Sunday, November 22, 2009

Words first

This time around I want to have thoughts first.

It is a miracle that this great horned owl has come into our neighborhood. There's no way to tell where it came from or how long it will stay. One can only be thankful that it's here. The reactions are universal- awe and smiles. It's obvious to the uninformed that there's something up in the tree as a small crowd is standing in one spot gawking upwards some with binoculars, others with cameras.

For me it's a learning experience as well as a social experience. "What's there?" "An owl". "Where?" "That big dark blob way up in the leaves." Yesterday the owl was in the ginko tree, well hidden, not out in the open like the afternoon on Friday. "Something smells around here. It stinks." "Yes, that's from the ginko tree". The seeds, when stepped on, smell, stink." "What does it smell like?" "Smells like baby diapers." I'd say that's accurate. "Is the owl male or female?" Various replies to that. "The last owl was here two years ago. Stayed 6 weeks." On and on the chatter goes. I love the chatter. Everyone is happy, awaiting the fly-out, knowing this is going to be something awesome.

As a photographer I know this is going to be challenge. Anyone who has a definitive picture of an owl fly-out, that perfect picture, has done a set-up or used strobes. There is simply no way to get the perfect picture because the fly-out happens at dark and to trigger a flash is anti-nature. These birds are going on the hunt, hunt to survive, to use a strobe is to disturb their vision. Fortunately, last night nobody used flash. Central Park birders know better. But there were people with cameras who left before fly-out because their cameras couldn't get any pictures. Then use eyes. It's something wonderful to see.

The owl was deep in the ginko tree, hidden in the leaves. As the sun set it became this dark blob on the dark limb. It wakes up slowly, much like humans, stretches, yawns, gradually looks around. As fly-out approaches it might hop to another branch and stretch a bit more. Finally it flies a short distance to another tree, waits, looks around, and after about five minutes, takes off into the night, last night- north west. During the wait squirrels skittered around in the dry leaves. Little bats flew around the space and a few trees over, also in the dark, a couple of raccoons emerged. Bats, coons, an owl. Halloween in the Rambles?

I didn't know what pictures I'd get. I didn't take the ISO up to the extreme. When the owl perched on the final branch before fly-off I leaned against a tree and used it and my body like a tripod. I had no idea what I would get. The "away-we-go" last image is too funny. And after it left. the audience applauded. I loved that, a joyful, spontaneous ovation for the owl.

Now I'll post the pictures.

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