Great Horned Owl with Attitude

Friday, January 4, 2013

St. Louis has several parks that provide excellent habitat for great horned owls. The combination of large trees, including nesting snags, and ample open ground on which to nab squirrels allows for year-round residency by these awesome raptors. Last weekend I was fortunate to photograph this male who appears to be in a bad mood as indicated by the stink eye he is giving me. On second consideration, his right eye is simply responding to the light of the morning sun by squinting a bit. It is often difficult to photograph these nocturnal creatures with eyes-wide-open as they are sensitive to light and almost always keep them at least semi-shut during the day.

If you are wondering how I came across this beautiful creature, I owe it all to my friend Brenda Hente, a 7th grade teacher in St. Louis. One of Brenda’s passions is observing the owls of St. Louis parks. Another owl “observateur,” Mark Glenshaw, introduced me to Brenda last year and we have stayed in touch. Last week, Brenda asked me if I’d like to see a great horned owl who used the same perch almost every day in one of St. Louis’ beautiful parks and I jumped at the chance. We made arrangements to meet that evening and sure enough the long-eared beauty was sitting in a pine tree as expected. Unfortunately, the light was wrong so I planned a return for the next morning.

Upon arrival the next day, a little before daylight, the big male had just finished breakfast and settled back into the soft cover of his pine tree. As the sun rose, it cast a swath of light on the critter’s right side and caused it to squint its right eye. It made for the perfect capture as it looked as if the owl was giving me some attitude. Actually, great horned owls always seem quite oblivious to photographers and bird watchers and this one slept during much of the time I spent taking photos. Please be assured that I kept my distance, as I try to do with all creatures I photograph. I’m trying my best not to be grouped with the growing number of “wildlife paparazzi.”

So, as I said before, you can thank Brenda for this nice image of one of Missouri’s most stunning raptors. I’m grateful to her and all of the other cooperators and scouts who find incredible wildlife photography opportunities for me on a regular basis.


Great Horned Owl; Canon 1D Mark IV; Canon 500/4 L IS Lens with Canon 1.4 TC II; 1/100 sec @ f/7.1; ISO 800; Aperture Priority; RAW Capture; Gitzo GT3530LS Tripod with Full Wimberley II Head; Shot with mirror locked up and two second timer; Converted and Processed in Canon Digital Photo Professional (Canon DPP) a free program to Canon users


Find more images at my Website Gallery and read my story about the Yellow-rumped Warbler in the January, 2013 Missouri Conservationist.

22 comments on “Great Horned Owl with Attitude”

  1. Wow! How gorgeous. C

    Sent from my iPad

  2. GRUMP! That’s the word that instantly occurred to me, along with the thrill of seeing how a bird which I’ve actually seen OUGHT to be photographed. My goodness, it looks as though you climbed up into the tree after him…no wonder you had toclarify that you kept your distance, when the clarity is so good! Thank you,Danny, er, Charles,er, Brenda,er, Mark…. 🙂 Today I will probably be sighting a Mottled Wood Owl and some Spotted Owlets, and if very lucky, a Rock Eagle Owl….

  3. Just beautiful. Poetry in photography. What is it about owls, all of them, that is so compelling? Thank you Danny for such a nice ending to this inside all day workday for me.

    • Anne—You are so welcome and your kind words made my day as much as photographing that ornery old owl. Have a great weekend.

  4. Awesome photo! I head an owl yesterday evening in St. Louis’ Forest Park. Very interesting to visualize an owl like this making that sound!

    • Thanks Mark. The barred owl makes a wider diversity of sounds but I’m sure the owl you heard in Forest Park was a great horned owl. Take care.

  5. Love the photo! So glad he was sitting in that pine tree the next morning! It was great fun having you out to see the owls!

  6. The pine branches are reminiscent of the cracks in ancient icons, but so more alive.
    I love the near symmetry of the feather pattern and the white “T” accentuated by the fireworks spray of pine needles below.
    You have captured both an image of a living owl, and its mythical possibilities: bird, mammal, cat human wise
    If only we could translate the meaning.

    That owl knows a runcible spoon!

    You can understand that I’m unusually struck by your photo, yes?

  7. Beautiful capture – liked it a lot.

  8. This is such a good picture Danny….don’t know how you do it….all I can say is you are a great photographer…and your words are just right for each picture….how proud of you I am….

  9. Great shot Danny. He does look as though he has a little attitude. Love the pine needles framing him. I got a few shots of an Eastern Screech Owl here at the park around my house. I will e-mail one too you when I get them on my computer.

    • Hi Mike…..I’ve been wanting a screech owl for a long time. Looking forward to seeing what you got.

  10. Hi Danny, what an incredible creature, the Great Horned Owl is. He has the look, that says, this is my territory, proceed with CAUTION!! It looks as though you were sitting on the limb across from, when I know that you were a great distance from him. Beautiful Danny, that would make a wonder subject, for your photo gallery. Loved IT.


  11. Danny, I would like one of your images. It is called October Artwork, I think your took that one the day we were at Johnson Shut-Ins. I would like a 8 x 10 in a black frame. Let me know how much it is. bruce

    On Fri, Jan 4, 2013 at 5:36 PM, Nature Frames

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