Friday, March 21, 2008

"Owl Prowl" 3-15-08

On Saturday, March 15th, I went on an "Owl Prowl" with the Buffalo Ornithological Society. We started at the Niagara Airforce base..looking across the field (through chain link fence) trying to spot a snowy owl. All we saw was a coyote..looking for some lunch! Then we drove all over Niagara county, pulling over sometimes to look at Snow Buntings or Horned Larks. The stops were so quick that you'd no sooner pop out of the car, and they were ready to drive on again! I didn't even get to see the Horned Larks to add them to my list.
We tried to spot a Great Horned Owl on the nest, but I think with so many people walking into the woods to see it, it got spooked. A few crows were chasing it around in the near by field. We left right away so it could return to it's nest. The photo of shadows on the snow is from the woods where the nest was. I just loved the dried golden leaves with the cold shadows on the snow.
The big disappointment of the day for me was that I had no time to what-so-ever to stop and do sketches! We were constantly on the run. I seriously hope to do some small watercolor sketches from the photos of the Saw Whet Owl.
The next stop was to see a Short Earred Owl that was known to roost in a pine tree next to a house. (see the picture of the owl with the dead branch in front of it) It was quite difficult to see without the experienced members pointing it out. When he did fly off, I was amazed at how large his wings were!
The next photos are of the Saw Whet Owl...oh that was exciting! We went to see it roosting in a pine tree at the Wildlife Preserve in Gasport. I read in the field guide that these owls will roost in the day and be very docile, it's true. I was amazed at how it didn't budge with all these people photographing it, talking quietly, creeping around. The darker picture of it I took while laying on my back in the snow! Well, sometimes to get a good shot, you have to be creative! Lucky I had my snow leggins on that day. What I find interesting, is if you look at the owls markings, his head blends in with the pine needles. His breast is heavily streaked and you'd think this would make him stand out, but no, it 'broke up' his profile, made him sort of disappear. It was really amazing how hard it was to see him at first. I was about 15' away and had to look very hard, I looked for his shape to stand out from the tree branches around him. Once you had him spotted, if you moved to get another view, even just two feet, you'd lose him again. Everyone struggled with this and I thought it was pretty interesting, as we are all experienced birders! By the way, this is a tiny owl, measures 7" and that is from head to tail tip! He's a very cute little thing! I will definitely be doing some kind of painting of him.
The last little picture is on our way home, taken at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. As we came out of the woods where we viewed the owl, the sound of the Canada Geese was deafening! Wow! We had to pull over and just experience it firsthand, you can see in the picture they were swarming...the sky was alive with them. The picture reminds me of a Vincent Van Gogh painting, I can almost see the curls in the sky of where the geese are flying looks like they're moving when you stare at it. Maybe I'll do a painting of that too. I hope you liked the photos, sorry there's no sketches, I'll have to work on some soon. There is a small video clip of the group also...
Don't forget I have nature sketching classes starting in May, email me for more info. I'll be teaching at the Burchfield Nature Center, Reinstein Woods, and at three nature centers in Clarence.


Kathie said...

I'm loving your blog! Those photos are wonderful and should be great reference material for paintings. Those owls- how exciting to see them! Looking forward to seeing them immortalized in your work.

Mary McAndrew said...

Thanks Kathie!
Well I just did a few little watercolor studies of the Saw-whet owl, oh my God he was so 'cute'! I can't believe how docile it was when we were looking at it. I'll need to print out some of my photos so I can paint from them, the sketches I did are from field guides. I'll be uploading them soon,