Driving up our driveway just at dusk after a day of downpours of rain in upstate South Carolina, turning to go into our carport and I see a little lump on the ground that is hopping. Once it noticed the headlights it flew up to our cherry tree, I thought at first it was a small hawk buy the way it took off, but the shape was wrong…a little too small and round looking. I got out…left the car running and went to grab the camera out of the hatchback. Luckily, the Sony A7III was sitting ready with the 100-400 on it. I quickly adjusted the ISO to 6400 and as soon as I brought the camera to my eye I could tell it was a screech owl. I was excited to get a shot but it immediately dropped back down to the ground about 10 feet in front of me. I guess it missed what it was after and it again flew over to another tree in the yard landing about 6 feet up on a branch.
This was my chance and I took a couple of shots quickly, and realized that my settings were wrong.
I adjusted the exposure compensation to -2 stops to match the level of light outside (knowing that I could recover shadows pretty easily with this camera), increased my shutter speed and took a couple more shots….this time I got a couple of good ones off but the light was disappearing very quickly.
I increased the ISO to 25600 and aimed again. At this point the autofocus was struggling, but was still managing to grab the subject and I took another dozen or so shots before the owl took off again.
It went into our back yard and started a whinny and a few trills. I then noticed an answer about 30 feet off behind our house. At this point it was too dark for pictures so I just listened to them chatting for a few minutes before they both took off into the woods behind the house to continue the nights hunt.
It wasn’t until I reviewed the shots that I realized that this wasn’t the same screech owl that comes to stay in a tree in our front yard regularly. That one is a pretty little grey morph, but this one was a beautifully coloured red morph…the first of that type I have seen and photographed. Sometimes the most interesting nature interactions have only luck as a basis for getting a shot…but I’ll take it anyway it comes.