The Shadow

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.

Great Horned Owl at sunrise

Great Horned Owl at sunrise (click photos to enlarge)

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.

Great Horned Owl by the light of a full moon

Great Horned Owl by the light of a full moon

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.

Great Horned Owl silhouette against full moon

Great Horned Owl silhouette against full moon

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.

10 thoughts on “The Shadow

  1. Bosque del Apache is such a special place. I envy your trip there. The pictures are great, hope you will post some more!

  2. The magnificence of that OWL brought tears to my eyes! BY the way MIke…..CRANES are my favorite birds so would love to view the photos of Sandhill cranes if you have any!!!!

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