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Page 2 Karl Egressy

Written By onci on Tuesday, November 10, 2009 | 5:57 AM


Shooting Small Owls by Karl Egressy

Owl shooting season is here again. I fact we saw our first Northern Saw-whet Owl yesterday, on Nov. 4th.

It is time again to think about how to balance our acts between wanting to have that great shot and guarding the well being of our subject, that is, small Owls of the North.

Small Owls such as Northern Saw-whet Owl and Boreal Owl come to our area, to Southern Ontario and Northern States of USA every year, in order to survive the food shortage and the competition for food in their nesting area.

Many of these birds will spend their very first winter of their life here. They will face many challenges. One of them is predation and the lack of access to food source due to too deep snow cover or a hard crust on the top of the snow as a result of melting and refreezing.

What we can do to help them to survive?
We obviously cannot control the weather and the availability of food. What we can and should do is to protect them from predation. The strategy of these small Owls to prevent predation is to hide and stay motionless during the day.

In order to remain unnoticed, they look to be very docile upon approach.
However, if you read their body language, they let you know when they start become uncomfortable with your presence. If you keep pushing it, they will leave.
Back up then and try to shoot from a further distance.

Don’t get too close, don’t try to move a branch out of the way as it might scare the bird and it will leave its secure hiding place to be exposed to potential predators.
A high percentage of these birds that we find down south will die every year as a result of predation.

I assume you shoot birds because you like them. Please give them a chance to survive and don’t try to push their limit of tolerance towards humans just to get your good shot.

Here is a shot of a Northern Saw-whet Owl that I took a few years ago.
By the time I arrived to the place, another photographer chased the bird out of its hiding place already. I took the shot and also took the time to explain to him why he shouldn’t have spooked the bird. (We are still friends)

Here is another shot taken in February this year just outside of Ottawa, Ontario. The bird was stressed and it was starving. I did not know it at the time. It is a rare to find species, called; Boreal Owl. I drove 835 km in February to get this shot. This bird was starving and died three days later.

This past winter almost all the small owls of Amherst Island in Ontario fell for predation by the end of the winter. The last shot is a Northern Saw-whet Owl in its hiding tree.

I wish you a great season of Owling and Owl photography.

Karl Egressy
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