Monday, May 30, 2011

Not finding what you were looking for

At Stow Lake, in San Francisco, there are a large number of birds that are around during the year. Red-tailed Hawks, Red-Shouldered Hawks, Great Blue Herons, Cormorants, and a lot more.

I went down looking for a nesting pair of Red-tailed Hawks, which I had seen the year before. I knew where a nest might be, but I had not seen the hawks there for a while. It's hard to see into the nest, as it is very high in a tree and out over the water. I also know that there are nesting Great Blue Herons in the same area, and I wanted to see how they were doing.

However, I was not expecting to see what we ended up seeing, a family of Great Horned Owls. We were up at the top of Strawberry Hill, and I saw a large bird fly from one branch to another. I was not able to immediately identify it, and it was fairly well hidden in the branches. After a short while, I discovered it sitting in the upper branches. I pulled out the monopod, put on the 1.4x teleconverter onto the Canon 100-400 mm lens, and proceeded to hope for a quiet enough time to take a good shot.

I use a Canon 7D, which is an excellent camera. However, it is not able to auto-focus at f.8, which is what the minimum f-stop is with the lens and extender. So, I was very carefully focusing, and had the camera at f.11 to try and take advantage of any depth of field. It worked, with the additional stability of he monopod. I did have image stabilization on, which seemed to help.

When looking down on where the owls were, I noticed a larger group of people with cameras, binoculars, and video recorders. This gave me a good location on where the other owls were. I didn't know there were 6 at the time, but was able to get good shots after walking down off the hill. The lower photograph was taken without the 1.4x teleconverter, but we were much closer to the birds.

It was a thrill to get this close to these birds. I was amazed at how large they were, and how large their claws are compared to their body size.

More Photos here