l have been a part of a few successful wildlife rescues and educate people on wildlife and environmental issues. We have helped in issues to save wetlands, woodlands etc.to save the precious life within. It is well worth the effort. We can all learn to live and work together. Education is the key. In 2011 I won an education award from Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority for the work and photography I do. Habitat is fast disappearing and with it, many species are also declining in numbers. So many species can actually tell us the health of our environment and alert us to problems we need to know about. They all need to be protected.

Jen's Creative Photography

For the more domestic side of my work, for example, pet photography, babies and other photo shoots, please go to
Jen's Creative Photography

Followers

Monday, January 20, 2014

Great grey owl


     Again this winter we have some great owls around. And lots of people including kids are loving being able to view them. I was very lucky to view a magnificent great grey owl this last weekend with my good friend Ann. The people who were there were viewing it from a good distance and were quiet and just enjoying the opportunity. Then the owl flew right at Ann. Wow. It landed about 3 feet in front of her on the other side of the fence. But what it brought up from under the snow was a white mouse. It had been baited. The guy was hiding on the other side of the street. After a few words between the baiter and the other people. The baiter held the poor little mouse over his wrist like a waiter would hold a good bottle of wine. And he said that" I have no use for you birders, I am a photographer & I am bringing the owl to me". This is a live little animal. It was cold and frightened. He didn't care.  He had lured the owl right to the side of the road. It was in a tree. Luckily the owl flew back to the field. This man even threatened to put the mouse into one woman's mouth to make her silent. She was not being rude or loud, just being honest.He was rude and vulgar and there were children present. One young girl's mouth dropped open and she was clearly upset when she found out what he was doing and saw the little mouse in his hand hanging from its tail. Nothing bothered him and he clearly did not care about the owl or the children or the fact that baiting can put the owl at risk. He was making money from other photographers to get that "perfect" shot. That is all that mattered. Fact is. A photographer does not need to bait an owl to get a great photo. My opinion. Those baited shots should be banned from magazines. There are so many photographers out there, myself include, with amazing clean natural shots. It takes patience, respect of the bird and it's space and being quiet.There were birders and photographer here watching this owl. Anywhere from little pocket cameras, cell phones,200mm to 800 mm lenses. Kids asking questions and taking a real interest in this owl and all owls in general. Taking a real interest in the outdoors and its beautiful creature's. Until this guy came along. Oh how those young faces changed. It was very sad. They were asking questions like:How does it find its prey in the snow. How does it catch it, can I go into the field. Of coarse that answer was no. And they thanked us for all the information. And they went away appreciating and respecting owls even more. But were very upset to have witnessed what this man did. I mean these guys had 800 mm lenses with tele convertors on so they had no reason to be that close to an owl. And they complained that the bushes got in the way or a piece of grass. The reason the baiter wanted to lure the owl to the empty field across the road. No interferences for the other guys taking photos. Meaning it would cross over not once but twice when it came back over. I use a 150 - 500mm lens, I don't have a teleconverter, and I was taking photos of the owl in the back of its hunting area. I watched it hunt (naturally) catching wild voles. Learning about how it hunts in the snow, watching it seeking out its prey. Watching its feathers as the winds blew them in all directions as it sat ever so still listening for its prey beneath the snow. It flew from tree to tree. It flew to the ground to hunt. It missed the vole but knew it was there. It sat very still moving its head in the direction the sound was coming from. The kids would say, "what is it doing, why is it sitting there so long". Well it knew the vole was there. It needed that meal. And it was rewarded by its patience. It sat in a tree and looked all over as a flock of crows flew over scolding it. It was incredible. It came closer on and off as it searched for food. Then I also had it fly right at me. The baiters had lost a couple mice and could not find them. A great grey flying right at you is something you will never forget. I didn't even try to get a photo. I was in aw of what I was witnessing. I saw every inch of it and I had the owl land within a foot of me. It was on the other side of the fence and it got a mouse that was left behind. At least the poor thing didn't freeze to death. However now that owl is at risk of being hit by a passing car. It has already become imprinted by humans feeding it. It will approach people now to see if they are going to feed it. It will be right by the road. And if a mouse gets left behind again and it runs out on the road. That owl could get hit by a passing car. All this for a photo. NO. Not acceptable. When you are a wildlife photographer your number 1 priority is or should be the safety of your subject. If you get a shot great. It has taken me years to get a shot of an owl in flight or a fox kit in play. It is patience. Pure and simple. Common sense. And by this practice I have learned ever so much about these birds and animals. There is no reward better than that. And when you get that shot. Which I have many now. Leaving no trace of your being there and leaving the owl safe and sound is what it is all about. Its not about the money you can make for that perfect shot in these guys cases. It is about what that owl can teach you. About its beauty. About its life which you want to continue. To many of these birds die each year.Starvation,getting hit by cars. To many lives are lost. Its great to see children coming with their parents and young people coming  with their friends to see these wild birds. It's great for them to ask questions and want to learn. It is not great for them to see a baiter coming along, feeding domestic mice to lure the birds in to cameras capable of getting that shot in the back of that field,putting these birds lives at risk. The birds know no fear. They are getting a free meal. Many free meals. What happens when these guys have had enough and leave. Move on to harass the next poor bird.Who is going to feed the owl now. It has become dependant on that food. These guys are there every day morning and evening. Do they care. No. Plus all the other photographers out there are now getting bad reputations because of these guys. We are shunned upon and hated. People need to be educated on what these guys are doing. I don't care if you are a birder or a photographer. Name calling them is just childish. We all need to get along and respect each other. And especially our next generation of photographer/birders whatever they choose to do. And they do NOT need to see this kind of behavior. When you see and owl or any wildlife. Give them their space, respect them, don't chase or approach them. Let them hunt. Don't use a flash. Don't feed them. That next meal may mean life or death for an owl or anything in the wild. Especially this winter with so much snow, ice and cold that just is never ending. The owls are here because they had no food where they came from. Many of them young and inexperienced. They have no fear of people because they don't see them in their home territories. They arrive fatigued and stressed and hungry. Many ending up in wildlife rehab centers and some dying. If you see an owl. DONT report it to an online nature or birding sight. Let it be. And feel privileged you had that opportunity to see such a majestic creature in its "natural" habitat. I hope and pray this bird does not become our next casualty. Respect all living things.


                                                    Great grey owl prints in the snow.

      Watching the owl at a distance. The owl is in the background. Can you see it. Our cameras could!
                                            In the snow the owl was magical. What beauty.



                           Some young children looking at the owl back in a tree off the road.

 The owl flew from tree to tree. Below it dove gently head first into the snow to catch its prize.







                                       Just like a delicate dancer latching onto a tiny branch.




                                          The magic of the wind blowing the owls feathers.


                                                                Those incredible eyes.






                                                                            Hunting
 It started snowing. What amazing photos. What an incredible owl. Bait free photos. Not bad.

3 comments:

Ann Brokelman said...

Excellent blog jen. Great day.

Daniel LaFrance said...

I enjoyed reading about your experience. It is a sad reality that some folks will do just about anything for a photo.

Your photos are extremely enriching and pleasing to my eyes. Beautiful!

Jennifer Howard said...

Thank you Daniel. It is a tough one for sure. And I didn't shoot while he was there. I only pray this bird is not our next casualty.