl drifting off to sleep. Or my photograph of Potter sitting in someone's glowing red hair and head-swivelling in flowers

But pictures in natural settings are so much more challenging. Burrowing Owls are only about eight or ten inches tall, so they can easily hide in grasses or simply be too far away for a camera to capture. 

They are also most visible when nesting, but that is a critical time when they should not be disturbed. 

Back to photography... As examples of shooting a tame, imprinted Burrowing Owl, zoom in on the details of Potter, above.

And then try the same, with these totally wild Burrowing Owls in their natural prairie settings, first at Grasslands National Park and then on a privately-owned pasture southeast of Regina.

Burrowing Owl beside burrow in Prairie Dog Colony,
Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan 
© SB

Family of Burrowing Owls in Saskatchewan pasture,
southeast of Regina. (Two on dock stalk,
one to the left, half-hidden in the grass.)  
© SB  

I spent close to an hour chatting with the owner of the pasture, who'd offered to point out the burrow location after I told him I'd seen the owls on nearby fence posts and these stalks of dock. (And yes, he has officially reported this nesting site and is now receiving support — aka, frozen white mice — to feed the Burrowing Owls... I stayed far out by the road for the pictures, but he drives right up to the burrow near the dock to drop off their extra food. They're never visible when he wheels by, but he says the food he leaves for them quickly disappears.)

The owls in  GNP also receive similar dead/frozen/rodent sustenance to help broods of this endangered species survive. (I was surprised by how few nests there were in the park... Perhaps 12? This truly is a precious threatened bird.)

What are these birds? Burrowing Owls
Locations: #1, Potter: Saskatchewan Burrowing Owl Interpretive Centre, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan; #2, owl in the grass: Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan (at second Black-tailed Prairie Dog Colony); #3, three owls with stalks of dock: Pasture, southeast of Regina, Saskatchewan. 
Photo dates: #1, September 4, 2011; #2, June 23, 2012; #3, July 23, 2012. 


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