I rejoice that there are owls…
~Henry David Thoreau
I just returned from a very special place – Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. I came away with several thousand images, mostly of Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes, the “stars” of Bosque. But in the predawn light and in the twilight after sunset each day, I looked for something special in a certain area along the road. It was a silhouette, a powerful shadow of the night sky – a Great Horned Owl.
Over five days, I probably saw the owl five or six times, all within a quarter mile stretch of road inside the refuge. It was always perched on a prominent object, surveying its domain, looking and listening for a potential meal amongst the grasses and shrubs. There are relatively few trees here so I imagine the owl may have a nest site in one of the groves of Cottownwoods near the highway. The image above was taken on the first morning in the refuge, a good omen I thought.
One of the many highlights of the trip was the full moon rising with cranes flying into one of the ponds along the road near the owl’s territory. As I drove out that night, there was the owl, sitting in the bare branches of a small tree along the railroad tracks. As I had stayed with the cranes until the moon was well up off the horizon, it was tough to get into position for a photo of the owl against the moon. I took a few images of it in the glow of the full moon before tying to get closer.
I now know my body wasn’t designed to crouch so low while messing with a camera and tripod trying to frame an owl against a brightening moon. But, the owl did not seem to mind, and I managed a few shots before it glided down on some unsuspecting rodent and then disappeared into the trees.
A shadow can a powerful thing, and this one gave me an experience I will not forget.