Eastern Screech Owl

When I first started photography, before I really knew it was photography, I photographed screech owls. Behind my house, in the edge of the farm fields, I discovered a couple of them and at night I would go out looking for them and to take photos. This lasted for a couple of years until one day they were gone. I'm not sure why the stopped coming exactly but I believed it was due them logging a portion of the woods nearby. I would look for them every night I was in the area and countless nights I came up short. Not seeing any for weeks and months. Years went by before I was lucky enough to spot another one. 8 years to be exact.

One night this past week Candace and I went in search of something to photograph when we finally came across one. I was so excited to finally be able to see one. Words couldn't describe how excited I was. It was like seeing an old friend. With my camera in hand I was able to walk within about 6 feet of the bird below. Candace held a spotlight for me while I created a few photographs. I photographed the bird for a few minutes before it flew about 10 feet within the woods. I photographed it for another few minutes before leaving it alone so it could hunt.

Screech Owls are one of the smallest owls in North Carolina next to the Saw Whet Owl in the mountains of western North Carolina. Height ranges from 6.3–9.8in with their wingspan ranging from 18.9–24 in. There are two color phases (red & grey) with these two particular owls being in the red phase. Males are slightly smaller than the females and this species, being monogamous, will remain with the same mate for life. They are normally heard but not seen. Their call is very unique and once your hear it you'll never forget it. They normally hunt from tree branches not much higher than 10 feet off the ground so they can quickly pounce on the unexpected prey below. 

The plan was to look for salamanders in the woods but due to the excitement I didn't even try to look for any. I wanted to get back home and take a gander of the photographs I had created. As we were making our way around the field, we came across a second one! I was in complete shock. Just like the first one I had Candace hold the spotlight and I slowly made my way closer to it. I used a super telephoto lens to create most of the images you see. There were a couple images created around the 100mm mark. I zoomed out to create some enviromental portraits of the owl to show it in its habitat.

I've gone back every night after these two sightings and I've found the first owl Saturday night. Unfortunately he never gave me a clear shot. Last night I went out before the thunderstorms moved through and I found the second one again! It allowed me to photograph it for about 5 minutes. Not wanting to disturb it much more than I had I left it just as you see it below.

I will be going back as often as I can, I'm hoping they are here to stay. I'll post any updates I have here in the future. I should note, when I find them, I only photograph them for a few minutes. The light I use is a spotlight that shines continuously and I don't want to hurt their sensitive eyes. Also, if they begin to look agitated I will leave. I want them to stay so I'm nice to them, since they are nice enough to allow me to photograph them.

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Cheers, Neil.