Images by Rina Miele


My Nemesis: The Barred Owl


I have a problem. And it starts with a B. Yep, you guessed it. Barred Owl.

It was a long time before I managed to get a shot of a wild Barred. Many people would consider it a pretty common owl to see. Well, not for me. Great Horned Owl? ✅ Check. Eastern Screech Owl? ✅ Check. Barred Owls? 👎 Nope. 

It's funny, I’d gone to look for a Snowy Owl many more times. But their numbers are few and they are only around in winter, so it's understandable not tracking one down. Barred Owls never leave... they hide.

I traveled quite a bit to investigate spots where these owls had been seen. New York. Connecticut. New Jersey. I'd rush right over after a sighting... to no avail. Somehow, they'd always allude me. With their cold dead eyes. 👽

And so the cycle repeated... another day, another tip, another failed sighting.

“Barred was seen last night if you want to check it out in the morning.”  Another faithful buddy trying to help me finally get a glimpse of this bird. 😳 I'M DOWN. LET'S DO IT.

I woke up in darkness, drove about an hour and arrived just before sunrise. And then it rained. I DIDN’T SEE/HEAR ANYTHING ABOUT RAIN.  Fantastic. Well, I was already out there, may as well look have a look around.  So I started on the trail.

And after a good slow look around the area...*big shock*... nothing.

I was cold and soggy. I was about to bail, yet again. One more loop on the trail...

And then I saw him. Sitting there. Sleeping. As a couple of folks walked by their conversation didn't even make him bat an eyelash. My heart was racing, but I wanted to let them pass. I wanted to enjoy this owl and have him all to myself. They couldn’t help but notice my gigantic 600mm lens.🤦🏼‍♀️ "Are we in the way?" "No, no, it's alright," as I signaled them to walk ahead, never even noticing they walked by that beautiful creature. I looked at him for a few minutes before I could even fire the shutter. I had a moment with him. As he stood there, sleepy, I could feel a tinge of fear up my spine. My gut was talking to me... “Yea, you better take a shot before he decides to move.” GO GO GO!

And... ISO 12,800. Excellent. (It didn't turn out too bad anyway - it's the lead image on this post. Thanks Canon 5D Mark IV.)

Fortunately for me, the sun eventually came out and the bird remained sleepy and patient. My buddy came though and we  came away with a some great shots. It was an amazing morning.

Finally. I photographed a wild Barred Owl.

Even after this momentous occasion, I’m taunted by these guys. Never in my five years of living in Cortlandt Manor, had I heard a Barred Owl. One morning around 5am, I was heading to my car (going to shoot some falcons) and I hear that destinct hoot, “who cooks for you?” Unbelievable. He was clearly in the next yard. But the night is dark and full of terrors and I wasn’t about to go in the dark woods to find him. Alone. 🤦🏼‍♀️

This is my Barred Story. I certainly got lucky a few times since, but it always seems to be a struggle finding them. I think everyone has bad days but there's something especially tricky about getting some time with Barreds. I guess I've learned to cherish those moments we've shared even more.

Rina Miele