On the hunt for that Superb Owl shot

Finally I got back to the Mercer Meadows Pole Farm for a late afternoon visit this weekend and got a fair look at a short-eared owl. Although I continue to visit regularly in the morning, I had stayed away on weekend afternoons because it was difficult to find parking as photographers on the prowl for owls were jamming the park.

After paying a visit Saturday morning at the bitterly cold 8-degrees sunrise, I took advantage of the late afternoon sunshine and relatively balmy mid-20s temperature to head back. Objective: short-eared owl photo.

The lot was nearly full, but cars were not parked willy-nilly along the driveway to it as they had been previously. Still, there were plenty of photograhers lugging tripods and long lenses out on the paved section of the Lawrence-Hopewell trail running through the park.

A Northern harrier made an initial appearance, and I was hopeful a “shortie” would soon follow. I was maybe a third of the way up the trail from the entry curve to the woods when suddenly a bird popped out of the brush back down the trail.

It was indeed a short-eared owl, and it flew up and over the central section of the park before heading off toward the parking lot and who knows where beyond that.

After tracking the bird in my binoculars for a few seconds, I picked up my camera and took a few shots. What showed up on screen at home was better than expected, and the sharpest image and the only one worth sharing tops this post.

I put in the “pretty good” category, but I still have a long way to go before getting an owl shot of which I can truly be proud.

At least this year I’m seeing the occasional owl. I had not seen one in the wild — anywhere, ever — before December, so my odds are improving.

I should add sporadic sightings of a barred owl and even a couple of long-eared owls have come in several times in recent weeks at the Pole Farm. The barred owl has typically been spotted on the left side of the woods that begin after you’ve walked half a mile up the central, dirt path coming out of the Cold Soil parking lot.

I’ve looked and looked but haven’t been able to spot the barred owl or the long-eareds, either. I haven’t heard of any sightings on the Reed Bryan Farm side of Mercer Meadows, if you were wondering about that.

If you want my advice on finding those owls, go to the Pole Farm when I’m not there!

Published by Dan

University media executive by day, blogger by night, I am a well-traveled resident of New Jersey

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