Blakiston’s Fish Owl – Fukurou

Fukurou [Japanese word for owl]

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Fish I the shoals of riparian streams
deep in the Stygian night.
My secret life does make me seem
a creature kept from sight.

The Ainu thought I brought good luck
we shared a life complete.
But human numbers grew so much
my kind’s now quite deplete.

When I arrive to dine each night
along a snowy shore,
I search the dark without much light
to catch my meal and more.

Talons to the pool I go,
my wings are held up high.
It’s how I catch my supper, though,
my pinions must stay dry.

I eat the fish, I cannot wait
it’s back to work I go.
To catch a meal that’s for my mate
She waits for me to show
…and off to feed my waiting partner,
silently I go.

The Blakiston’s Fish Owl is highly endangered and one of the rarest birds on the planet.  It also belongs with the Eagle Owl faction, the largest of owl species.  It is found only in restricted areas of Russia, China and Japan.  The back story to the production of Fukurou, and this image sequence, is a tale unto itself.  While waiting in the frigid evening temperature, inside the hide [photoblind], a Japanese naturalist came by and was discussing various pertinent and interesting aspects of Blakiston’s Fish Owl biology.  He also mentioned that a lens focal length of 300 to 400mm would be perfect for the situation.  He asked what lens length I had on the gimbal.  I told him that the effective focal length was 800mm.  Too much!  I would clip the bird’s wings when it flies…that is if it showed up at all.  There were no guarantees though a juvenile owl had been regularly making an appearance around 9pm for the last few nights.  I quickly switched lenses to less power.  Around 9pm, a Blakiston’s Fish Owl suddenly materialized from the night sky and landed by the creek.  It was the adult male in the area.  What a fortuitous treat!  I was able to capture the first fishing act and feeding.  During the predator’s second attempt [most likely to take to its mate], the bird went into the rear of the picture frame and the action was lost due to poor geometry.  I did record it flying off, though, with a fish in tow.  If I never caught a useable image from this episode, I would not be disappointed.  To witness this largest of owls in the wild will forever be a most memorable experience.  To catch this sequence was merely the icing on the cake.

~ Poem, narrative and Blakiston’s Fish Owl images, Fukurou © Jerry L. Ferrara