Eastern Screech Owls
Lincoln Street, Waupun,WI, 2012

On July 8, 2012, I got an email from Rick and Lori, in Waupun, saying that they have had up to a dozen owls in their yard every evening, for the last two weeks. They included their address in case I was interested. I contacted another photographer, and some of the local bird experts, to help me document this interesting phenomenon, and went there that night, having no idea what to expect. Sure enough, right at sunset, the trees seemed to come alive with owl activity. I wasn't ready for the low light conditions, and didn't get any keepers the first night. I got better very quickly, and Rick and Lori were really great about letting us go through their yard in the future, even if they weren't home. Here are some of my better shots, after 14 visits, and 681 pictures......

I got this picture on the 9th. It was quickly determined that these were all juvenile Eastern Screech Owls (except for the two adults mixed in), that likely fledged from a nest in the half-dead tree in Rick and Lori's backyard. Screech Owls occure in both red and gray morphs, and develope their ear tufts as they get older.

A shot from the night of July 10th.

On the 11th, I was lucky to have chosen my smaller, 100-400mm lens, for this opportunity every night. When these guys lined up on a branch, I was able to pan out far enough to get all four, with a fifth one to the lower left.

Another great shot, on the 12th! I thought it was neat to have one looking each way. When I started taking pictures and making noise, the one on the right appearently didn't have room to turn around to look, so his only option was to lean far enough forward, and look undereneath, to the rear.

This one is also from the 12th. It was a challenge to get things in focus, as it was too dark for auto-focus to work, and I could barely see through the camera to do it manually. When I thought I had it right, I just kept taking pictures until they flew to another branch. I didn't know what I was getting until I got home.

The owls were still "arriving" every evening at about 8:40, but no one ever saw which direction they were coming from. On the 13th, I ventured over there at 2:00 in the afternoon, and looked a little harder, and found that they were in the same trees all day, just a little higher, in the thicker leaves. The bonus was getting pictures of both of the adults (above and below), in much better light than I was used to.

On the 19th, in search of some different pictures, I bought a mouse at the local pet store, and took it to the owls. The mouse was easy to keep underneath the tree, but occasionally had to be nudged away from the bushes. Several of the owls kept a very close eye on it, including one of the adults (below), but I think I was staying too close to it for the owls to come down.

I brought the mouse back the next evening. I waited a little later, and stayed farther from the mouse. Several of us watched as four of the owls watched it closely, while all jumping to lower and lower branches. When they finally ran out of any lower branches, one of them eventually came down, landing on the mouse. It went back into the same tree in the front yard, but soon flew to the backyard with it. With the help of others, we located it, and I was able to get a good angle.

From there, I couldn't imagine getting any better pictures, and it was about time to leave the owls alone. A special thanks to Rick and Laurie for contacting me, and for allowing so many people into their yard for so long.

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