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  Field Notes From
Great Gray Owls

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From Photographer

Daniel J. Cox

Great Gray Owls On Assignment

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From Author

Lynne Warren

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photograph by Daniel J. Cox (top) and Rebecca Hale


Great Gray Owls On Assignment Photographer Great Gray Owls On Assignment Photographer
Great Gray Owls

Field Notes From Photographer
Daniel J. Cox

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     Sitting in a blind 40 feet (10 meters) in the air to photograph owls can be confining, but the sounds you hear in the forest and the animals you see while waiting are truly one of the benefits of being a wildlife photographer. 
     One morning I heard light branches snapping. Peering out of one of my ports, I saw a young male moose approaching the nest site. He came close to my blind tower and seemed unsure of what the structure was. The moose paused for a few moments, snorted, and started fidgeting while staring straight at my blind. Most likely, he'd picked up my human scent. After about five minutes, he lost interest and moved on. Although it wasn't really a photographic opportunity, it did leave me with a beautiful memory.

     After a long but productive day of sitting in the blind, I gathered up my camera gear and began the lengthy hike back to my truck on a beautiful Montana evening. I jumped into my truck and began driving down an old dirt trail when I noticed a dark form lying next to a barbed-wire fence. It was in a strange position with its legs sticking straight up in the air. When I got out of my truck to take a closer look, I was heartbroken. It was my friend, the young moose. He was dead, and his legs were trussed up as if a cowboy calf roper had used his lariat. It appeared that he'd tried to jump over the barbed-wire fence, got his long gangly legs entangled, and died a horribly slow death.

     Some of the most beautiful moments in wildlife photography happen when the weather is the worst. Just days after I erected my blind, I heard the weather was going to turn wintry. The forecast predicted 12 to 14 inches (30 to 35 centimeters) of snow in the mountains, and, sure enough, the next morning I awoke to a winter wonderland. So I made my way to the blind, where a female owl was protecting her newly hatched chicks nearby. Except for her head, she was completely covered in a fresh mantle of powder. I took one look and knew that I might frighten her off if I tried getting into my blind right then. I chose to let her be for the day.
     The next day I came back and without notice made it quietly into my blind. Although the storm had passed, the flurries persisted and I was able to beautifully document the storm and this new family of owls.


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