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Old 02-19-2012, 10:48 PM   #1
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Migration

Not cruising per se, but today after going up to the boat in Bellingham last night to do a few things we continued on this morning into BC to Boundary Bay just across the border.* We had heard there was a migration of Snowy Owls underway and that the prairie flats around the bay were a good place to see them as they took a break from their trip north to the arctic for spring breeding.

The photos I took don't do them justice.* They are one of the largest owls and they are also the heaviest.* Their wingspan is five feet.* We'd never seen them before so it was a real treat to get to see not just a few but fifteen in one place.* They hunt small mammals like voles and field mice, and in the Atlantic region, lemmings.** We read that a mature Snowy Owl needs to eat seven to sixteen or so mice/voles/lemmings a day to maintain their strength during their migration.

While we were there a big male flew in right over our heads.* Too fast for me to get a picture but it was a bit eerie seeing this big bird sweep right over us about ten feet up and not hear a sound.* We've had eagles and ravens do this up north and the sound of their wings passing through the air is actually quite loud.* The owl was dead silent.

The birds were all facing into the wind that was coming off the bay but they would periodically swivel their head around 180 degrees to check on us.


-- Edited by Marin on Monday 20th of February 2012 12:32:05 AM
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Old 02-20-2012, 12:18 AM   #2
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RE: Migration

What camera and lens did you use?
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Old 02-20-2012, 12:42 AM   #3
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I use three cameras for my photo work. For film projects I use a Hassleblad. For digital work I use a Panasonic Lumix FZ-50 (no longer made) and a Canon SX30IS. I don't want to lug around a box of lenses anymore (other than for the Hasselblad where I have no choice). So both the digital cameras are what they call "ultra-zoom" cameras. I bought them for the lenses, not the cameras themselves. The Lumix has a fantastic Leica manual zoom lens with a 35mm equivalent optical zoom range of 35mm to 420mm. The Canon we bought recently has an electric zoom Canon lens with a 35mm equivalent optical zoom range of 24mm to 840mm.

Both the Lumix and the Canon will zoom in much farther digitally but that's just blowing up the picture and it gets noisier and less sharp. So I never use digital zoom for anything, only the optical range of the lens.

The only reason these lenses work is that both the Leica and Canon lenses have outstanding optical stabilization systems. The Leica lens on the Lumix is the better lens in terms of picture quality, but the Canon has the greater zoom range and the better stabilization system although Panasonic's optical stabilizer as applied to the Leica lens is pretty darn good.

All three of the owl photos were taken with the Canon camera. The first photo was taken with the camera on a tripod, the second two were taken handheld as I'd already put my tripod away when the opportunity for the shots came up. The third photo was taken at the full 840mm zoom range of the camera, a real testimony to the optical stabilizer of the Canon lens.

I much prefer the Lumix FX-50 body for it's controls and ergonomics. In fact it's damn near perfect in that respect. And I much prefer a manual zoom to an electric zoom. The Canon camera is too gimmicky for my taste with WAY too many consumer-oriented, cutesy features, effects, and doo-dads that a professional would never use. So I'm not at all impressed with the camera part of the Canon, but the capability of the lens far outweighs that for me.








-- Edited by Marin on Monday 20th of February 2012 01:49:09 AM
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Old 02-20-2012, 01:54 PM   #4
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RE: Migration

Back in January there was an article in the local paper and on the nightly news about the snowy owls in Boundary Bay. Apparently they are sensitive to human activity, so watchers were being urged to keep a good distance away. Not many will own the quality of lenses Marin has, so I expect many people do get quite close for their viewing.
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Old 02-20-2012, 06:53 PM   #5
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RE: Migration

My GF, a former photo-journalist, says it's the photographer, not the camera, that makes the picture.
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Old 02-21-2012, 12:34 AM   #6
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RE: Migration

With the exception of the one male that glided in right*over our heads none of the birds we saw took to the air while I was there.* So I didn't get a chance to try to get a shot of one flying with its impressive five foot*wingspan. So this photo is lifted off the web, but it shows what they look like in flight.* Impressive to say the least.
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Old 03-14-2012, 01:16 PM   #7
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RE: Migration

I know what you mean about an Owl's silence in flight.

I once watched a large horned owl catch a mouse off the ground. I was leaning against a tree and one swooped down and grabbed a mouse right in front of me. If it wasn't for the twigs it broke with it's wings getting through the underbrush. I would have never even known it was there. It was*as if*it suddenly appeared in the brush.

Simply Awsom

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