These are not very good photos. They were taken in extremely low light, at ISO 25600 – that’s not a typo – hand-holding a 500mm lens with a 1.4 teleconverter. Still, they tell an amusing and instructive story.
This is a plastic quasi-Great Horned Owl. Its head is covered with Cliff Swallow droppings from the Cliff Swallow nest directly above it, tucked up under the eave. Demonstrably, the fake owls doesn’t fool Cliff Swallows.
The primary prey of a Sharp-shinned Hawk are small birds. Like Cliff Swallows. What’s a raptor to do?
Now the plastic owl is a double failure, failing to fool the little Sharpie, too. And our clever little raptor is that much closer to the chicks inside.
So close, so very close. But, ultimately, unsuccessful.
A little kid walked underneath the thinking session and spooked the Sharpie away. It was late, and getting towards the time of night when real Great Horned Owls are out looking for prey. Like small raptors.
So what can we learn from this little story?
- Plastic owls don’t fool anybody. Not songbirds and not the raptors that prey on them.
- Plastic owls do, potentially, have other possible uses.
- Sharp-shinned Hawks are very clever birds.
Do you see why WC finds birds and bird photography so endlessly fascinating?
Thanks to Mrs. WC for spotting the start of this episode. And thanks to Nugget City at kilometer 1003, the Alaska Highway, for providing the classroom.