If it weren’t for their eyes, it would be nearly impossible to see these owls! Photographer Graham McGeorge has taken these incredible photos of eastern screech owls in Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp sitting in holes of trees. Masters of disguise, these owls roost mainly in natural cavities or in ones that woodpeckers make in large trees. Strictly nocturnal, they roost during the day in these cavities and then are active at night, calling out in a whinny-like quality or a monotone purring trill that lasts three to five seconds.
These sit-and-wait hunters swoop down silently on their next meal from low-lying branches. They hunt in the dim light of dusk and dawn, or at night. Their predators are larger owls, like the great horned owl and barred owls, or predators from the ground, like the mink, weasel, raccoon, skunk or snake. When threatened, they’ll press their wings close to their body and sit upright so that they resemble a stub of a branch.
Photographer Graham McGeorge won multiple awards for the photo above, including the Merit Prize for the 2013 National Geographic Traveler Contest. On his website he has more than a handful of photos that show these eastern screech owls doing what they do best, camoflauging themselves in their natural environment. McGeorge believes that photographers need to have a lot patience to get these shots, he himself visits local swamps and forests on a regular basis to know where and what to look for.
McGeorge follows a strict set of self-imposed rules. As he says, “Ethics is a must. There are many wildlife photographers that bait owls in order to fill their photographic needs. Baiting is very harmful to the health of an owl. To photograph owls in the wild and unbaited you must have a lot of patience, a keen eye and a good ear. Look for holes either made by woodpeckers or old decaying cavities. These are good places to start.”
As for what he enjoys photographing the most? “Iove to photograph owlets or baby owls,” he says. “Their expressions are priceless and are guaranteed to touch your heart.”