Owling Good Time — The Pueo Files

Because our typical daily driving distance is between four and eight miles with speeds seldom exceeding 35mph, once a week we go for a long drive . . . for the sake of the car; a long drive at higher speeds helps maintain the health of the battery and also burns off deposits which would otherwise accumulate and gum things up. It also doesn’t hurt that there’s a Dairy Queen in Waimea and that we both like their soft-serve cones.  

Yesterday, we drove to Waimea and back via Saddle Road. Here’s the route:

Interestingly, the route looks a bit like a raptor’s talons . . . or the Grinch’s floppy shoe. 

I’m going with talon . . . why does that even matter? Read on.

Do you notice the red circle I drew? The exact coordinates are 19º 51′ 55″ N and 155º 39′ 16″ W.

Well, that’s where we saw this . . . 

That’s the uncropped JPG file straight from the Nikon P900 at 357mm — 2000mm 35mm-equivalent (or 83x) — zoom of the Pueo or Hawaiian Short-eared Owl.

I tried two different post-processing workflows to try and improve on the photo but I can’t say they’re much of an improvement.

I parked the car well away from the bird since on previous occasions they were easily spooked and flew before I could deploy the camera. That photo is taken at a distance of 83 yards (Thank you Google Earth).

There’s a link to the SmugMug gallery at the end of the post but there’s not much sense to getting to the pixel levels because there’s all sorts of ugly one finds there. 

It was overcast and because of the distance and because I knew I only had a few seconds I used the viewfinder and I was right . . . I only got two photos and one (short) usable video before it flew off . . . and it flew off as I was repositioning so the video of it taking off and flying is out of focus and jumpy and not worth sharing.

Here’s the other photo straight out of the camera. 

Again, I’m 250 feet away and he’s focused on me as if I were lunch. 

Here are two more post-processing efforts using that second shot . . . 

. . . and here’s the first clip, just before it flew . . . 

The reason it was jumpy is that I had one foot in the car and twisted to shoot behind me. Meaning, I brought the camera to bear before I even got out of the car . . . and good thing, too as it didn’t sit there long. 

But, in typical raptor fashion, it flew to another perch along the same fence. He was now about 170 yards away but, luckily, there was a utility pole between us and I walked toward it keeping the pole between us and hoping that would minimize it reacting to my movements. 

It worked but the pole was about 90 yards away from its perch and I dared go no closer. As it was, I got one photo and another short clip before it flew to parts unknown. 

Here’s the photo as it came out of the camera . . . 

Again, not a great photo but that’s one of the problems with the long zoom when hand-held; it’s a bit difficult to hold and to find the subject because you’re looking at a very small part of the scene before you and you’re having to zoom out and then zoom back in without losing the subject. 

Here are two versions of the above photo . . . 

. . . and here’s the second clip . . . 

Just as I repositioned (I wanted to lean on the utility pole to help stabilize the camera) it had enough of me skulking around and off he went. 

I have more video but, as I said, not really worth sharing. 

Side Note: I’m 100% sure I would not have gotten a usable photo and certainly not one as good with my D7000 and even my best lens for the simple fact that I would have to crop the photo beyond what’s reasonable for those photos. A camera like the D850 or even earlier full-frame models would easily handle that kind of cropping because of the larger sensors and the amount of data captured.  As much as I complain about the P900 at the pixel level, those are perfectly fine for the blog. 

In reviewing the unusable footage, I could have kicked myself . . . the video showing the owl landing on the second perch also showed him losing a feather (you can see in the first two photos the feather is loose) and said feather ending up right outside the fence. 

Had I noticed it, I’d gone to pick it up as that would have been a prized possession and a great souvenir . . . that might have cost me $15,000 or more.

“Say, WHAT!?!?”

That’s right Bob. Most people are not aware of  (from HERE) . . . 

A law called the (U.S.) North American Migratory Bird Act was made a long time ago when people were killing too many birds to use for fashionable hats. It’s a broad-brush law intended to protect birds.  It doesn’t recognize the difference between plucked feathers, shed feathers, or bird skins; you can’t have any of it. If a feather was pulled from a dead bird that you found at the side of the road or the beach, how does someone know that the bird wasn’t killed on purpose just for the feathers? It can sometimes seem silly but it is a matter of reasonable enforcement, like speeding law enforcement on the highway.

By the way, possession of an eagle feather can net you a $100,000 fine.

You can read about it HERE and see a list of protected birds HERE and — yes — the short-eared owl is on that list.

I’m willing to bet most people ain’t got no idea that law is even on the books and still enforced. Now, granted, you have to be caught with the feather, but someone could also report you. 

But, really, now that you know about the law, leave them feathers alone. 

Here are a few more articles:

Bird Myths: Picking Up a Bird Feather is Illegal

Collecting bird feathers could cost you $15,000 fine

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For them interested, you can go directly to the SmugMug Gallery HERE.  Note these are not high-quality photos and hence don’t benefit much (if any) from pixel-level examination.

For a slideshow click HERE. When you click the link, it will open in a new window and you have two options:
1) Manually scroll through the photos by clicking the “<” and “>” symbols to the left or right of the photos.
2) There’s a PLAY/PAUSE button at the bottom-left of the screen with the transition set at about 5 seconds. Note: clicking the PLAY arrow will run a full-screen slideshow. You can then still use the”<” and “>” symbols to the left or right of the photos as this will pause the slideshow.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


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