Friday, April 10, 2009

Great Gray Owl in Durham NH

I went to Dame rd in Durham New Hampshire last Sunday the day after the Great gray Owl was found and like the thirty to forty other people looking for the owl no one was able to relocate it. The second try was magical, following the posts to New Hampshire Bird List on the Internet about sighting of the Great Gray Owl and looking at the up coming weather Thursday was the day to go. Thursday morning I dropped my son off at school at 7:30 and head for Durham NH hopefully to find the GGO. Driving down Dame road I came on a group of bird watchers and when I asked if they had seen the owl, the forlorn look told me what I wanted to know. Standing by my parked car trying to decide what to do, when a woman came out of the woods and said that the owl has been found. She lead the 15 or so birders and photographers to where the bird was. As I positioned myself to get a clear line of sight I marvelled at how these rare bird sightings happen in the first place after all we were 4 miles down a paved road another 2 miles down a dirt road and here's the kicker . A quarter mile or so out in a thick Hemlock, Oak and White pine Forrest that in places you could have walked by the owl and not seen it at all because it's coloring blended in with the surrounding . There on a small branch of a hemlock was the Great Gray Owl perch hunting and oblivious too all the on lookers, noise and camera chatter I was amazed by the whole experience. Twenty five minutes later the owl moved on to hunt somewhere else. I was happy to have seen it for so long and was sure I had gotten some nice images. Talking to one of the other birders there, he mentioned that the bird was right on time, that he had seen it move every 20 to 25 minutes or so and adding that he saw the owl get a snake a little earlier. Another person said that they were there all day yesterday and the owl had successful hunted 5 times that they knew of the day before and 3 times today including the snake. I would have loved to see the owl and the snake going at it, but they said the owl after killing it flew off to eat the snake in private . On a different note I read this interesting post on NHBird list about the owl ear disc's posted by Bruce Boyer , here's the post and link to more info;

[ I was struck by the fact that the facial disks on this Great Gray Owl appeared asymmetrical in all photos posted here. I then checked Google Images, and found that, amazingly enough, all the images seemed to show that the owl's right disk reaches higher on the head. Knowing that facial disks are supposed to enhance hearing in owls, and that owls have the right and left ears placed at slightly different heights to allow detection of the elevation of a target, I looked further. Lo and behold, the Great Gray Owl is known for having some of the greatest vertical asymmetry in ear location among owls, and the right ear is indeed higher.http://www.sdbonline.org/fly/lewheldquirk/figlegq2.htm N.B.: Ear asymmetry occurs in a third of all owl species. In the great gray owl, the asymmetry is opposite (i.e., right ear higher), and the shift is seen not just in the skin but also in the skull [1612]. Bruce Boyer] Bruce added this a day later [ Pictures of Barred Owls posted on the Internet show marked asymmetry of facial disks also:http://rodgerdodger.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/barred-owl.jpghttp://www.nbbd.com/photos/birds1/BarredOwl.jpegSo next time you're viewing an owl, check out the height of its "eyebrows." You are seeing external evidence of a very remarkable anatomic adaptation. Bruce Boyer ]
This next group of images show the owl perch hunting........




These last two images are my favorites from deep within the woods of NH with the Great Gray Owl........ nice day !!!


I hope you enjoy the images and find the info from Bruce to be informative!

Pete
All rights reserved images© Peter Manship
P.S. someone asked about equipment and settings: Canon 40d EF 400 f/5.6 . Most of the images of the owl are as they came out of the camera using ACR to convert to Tiff.
Header image settings were ISO 400 1/160 F/6.3 Evaluative metering +3/4 stop , head held and this is about average for all the image that day. I take a test shoot and quickly check my setting by looking at the histogram, make any adjustments I need and then just make images after that. Unless something changes, then I do another test, adjust and shoot. Hope that's helpful!
Peter Manship

4 comments:

HVB said...

How did you get the straight on perspective in the last couple of shots which by the way were terrific

Harry

Don and Sher said...

Fantastic images and great info

Peter Manship said...

HVB...Thanks and just got lucky The bird was looking around constantly I never took my eye off the owl , just kept shooting and both of the last image were almost the last one’s I took that day.

Don and Sher.. Thanks I had to share the owl hearing info, it was just to go not to

Thanks Pete

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