Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.
A real Jack Hammer of a winter snowstorm rolled across the northern half of Iowa Tuesday night. By the time daylight arrived Wednesday, my truck roof was covered with just over a foot of beautiful new snow and the white was still coming down at a pretty good clip. In north central Iowa – where I live — there wasn’t much wind, but up here you know it can’t be far off. With new snow piling high on every branch and twig, the landscape had become a Winter Wonderland. But conditions can change in a minute. On such a fine winter’s day as this, there was no time to waste. Keeping the camera under my jacket, I was in the woods well before there was enough light to shoot. Things were pretty quiet to begin with; a fresh white-tail track was the only sign of life for the first half hour. Things began to stir at sunrise with a cardinal, and a few juncos and nuthatches making their appearance. A more noteworthy item was a barred owl sitting atop a snag at the base of a shallow ridgeline. The owl looked as if it had had a rough night, mainly due to its soggy looking plumage. Instead of flying off, the big owl partially closed its eyes in hopes of becoming invisible – kind of the same routine as screech owls often employ. Formerly a denizen of large timbers, barred owls are becoming an increasingly common resident around many our smaller woodlots. Their wild nighttime hooting is a welcome addition to the winter landscape.
Next, I jumped a young white-tailed buck from it bed behind a big downfall. Although less than 35 yards away, the deer couldn’t really see through the snow clad understory and was confused by my presence. After moving off a ways, the buck stopped to look back in an attempt to figure out what was going on which gave me time for a quick shot. A mature Cooper’s hawk came flying in a landed a short distance away.
Unlike the owl, the Cooper’s was bone dry and it was easy to tell from her demeanor that the hawk was on the hunt. Since I was already facing the right direction, all I had to do was slowly focus and shoot. Nervous and energetic, Cooper’s hawks are always on hair trigger and any shot of this species is a good one. Later I made contact with a doe. The slight breeze was in my favor and, unlike the young buck, she had no problem posing for the camera.