Already Thinkin’ About Winter!

With Missouri temperatures well into the 90’s, with equally oppressive humidity levels, I’ve been thinking a lot about our upcoming winter. And one of the things I’m really excited about is the opportunity to see/photograph the Short-eared Owls again … assuming we get some migrating into our area. I had some wonderful times photographing them in the winter of 2011-2012, but last year saw very few owls wintering in our area. That is not uncommon. The migration of the owls to our area tends to be a cyclical thing, depending upon both the weather and food availability in the northern regions. But with a little luck, I’ll be making several trips to some larger Missouri prairies to photograph these little beauties. With all of this in mind, I decided to re-post one of my early 2012 posts on these little owls, so I hope you enjoy it (this post originally published in January 2012).

Last Friday morning, I headed out with the car loaded with photo equipment and winter clothing. Destination … short-eared owl country! You might have seen my post a few weeks ago about my first encounter with this migrant bird (Short-eared Owls!). I had enjoyed my time with these little owls so much that I decided I “needed” to make a trip back to spend some more time with them! Here are a few images I made over the New Year’s weekend.

The show began as the sun began fading below the horizon, when the owls began searching for voles/mice:

Short-eared Owl flying over the prairie

Short-eared Owl flying over the prairie

Short-eared Owl flying over prairie

Short-eared Owl flying over the prairie


As the sun dipped below the horizon, this little owl flew in front of the fading light:

Short-eared owl flying over prairie during sunset


And after the sun had completely set, the sky grew a deep red color. I waited patiently for one of the dozen owls to fly in front of the great color. It wasn’t long before this little guy obliged me:

Short-eared Owl flying during sunset


The short-eared owl (Asio flammeus) is a medium-sized, open-country owl, commonly found over marshes, fields and tundras. Surrounding their bright yellow eyes is a dark patch, making the owl look like it has a black eye! To watch these little guys vigorously hunt over the prairie is a mesmerizing sight that, unfortunately, is too short for me, since the show doesn’t start until sunset. And instead of “hooting”, these little guys put on quite a “barking/yelping” show, sounding a lot like a small dog with their yelping barks!

I made 3 trips over the weekend to the prairie to watch the short-eared owls hunt, but was successful only during one of the trips. The weather was very nice, with rather warm temperatures and clear skies. But we had extremely strong winds come up and I think this made a big impact on the owls’ hunting activities. I was planning on grabbing some video of the owls, but their inactivity prohibited it. Oh well, guess that’s a good excuse to seek them out again before they migrate north in the spring! But all was not lost … I spent the mid-day portion of my weekend photographing Northern Harriers, capturing some pretty nice images. I’ll share some in my next post.



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