Wings of Wonder

Video enables me to see things "again" that I've never really seen before

Of all the behavioral “tricks” I’m always hoping to see while filming birds, the one I call a “double-overhead wing stretch,” demonstrated by the little burrowing owl above, is a golden get for me.

Because my subjects are typically a good distance away, with their actions often unfolding very quickly, the main “trick” involved in wing stretches — i.e., support of the extended wing structure by a leg slid underneath — is one of those events I have witnessed many times in the field, without ever seeing it very well at all. But now, thanks to amazing digital imaging technology and an extremely talented camera operator (pause while I take a bow), you can see this trick performed above in close-up, high-definition, slow-motion, eye-popping detail.

There’s a lot of information evident in this short clip — the structural mechanics that make every wing an engineering marvel extraordinaire … the different types of feathers that collaborate to give an owl nearly silent flight … and yes, those very handy feet.

Usually unnoticed while in the field, the broad range of specialized differences in the feet of birds I find to be very interesting when reflected in my videos. While the dark talons shown above, for instance, are considerably more “toenail-esque” than the long, needle-sharp terrors employed by aerial predators like hawks and eagles, the flexibility and gripping power clearly on display here are more than sufficient to make any mouse squeal in dread. Without such high-resolution imagery to review frame-by-frame after the fact, I would never be able to make such an observation in real time from afar in the field with eyes alone.

If this short clip sparks your interest to see even more amazing “bird tricks” performed by this beautiful little visitor to Nature’s Coast, just CLICK HERE and enjoy. I sure did!

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