I set out for Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, FL with the goal of photographing the Barred Owl — having seen it from a distance in April 2013. I hiked the boardwalk through the cypress swamp with tripod and camera backpack, asking naturalists if they had spotted the owl or its nest. “The nest is a mile this way, just past marker seven. There is a chance the father owl will be out hunting for food for the chicks. Listen for the call, ‘Who cooks for you?’ ” My efforts were rewarded with close views of this elusive owl, who usually hunts at night and is most often heard “who cooks for you?” but not seen.
I first spotted this large barred owl on this high branch. I set up my tripod, mounted my Nikon D800, and Nikon 70-200mm lens with 1.4 extender and set the focus and aperture and waited. I chose to use 100 ISO and a long exposure. He rewarded me by looking at me first over one shoulder and then the other.
You can see the barred owl’s distinct features: the brown and white stripped wing feathers, the head without horns, the substantial size (about 15″). In the next shot, you will see the vertical stripes on the front. He is leaping from the branch into flight in pursuit of prey — very fast! Having the camera ready on the tripod and my finger on the shutter release made this shot possible.
On another perch, he looks down for more prey. A second later, he startled me by flying right over me. I ducked, and was glad he didn’t claw my head. Barred owls are known to fight detractors, so that scare may have been deliberate.
This was my favorite image — looking right at me. Such detail, and such intimacy with wildlife. All of these photos are large files and will make large high quality prints. Mission accomplished!