The Digital Photo Guy

An Exciting Week (Not the Good Kind!)

by on Mar.18, 2013, under Articles, Monday Morning Tips

Burrowing Owls, Broken Bones & Stolen Credit Cards

Last week, my wife finally got enough sleep after retiring in mid-December. We packed up the RV and headed to Salton Sea to photograph burrowing owls with my friend Charles. Before we even got to Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) outside Calipatria, CA, we discovered our credit card number had been been skimmed and $1600 charged at, of all places, an Apple store in Kentucky. If Apple had a clue, they would have known that we hate Apple products and would never buy anything from them. We immediately cancelled the card and resorted to a quaint legacy technology known as “cash.”

On Saturday, I scouted known burrowing owl (BO) hangouts before Charles arrived on Sunday. After a fruitful morning, I was packing up when I received a call from my wife saying she had fallen into a hole and broken her arm. I rushed back to the RV and we drove 21 miles to the nearest ER in Brawley, CA. After 2 hours, we left with a diagnosis of a hairline fracture of the radius, a cool splint and a mystery bill to be received at a future date. I was ready to pack up and leave Charles to his own devices but my wife wanted to soldier on.

On Sunday, Charles and I spent the morning chasing after burrowing owls, avocets, ducks and ever present sea gulls around the Visitors’ Center. Later that afternoon, we cruised two new areas. One area was a bust but the other produced BOs nicely lit by the late afternoon sun against beautiful, soft green backgrounds. All photos were made with a Canon 7D and a 300/2.8 + 2xTC. Once in a while, I consider selling the 300/2.8 but the tack sharp images and beautifully soft bokeh always tugs at my heart.

Ready to fly if the hawk makes a move. Kilroy was here. (Love that background.) JABO (just another burrowing owl) Another gorgeous BG. Rodin's "The Thinker" reimagined. burrowingOwls-10 burrowingOwls-9 We believe this is a chick. burrowingOwls-7 Doofus! burrowingOwls-5 I think he's winking at me. burrowingOwls-3 Whoa! Hawk alert!

I made some photos of an avocet and a flock of sea gulls but none were worth displaying. Since I have so many photos of BOs at this time, my new criteria for displaying BO photos is as follows:

  1. Perfect head angle (an Artie Morris principle.)
  2. Eyes looking at me or fixed on prey/predator.
  3. Interesting/unique expression on face.
  4. Most/all of legs and talons showing.
  5. Pleasing background.

For those interested in photographing BOs, you’d better hurry because these guys are rapidly approaching endangered species status. In CA, developers are required to install artificial burrows when BOs are found in areas under development. Unfortunately, the law says nothing about relocating BOs so, after the artificial burrows are built, developers simply grade over inhabited burrows, sentencing birds to a horrible death.

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1 Comment for this entry

  • Karen

    Outstanding photos of these unusual and tenacious looking birds. I think these photos should be used to increase the public’s awareness of them and their fate at the hand of developers. They make a powerful statement about one of God’s beautiful creations. Well done!



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