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Ural Owl

Ural Owl

Eastern Hokkaido, Japan 26 November 2013
EOS 7D & 400mmf4DO with x1.4TC. 1/640 sec f7.1 ISO 800.

Ural Owl is the one species of owl that eluded me in Finland in 2010, and so I jumped at an opportunity to find one half way round the world in Japan in November 2013! Shortly before my departure, Tommy Onita, who made all my travel arrangements for Hokkaido informed that Makoto Ando was offering a guided hunt for this Owl with good prospects for success. So while staying at his Hickory Wind Wilderness Lodge, after an extremely productive spell photographing Red-Crowned Cranes, we set off in search of Owls. 

The first site we went to was in a most surprising location. While I waited in his vehicle for a short time, my guide went off in search of the owl and returned only about 15min later. Within the next 5 mins I had spotted my first Ural Owl, or at least some it, as it was roosting in a very obscured location - surrounded by branches and twigs! No amount of slight changes of angle produced anything other than very partial views of this bird, which was also in deep shade in the middle of the wood.

Fortunately, Makoto Ando knew of another less reliable location where views were usually much better. So we then proceeded to this site, whereupon he spotted the owl immediately on arrival, directly from the track we were on! It was something of a scramble to get within good photo range, but after about 10 mins, we arrived at the bottom of a steep slope, and there directly above us was a magnificent Ural Owl, almost completely out in the open in sunlight! We proceeded to take numerous photos from various different positions. Here is probably the best of the hundreds I took. With the amazing crane photo-session earlier, this was definitely my lucky day!

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