Photographing owls can be an elusive adventure, but extremely rewarding once you have them in your sight! Here are some tips for owl-spotting and taking winning photos during the daytime:
1. Look in the right direction:
- Keep your eyes open for “owl environments,” which include dead trees or large snags near tall grass, where squirrels, voles, and mice are in large numbers. Look in large old growth trees w/open cavities or broken branch holes 15-25 feet above for fledglings peaking out of nest cavities
- Look up into the canopy for owl outlines and silhouettes, while they’re resting, perching or at daytime roosts.
- When you can see a tree canopy from road take the opportunity as a passenger to survey nests, birds on-the-wing.
- Look for white poop and droppings below trees. Seeing it on roads is easy, but on foliage is more difficult.
- Stay at least 30 ft from nest using binoculars and being relatively quiet until you are certain you need to take a photo or approach.
2. Look at the right time of day and season:
- Owls are nocturnal birds, but that doesn’t mean they can only be seen at night. Short-eared owls and snowy owls are more active during the day than other owl species. The best time of day to see owls is at dawn or dusk when they are more easily spotted and more active. During nesting season, however, many owls are active throughout the day in order to feed their young.
- Research the species in your area to find out when nesting begins, and what types of owls are prominent. Birding organizations and clubs can be a helpful source, as well as photography workshops specifically designed for owl and hawk spotting.
- Ask around on local photography forums and outdoor experts. Once you do know where one has been sighted, keep going back to the same area, as they are creatures of habit and will nest in the same spot year after year.
- Most owls do not migrate and can be found in the same area throughout the year. Searching for owls in late winter can be easy for those who bird by ear, when owls are calling more frequently to attract mates or claim their territory. Nesting owls are most active from mid-summer to early autumn when young owls are first stretching their wings. This can be a great time to go owling, because these younger birds may be less secretive and easier to spot.
3. Bring the right lens:
- Your lens is key component in photographing any type of wildlife. Owls are very protective of their young — and the larger varieties have been known to chase humans away with aggressive behavior, so a good telephoto lens is important to stay at a distance and be discreet. A 300 – 600 mm lens will work well with a tripod or monopod. Most agree that an ideal lens is a fast 400 mm.