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eric s Mar 2, 2004 9:57 AM

My great hawk & owls weekend
I was lucky last weekend and saw one very rare bird and two "new to me" birds. Here are the galleries:

The first is of a rare leucistic red tailed hawk. This means that it is missing much of the color in its feathers. It is not albino, which is no color (and effects its eyes too, I believe.) I also included some male red tale hawks that were flying around as well so you can compare their coloration. Note how some of the primary wing feathers are actually transparent. Really cool.

The Great Horned Owl gallery came out fairly well. It was hidden really well and was a wonderful find. I just love the pattern on their backs... makes me think it would make a good sweater or blanket pattern. In the first set of shots (from the back) it was backlit and I had to try to get some flash up there (about 30 feet) to get something decent. Then I moved to a different location 50 feet away ,but had natural light with a little fill flash from the front.

The last is a brown morph Eastern Screech Owl. This is the less common coloration. The Grey and Brown morphs can be in the same clutch, but never change. On that day there was only 1 visible. But it was discovered two days later that a male had moved in with her. I have more shots of the both together (they are sooooo cute) but I havenít edited them up yet. Here is a rough example (160K):

Not my best stuff, but not bad. The sun was setting but with no direct light. Yes, that is her cute little foot she has lifted up that both are preening, which is called allopreening. Many (all?) owls preen each other as part of mate bonding.

Iím interested in ideas for better handling of the brightness and white balance of the screech owls. Iím not really pleased with how those shots came out. They arenít bad, but I have high standards and wanted better.


PeterP Mar 2, 2004 11:12 AM

Nice finds :)
We have a lot of red tailed hawk here but all look normal, have not seen any morphs.

Cute Screech, it should have a do-not-disturbe sign in it's tree :)

photosbyvito Mar 2, 2004 11:25 AM

wow! i really like the shot with the great horned owl's eyes open (i think it is from behind 2?)

great job! where was this? is this the wild? how did you find these birds? wat flash did you use? was the flash on the camera......
ok i'm done :)

great job :)

eric s Mar 2, 2004 1:56 PM

Glad you like them.

Yes, all of these birds were in the wild. I am on a mailing list for birders (of which I am one, if people haven't figured that out yet.) So that gives me some info as to where to find the interesting birds. It also just points out places that might be good to go shoot in. Often birding locations are also wild enough in general to be interesting for macro work or other thing (tree formations, moss... but not sweeping landscapes.)

The Great Horned was in Mount Auburn Cemetery ( just a great place to walk all year round, but it also gets a fair number of birds (some who live there, others who pass through.) They are widely known for their horticulture.

I did use flash for almost every owl (both) in all those shots. Some times it was subtle to fill in shadows, other times because there was no choice... it was too dark. I used the biggest shoe mounted Canon flash, the 550EX. I got it just for shots like these.

For example, every great horned shot from behind had flash except the first one. It had too many branches so it would have reflected the light and thrown shadows... I didn't even try it.


photosbyvito Mar 2, 2004 2:33 PM

well that thing must be powerful!!(the flash)
great job :)

i have the Canon Speedlite 220ex for my G2 and that thing has some power....can't imaging the 550!! lol

if you get any mail about New Jersey send them to me ;)

eric s Mar 2, 2004 7:23 PM

You could always start here:

That lists the Audubon Society's centers in N.J. And from there, you might be able to find a birding club in you area. Picking the brains of others is a great way to learn..... In photography and birding.


photosbyvito Mar 2, 2004 7:49 PM

thanks :)

eric s Mar 2, 2004 8:21 PM

Where is my brain? How could I forget:

Cape May National Wildlife Refuge is one of the best bird migration spots in the entire US.


photosbyvito Mar 2, 2004 8:29 PM

i'll have to see if my mom wants to take some trips down there......(i can't drive yet....:( :( )

eric s Mar 2, 2004 11:32 PM

If you time it right, you can see thousands of birds in the air at once there. It is supposed to be truly amazing.

If you find a birding group near by, you might find people who go there that you could ride with. Obviously, your parents would have to agree... but generally birders don't bite. :D


Frank Doorhof Mar 5, 2004 2:49 AM

WOW great shots, I envy you ;D.


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