Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl I

December 09, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Ferruginous Pygmy OwlFerruginous Pygmy OwlIn general, Owls are an elusive species to find and photograph in the wild. Most are either nocturnal or crepuscular, making locating them during the day a challenge. This is all the more true with the pygmy and small owls. Most of the members of this clan measure around six inches in height, making finding them in a tree even more difficult. I well remember my first experience with a Northern Saw-whet Owl. It was perched a foot directly over my head yet still invisible to me.

But that was not the case yesterday when we went on a wild adventure into the high southern desert to find the rare (in the USA) Ferruginous Pygmy Owl. Mostly seen in south Texas, the chance to see this life bird in Arizona was too tempting to resist. We traveled three hours from the southernmost part of Arizona to the Black Hills west of Tuscon only to find ourselves at a junction to a primitive road. Residents of Arizona are very familiar with primitive roads. They come in many states of primitive from well-groomed dirt highways to rocky thoroughfares that require slow and careful navigation. But for the road ahead of us on the next leg of this journey the term primitive would be an upgrade. We were concerned about continuing.

Stopping to survey the terrain and rest a moment we received a good omen. Ahead of us, perched on the dead scrag of a tall tree, was two Crested Caracara. With our spirits buoyed by this sighting we plunged ahead. After five miles of slow off-camber driving along the rocky, well-rutted route we arrived at the location where another birder had reported the owl. We had planned to spend hours in search but had only gone about 20 minutes when from the bowels of a stand of trees we heard the unmistakable faint hoots of the owl. With three sets of eyes present, we set upon the task of narrowing our search perimeter. A short while later we spotted the bird.

At a diminutive 6 inches tall the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl is only defeated for the title of the smallest owl by the even smaller Elf Owl. But our bird had decided to perch in the open space of a bare limb making him loom large. Staying a respectful distance away from the Owl we set up our gear to take our photos.

Rutilant in the morning light, the bird treated us to a show of song and movement for over an hour. A short while after we had begun we heard the reason for the calls. There was a second owl somewhere in the area. A quick 1,000 images later we packed up and headed home.

I will post more images and video of this beautiful bird over the next few days, including some shots of one of its most distinguishing features - the eyes on the back of its head. I was as interested in getting good shots of that as I was of his face.

A day spent with good friends is a blessing. Finding rare species makes it more so. There are no words that I know that can adequately describe the gratitude I feel towards God for allowing me these privileges. I humbly remain His scribe.
Shoot Date: December 8, 2018
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
Shutter priority ¹⁄₁₂₅ sec at f/5.6 1 ²⁄₃ EV
Lens: EF400mm f/2.8L USM @ 400 mm
ISO: 100

In general, Owls are an elusive species to find and photograph in the wild. Most are either nocturnal or crepuscular, making locating them during the day a challenge.  This is all the more true with the pygmy and small owls. Most of the members of this clan measure around six inches in height, making finding them in a tree even more difficult. I well remember my first experience with a Northern Saw-whet Owl. It was perched a foot directly over my head yet still invisible to me.

 

But that was not the case yesterday when we went on a wild adventure into the high southern desert to find the rare (in the USA) Ferruginous Pygmy Owl. Mostly seen in south Texas, the chance to see this life bird in Arizona was too tempting to resist. We traveled three hours from the southernmost part of Arizona to the Black Hills west of Tuscon only to find ourselves at a junction to a primitive road. Residents of Arizona are very familiar with primitive roads. They come in many states of primitive from well-groomed dirt highways to rocky thoroughfares that require slow and careful navigation. But for the road ahead of us on the next leg of this journey the term primitive would be an upgrade. We were concerned about continuing. 

 

Stopping to survey the terrain and rest a moment we received a good omen.   Ahead of us, perched on the dead scrag of a tall tree, was two Crested Caracara. With our spirits buoyed by this sighting we plunged ahead. After five miles of slow off-camber driving along the rocky, well-rutted route we arrived at the location where another birder had reported the owl. We had planned to spend hours in search but had only gone about 20 minutes when from the bowels of a stand of trees we heard the unmistakable faint hoots of the owl. With three sets of eyes present, we set upon the task of narrowing our search perimeter. A short while later we spotted the bird.  

 

At a diminutive 6 inches tall the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl is only defeated for the title of the smallest owl by the even smaller Elf Owl. But our bird had decided to perch in the open space of a bare limb making him loom large. Staying a respectful distance away from the Owl we set up our gear to take our photos. 

 

Rutilant in the morning light, the bird treated us to a show of song and movement for over an hour. A short while after we had begun we heard the reason for the calls. There was a second owl somewhere in the area. A quick 1,000 images later we packed up and headed home. 

 

I will post more images and video of this beautiful bird over the next few days, including some shots of one of its most distinguishing features - the eyes on the back of its head. I was as interested in getting good shots of that as I was of his face. 

A day spent with good friends is a blessing. Finding rare species makes it more so. There are no words that I know that can adequately describe the gratitude I feel towards God for allowing me these privileges. I humbly remain His scribe. 

 

---


Shoot Date: December 8, 2018
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
Shutter priority ¹⁄125 sec at f/5.6 1 ²⁄3 EV
Lens: EF400mm f/2.8L USM @ 400 mm
ISO: 100


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