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-   -   Starting my "Owl" journey (http://www.wildlifegardeners.org/forum/birds-including-raptors-hummers/3418-starting-my-owl-journey.html)

Quietman 08-21-2009 08:38 PM

Starting my "Owl" journey
Howdy everyone!

A lot of you know that I spent a fair amount of time taking photos of the recent Perseid meteor shower. Over the years, as hard as I've tried, I've either had intense cloud cover or crystal clear skies with a noticeably missing camera. As a result, this was my first year being able to actually capture a few of the little buggers photographically.

My last night out, after I had perfected my "dew heater" to eliminate condensation on the lens, I had automated the camera to take photos while I enjoyed the show.

During a lull, shortly after midnight, just as the moon crested over the horizon, I started to get a little bored and tried an experiment.

I have recorded bird calls, and had tried them before during the day, but my playback device isn't amplified, and the cacophony of birds and insects around my property drowns out my tiny player.

Well, at midnight, where the “boondock-o-meter” reads 3.5 pinecones, it's pretty darned quiet! So I started wondering what bird call would be most effective and immediately realized "OWL!". Now, I've read articles online regarding the potential dangers (to both myself and avian friends) and decided to cautiously try it.

I chose Eastern Screech Owl, and played the call for perhaps a minute (continuous loop) with no response. I tried several more times, and just as I was ready to give up, I heard a distant response. I’d never heard an owl in the wild before, and was amazed!

After thinking about it, I decided to play the call (a single, 10 second call) and got another, closer response. The owl and I exchanged calls for about 12-15 minutes, the owl getting a little closer each time, then he/she quit responding.

I played one or two more calls with no response, and decided to put my player away. I had no sooner put it in my pocket, and heard the owl call to me, only this time, he/she could only have been perhaps 15 or 20 feet away in the nearby tree line. The call was so loud and close, frankly I was startled! Knowing the owl has superior night vision, excellent hearing, silent flight, sharp claws and always goes for the eyes, I decided this was a good time to quit.

I sat and listened to the little owl continue to call for several more minutes, when I heard a second, then third join, nearly as close as the first! :OMG I sat amazed, listening intently, shrouded in darkness as meteors passed overhead. Not several minutes later, several more joined (I lost count at six distinct different locations). As much as I had enjoyed listening to the first several, I decided to go back inside and let the camera take pictures unattended.

The next day, I decided that since I had finally achieved my “meteor” goal, I would start learning about owls, how to find them during the day and at night, and attempt to photograph them. So, in this thread, I’ll keep anyone who is interested in my findings and results.

:spinCAUTION!:spin (disclaimer mode on) Calling owls with recorded calls (or verbally calling them) is a matter of tremendous ethical debate. A quick search on Google will bring anyone up to speed. Anyone considering similar activity should do their own research, and draw their own conclusions before taking any INFORMED actions. (disclaimer mode off)

Best Regards!


P.S. I still plan on taking photos of future meteor showers, and looking forward to improved results from what I've recently learned.

biigblueyes 08-21-2009 08:48 PM

Wow - Meteors and hanging out with the owls all in one night? What are you going to do for a followup?

Quietman 08-21-2009 08:51 PM


Originally Posted by biigblueyes (Post 36085)
What are you going to do for a followup?

Take photos of the owls!


Cirsium 08-21-2009 08:57 PM

Great story, and intriguing idea. How will you try to photograph them at night?

Quietman 08-21-2009 09:01 PM


Originally Posted by Cirsium (Post 36087)
Great story, and intriguing idea. How will you try to photograph them at night?

Well, that's going to take some research. I'm trying to avoid the obvious solution of bringing several "5 million candlepower" lights into the woods and scare the poor little guys to death!

In fact, to be clear, one of my top priorities is to be as unobtrusive as possible (short of wearing a black spandex ninja outfit)

So, this research is part of my journey.


Sage 08-21-2009 10:39 PM

black spandex ninja? :woohoo

CincyGarden 08-21-2009 11:35 PM


Originally Posted by Sage (Post 36089)
black spandex ninja? :woohoo

With a camera and a tape recorder, ducking diving owls, of course ;)

swamp thing 08-22-2009 12:40 AM

Quietman, I forget what you came up with to eliminate condensation on your camera, but I tried putting the camera in the car, and that worked pretty well. It was evening, so the car wasn't blazing hot, but warm and dry enough to warm up the camera in ten minutes or so.

Good luck with the owls, they can definitely startle you! I set up a tent once as it was getting dark, apparently in the middle of a screech owl convention or something, what a racket!!!

Hedgerowe 08-22-2009 03:39 AM

Quietman, I love your owl project.

When I first moved to the country a few years ago, I heard screech owls for the first time in my life. I was astounded to learn that they do not screech. They have a lovely, gentle trill to their call. I would hear them at dusk calling to each other from the woods at the edge of my field, in the spring especially. I did not know what it was and had to look it up in the internet. I still have not seen one and can hardly wait to see the photos from your project.

There is an enormous barn owl that lives nearby who I have seen twice and hear at night from time to time. His wing span must be nearly as wide as I am tall. He is amazing.

I have not read up on the ethics of owl calling yet, but I know that you will do the right thing by the owls. You obviously care about them.

Green Man 08-23-2009 08:32 PM

Heres one for ya quietman,


I dont see why anyone would have a problem calling owls, I geuss it would depend on what you did when you found them. The local forest preserve district often has programs where people can go out with a ranger at night and look for owls.


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