Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Stalking the Great Owl

Thanks to all of you, my dear friends, for your flap confirmations and stalking recommendations, I woke at 5 a.m.   No alarm clock.  Just excitement for the nocturnal hunt.

In order not to spook the owl I have decided is residing in the tree beside my house, I turned on no lights whatever.  Quiet as a mouse -- thinking that mouse might also attract the owl -- I tiptoed barefoot from the bedroom to get my camera.

And stepped on one of my grandson's toys that I had forgotten to put away when he went back to his parents yesterday. 

Fortunately it was a soft cuddly toy.

Unfortunately, my first thought was that it was it one of our cats so I jumped back so fast I smashed my knee on the coffee table. 

Refusing to cry out, I stuffed my agony and found my camera bag and like an expert, got out the Nikon, put on a mid-range zoom, attached the strobe...attached the strobe...tried to attach the strobe.  Finally realized in the dark that I was trying to put it on backwards.   Got it right.

I carefully moved to the porch and discovered it was raining.

But heck! It's 5 am.  National Geographic photographers do this in Antarctica, underwater, in rain forests.  So I tiptoed back to the hall and got my rainproof windbreaker and a plastic bag to protect the camera. 

30 minutes on the porch trying to figure out how to cover the camera and still push the buttons, leave the lens free but still protect it.  I ripped holes in two bags, ruined another, considered putting a big leaf bag entirely over my head and shoulders.  Almost suffocated. 

Okay, I did't really almost suffocated.  I just almost fell back asleep.  At which point I probably would have suffocated.

But the rain let up a little.  So I decided I could just protect the camera with the windbreaker and left the bags on the porch and stepped out.

Barefoot.  Wet grass.  Dark.  I crouched and stealthed my way...

BUTLER:  "Stealth is not a verb!"

Ssssshh.   I hid behind a bush.  It was dark.  In fact it might not have been a bush. 
It might have been the barbecue grill.  I had the tree in sight.  I strained to see the owl's eyes as my friends had suggested.  I could hardly see the tree.  It began to rain harder. 

I set the camera and strobe to multiple shot mode so I could make the most of the one chance I would have to shoot flapping wings.  The machine gun of photography.

Holding my breath, I stepped out from behind the bush (or the grill).  The rain started coming down heavier.  By then my only thought was the owl.  So what if the Nikon gets wet!  I took one more step, my bare foot landing on something soft and wet -- praying it was a mole hill and not a gift from Daisy the Oppossum-Dog. 

I raised my camera and...

All the spot lights on the house snapped on turning night into day and Karen's voice called out loudly, "Mark!  What are you doing?!!  Aren't you going to walk Daisy??!  What are all these bags doing in the porch??!!!!  What time is it?!!"
I didn't even hear a flap from the owl...only the flap from the porch.  I turned quickly and slipped, splashing in the wet grass.  The good news was that what I had stepped on was a mole hill. 

The bad news is that what I fell on was the gift from Daisy. 

So much for my career with National Geographic.


  1. There will be other nights, other hunts... I'd love to see the photos from your next attempts. But maybe, just maybe, warn Karen first. Oh, and I enjoyed your telling of the story, so feel free to have further amusing disasters ;)

  2. Ha ha ha. Small goals first. You should have just takena spotlight flashlight and snuck out and shone it in the tree. We would have believed you even if you didn't get the photo. Sounds like something I would do, but it would take more than that to wake hubby. He sleeps like the dead.

  3. You have me feeling sympathy and giggling at the same time! Such herculean efforts to get a good shot and you are foiled and humiliated at every turn. Tomorrow is another day. Let's hope the owl is not taking shots of you!

  4. Well every crazy story you tell seems to be funnier than the last. I bet that hooter is laughing at you. Maybe you could quietly slip outside and quietly set the timer for 5 AM and get some kind of picture to guide you. You are just too noisy to get very close. The NatGeo folks take forever to set up a good shot.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your critters.

  5. Too funny Mark. And it certaly has a realistic ring to it.

    I bet the owl was laughing in his tree. Or out of it.

  6. By the way, Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow. May your day be rich and warm and satisfying.

    And may someone else volunteer to do the clean up for you.

  7. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! The picture I have in my head about this is hysterical in a 3 stooges sort of way!

  8. Too funny! Did I mention that there was an owl sleeping on the Great Pyramid, only feet from where we were standing inside the boat museum? I got two shots of it.

  9. Better to practice spooking an owl than taking on an elephant first. You still have a shot at NG, just leave the family and the toys at home.

  10. Well, I have been missing a few things, haven't I? Sounds like the premise for a reality show.

    You do seem to be back on a roll. Funnier than ever. What's your poison? I could use some.

    In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving to my friend(s). Dorothea is ready to pop off somewhere with Bagman again.

  11. Awww shucks, no picture. And that present from Daisy. Well, never mind. Happy Thanksgiving.

  12. I was just going to say: Hope you didn't wake your wife up with your carryings-on. Sounds like a Laurel and Hardy moment.

  13. Ah well, what's more important? A snap of an owl or a rollicking good story? I know which I prefer and I thank you for it.