It’s that time of year again. Christmas is in the air; the New Year is right around the corner and Old man Winter is coming! Boy wildlife photography is about to get a little more challenging. In the Midwest, it’s feast or fame with snow. We may not have much snow all winter, or we could get days of deep snow and cold temperatures. Which can cause a few problems for wildlife photographers out in the field. As most birds migrate to warmer temps in search of shelter and food, one of my highlights every winter is to track down and photograph the elusive:
Short-eared owls (Asio flammeus) Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Aves Order: Strigiformes Family: Strigidae.
Owls are famous for their nocturnal behavior, but short-eared owls seem to march to a different drum and are often seen out and about in the middle of the day – a wildlife photographer’s dream. Their preferred habitat: Open grasslands, especially native prairie. They will roost on the ground or in low bushes. Commonly active during the day, especially in the early morning and late afternoon, as well as at night. If you ever dare to go antler shedding, be careful searching you may discover a roost with up to 20 or more individuals in, in a thicket, low bushes, or in a dry, grassy watercourse.
The past few winters in Missouri has been a bust for short-eared owls, going back to 2016; when I began documenting this species – a few e-news outlets have reported that statewide numbers of Short-Eared Owls are declining across their range, as suitable wintering habitat, namely grasslands, marshes, and infrequently-used pastures, have been converted to cropland, pasture, have been lost to development, converted to more intensive agricultural practices, or altered through a field’s natural succession to forests. This species is a species of conservation concern in Missouri. The Species status – They have a state endangerment ranking of S2, which places them on the more imperiled end of the state’s endangerment scale.
A thriving Prairies’ habitat is critical for breeding birds, but also birds that winter here, like short-eared owls. The area contains a wide variety of wetland habitats, ranging from early successional marshes to deep backwater sloughs. The wetlands are managed to provide food for migrating waterfowl, while also providing habitat for resident marsh birds and other wetland-dependent wildlife.
Two birds may engage in flight, locking talons, and fighting briefly. Often, a display where one bird flashes its light underwing towards another is used during territorial and courtship flights.
Until the next adventure. If you would like to be updated when I post new blogs articles, please sign up for my email list @ my blog. Your support is appreciated.
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