Larry Treadwell  

Boris, the Mighty Hunter by Larry Treadwell

September 2021 - Boris, the Mighty Hunter

About the Image(s)

Burrowing Owl with Toad

Nikon D850, 200-400 f4 lens with 1.4tc. ISO 800, f8, 1/4000. Camera supported on frisbee with RRS ballhead attached.

This is the next chapter in the adventures of Boris, my burrowing owl buddy. Boris is a juvenal Florida Burrowing Owl who is a whopping 10 inches tall and weighs in at a feisty 6-7 ounces. My objective was to capture owl behavior with the hope of getting some feeding and flight behavior. The back story for this image is that Boris, with the stealth and deadly strike capability of a heat seeking missile struck a woodpecker on a tree branch some 200 feet from my position near his nest. This attack took place on one of Boris’ early morning circles of the nesting area. I saw him strike the woodpecker and was unable to get a shot because he was so far away. I was just waiting for him to head toward his nest before focusing. He struck the bird, knocking it to the ground and landed on his downed target. Unless feeding young this large of a kill would be eaten at the kill site and not returned to the nest. Therefore I took my camera and began to approach Boris’ dining area. Fortunately Boris and I had become buddies and he was not upset as I slowly approached. When Boris seemed to notice me (giving me the owl eye look) I lay down on the ground and slithered a bit closer through the foot high grass/weeds. Once Boris began to stare in my direction I quit moving and began focusing. The fact that I had stopped y approach seemed to quiet Boris and he continued to eat. Eventually he devoured the entire woodpecker—every bone and feather. The process took nearly a half hour. There were a number of other owls in the area and when I noticed them flying about Boris began to exhibit the mantling behavior. This consisted of unfolding a wing, sometimes both, and covering his prey so as to make it invisible to other birds. This is the activity shown in this image.

As noted last month, I have visited this owl colony now more than thirty times this season. When visiting the site I arrive just after first light, before the heat becomes intense. I position myself so the sun rises behind me and the off shore breeze also blows from behind me toward the burrow. Although I had used my arrival technique to position my self at the nest area. When Boris made his kill I used the same approach technique as before to approach the site.(Sun at my back, searching for the best background as I approached. When I finally got as close as I dared (I did not want to upset Boris) I positioned myself laying on the ground with my camera mounted on a RRS ballhead attached to a frisbee. This provides me with a stable platform and positions me at owl eye level. My distance from the burrow was determined by the behavior of the owl. This image may give you a better idea regarding the size of Boris as you can see he is standing on the edge of a patch of grass providing a size comparison.

Post work entailed straightening and a slight crop to position the owl in the frame. Additionally there was some dodging and burning

3 comments posted

Richard Matheny   Richard Matheny
Well Boris sure showed you his hunting skills. I would assume that the woodpecker is a large meal for such a little bird. Good sharp eye and nice detail on the Owl. Glad you explained the outstretched wing because at first glance it was hard to tell what was going on. The wing and head blend together and caused me a little confusion. This is a great story about this little guy's daily life in the wild. Well Done.   Posted: 09/09/2021 12:45:13

Michael Weatherford   Michael Weatherford
I'm really hooked on the adventures of Boris. Now I'm looking forward to the next one, along with the next episode of Yellowstone. Love that sharp eye and bloody carcass, and Boris with the wing display over his prey. Great!   Posted: 09/11/2021 07:48:35

Cindy Bilinsky   Cindy Bilinsky
I am enjoying the adventures of Boris and have learned some interesting facts about the Burrowing Owl through your posts. As Richard pointed out the bird's right wing blends in with the head and I had to work hard visually to separate the wing from the head. It might help to do a little burning on the wing to separate the head and the wing. Once again you did a great job of separating the bird from the background and showcasing your subject.   Posted: 09/11/2021 09:10:38


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