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An Encounter With Owls

Story and photos by Gerrit Vyn
From the Autumn 2015 issue of Living Bird magazine.
Short-eared Owl by Gerrit Vyn

A few years ago I was on Amherst Island in Eastern Ontario, a place known for owls. Earlier in the day, I had seen and photographed Snowy Owls, Boreal Owls, and a Northern Saw-whet Owl.

But finding a group of about 15 Short-eared Owls calling and hunting on the side of a small country road was an unexpected surprise. When I stopped my car in the middle of the action, I didn’t want to get out and disturb them. I could see that individuals were periodically perching on a nearby fence post. I first tried to get a shot from the car window, but the angle put them in front of a bright sky—not the kind of background I am fond of. To remedy that, I opened up my truck’s sunroof and got a better angle that added color from distant trees and the field behind the post. Then I waited quietly for an owl.

When one finally landed, I took a few shots and the bird looked at me, presumably trying to make sense of the sound and movement on the roof of my car. Then it tilted its head—definitely my favorite shot, and a great end to a long day with owls.

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