Nature photography, political rants, and Martyman laughs from the ten-time award-winning author of "Cool Creatures, Hot Planet," "Endangered Edens," and the "Time Is Irreverent" series.

When a stump is an owl

Marty’s photo of the day #3659: Yesterday evening I walked with my dog, Nellie, along the ridge our house sits on. I’ve walked our property so many times that my brain has essentially mapped every tree, rock, and stump on our 25 acres. Up ahead I saw a stump that looked out of place. I chuckled to myself about how much it looked like an owl. The sun was low in the sky, and the shadows were certainly playing tricks on me. And if it was, indeed, an owl, Nellie—who never misses anything—would have reacted. At roughly 40 feet away I changed my mind—it was definitely an owl. Shit! Where’s my camera? I never go anywhere without one.

The owl took to the air and flew through the trees. I watched until it landed on the far side of our property. I figured I had no chance for a photo, but ran to the house anyway, found my camera, installed my telephoto lens, and headed back into the forest. I found the great horned owl almost immediately, sitting on a stump, in the last strand of sunlight seeping through the trees. From there, it was just a matter of sneaking as close as I could—shooting photos along the way—before the owl took flight again. I actually got closer to the owl the first time, when Nellie and I weren’t being stealthy, but I did capture this reasonably good image.

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