Barred Owl -- Strix varia
Looking for Lunch

An account with photographs of a barred owl, Strix varia, looking for lunch.

2004 February 25

I was too lazy to go snow shoeing this morning. However, by mid morning I felt the need to stack some firewood to assuage my feelings of guilt. But from the small bird activity — mainly chickadees — it was obvious something was up. Then I spotted this guy — a barred owl looking for lunch behind the wood pile.

Barred Owl  Strix varia

A barred owl watching for small rodents while ignoring the harassment and warning calls of several small birds (not visible). The small birds eventually gave up and left.

The morning photography was difficult because of the lighting. Eventually, I got bored with taking multiple mediocre shots of a poorly lit, branch-obstructed view of an owl. I tossed one of my work gloves down the drive way. The owl immediately swooped down and took up a perch where he could get a better view of the glove. Clearly, one could have a lot of fun with a casting rod and a rubber mouse.

I tried a closer approach, but the owl retreated.

In any case, I managed to get a couple of useable shots. I returned to the house and put together and posted the first version of this page. However, in the early afternoon, I realized that the owl was still around and was now hunting in our front yard. The afternoon was much better for photography and all of the shots shown here were shot in the afternoon.

Barred Owl  Strix varia

The life of a barred owl doesn't look too exciting. He spent the entire afternoon just sitting and watching. Occasionally, he would change branches. He terrified two squirrels and made a couple of plunges into the snow, but I'm quite sure he didn't get anything all day. I expect that if he gorges himself on a squirrel, he must be good for several days. And he certainly doesn't waste a lot of energy on useless activity.

Barred Owl  Strix varia

This is as exciting as it gets. Unfortunately, this picture is a little hard to decipher, but things are happening fast. The owl is diving down and away from the camera, trailing his legs out behind. (The legs are below and between the wings. The rightmost wing is the farther wing.) The owl is diving for the horizontal snow covered branch where the squirrel just was. The squirrel is exiting stage left. He lived to chatter another day.

It was interesting to watch this situation develop. The squirrel was just following the normal tree top route from the ravine to our bird feeder. He didn't see the owl until he was only about ten feet away.

Barred Owl  Strix varia

Formal portrait time, just before the squirrel arrived. The snow covered horizontal branch is visible to the left.

I never did get that wood stacked.