We worked our way around Brig starting around 10am. Even though the owl was sighted a couple days before the storm, we had no idea if it was still there, and no reason to believe it would be anywhere near where it was last sighted. It's an 8 mile loop. So we moved methodically, stopping every couple hundred yards and scanning with binoculars. Two or three cars cars were in front of us and they moved more quickly and didn't seem to be stopping anywhere for long.
As we came around the north side of the loop about half way around I saw something to the west, inside the impoundment. A rounded light colored thing sticking up on a mound of land. Look at the first photo below. After I looked with 8.5x binoculars, I shot that picture with my 800mm lens. So that's about 16x. Even with binoculars the thing seemed to be moving, and if it was, there was only one thing it could be. The second photo is that 16x photo blown up about 10x in the camera. That confirmed it was the owl. So imagine, what I saw naked eye was about 1/16 the size of the first image.
We had the cameras ready this time, and in the car we prepared by zipping everything and sliding chemical warmers into our gloves. We started shooting the bird and after a few minutes he flew to the right a few yards. That's the sequence of five shots taken in about 1/2 second.
A woman came from a car behind us and started talking about other sightings in Brigantine and the project putting trackers on birds etc. She was a birder ... because they see the bird and they're done and so they talk. Photographers see the bird and stop talking, because we just got started. Luckily I saw the bird take off again.
The owl had seen the peregrine falcon. And so the chase was on. I got a few shots with the big lens then dove into the back of the car to get the camera/lens set up for flight shots. That's the one that can shoot 20 frames per second and does pattern recognition on the subject to track it with 693 focus points.
So the next sequence is the owl evading the falcon. Kind of like Tom Cruise did in Top Gun, the owl would hit the brakes occasionally and the falcon would fly by, and the owl would change direction. Eventually the owl flew north and landed out of sight in some grass. The falcon did a couple swooping dives, and having made his point ... flew off.
We confirmed in this morning's eBird report that there were no other sightings at Brig yesterday. The only report was from one of the two women in cars behind us who saw the flight of the falcon and the snowy.
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© Marc Lombardi - Views from the Ends of the Earth