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D. Bruce Yolton
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Main | December 2006 »


After all of the problems with the West Side Screech-Owls in the Spring of 2006, I wasn't optimistic that there were any surviving Screech-Owls in the park.  Around Thanksgiving, after the leaves had fallen from the trees, I searched all of the known Screech-Owl cavities near the Rambles and in the North Woods.

I had no luck finding any owls, and even wrote in my blog, that I though 2006 might be the last year Screech-Owls were seen in Central Park.

In December, I received a note from Christine (Chris), who walks her wonderful dog Fig, in the Northwest of the park every evening that she had seen Screech-Owls.   I spent a few evenings looking for them without any luck.

In early March, I received emails detailing two different rescues of Screech-Owl babies up north.  Again, I went up to look and found nothing.

In late March, Chris wrote us again saying she had found the owls. What was wonderful, was that she had not only found the parents, but also a fledgling.  Luckily, the next day, I got to see and begun studying the Screech-Owls.

What follows is my account of the adventures and discoveries watching these three Eastern-Screech Owls in the Spring of 2007.

These photographs were all taken with natural light.  Advances in digital photography make it possible to take pictures in very low light.  The photographs were taken with a 500mm lens at distances of 25-200 feet. 

The long exposures also brighten up the dark sky, so that it appears to be daylight.  However, most of these pictures were taken after dusk.

As the nights darkened, natural light sometimes was replaced by orange street lamps and green and red traffic signals.  You'll notice some color shifts in the photographs or blurry images.  To have avoided this completely, I would have needed to use flash.  I decided that I would rather have the color shifts than risk disturbing the owls with repeated flashes. 

I don't think limited use of flash has any effect on the owls, but since this was part of a long term study, I wanted to be extra careful.  It's also important to say how much flash photography disturbs the ambiance and those watching with you.  When I go birding, if I see a someone or a group watching a bird, I slowly join them before taking pictures.  Nature photographers in Central Park should take the same approach, and ask their fellow birders if they mind them taking flash pictures.  These birds don't deserve an aggressive "paparazzi" style photo shoot.

For background on the Eastern Screech-Owl, there is basic information on The Owl Pages or the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology's Animal Diversity Web.

Main | December 2006 »