Ghost Of The Forest

great gray owl, ghost of the forest

Great Gray Autumn : Prints Available

A great gray owl hunts with a backdrop of gold in Jackson hole. Great grays are our largest owl, standing as tall as 27'. This 'ghost of the forest' loafed in an aspen stand in the afternoon and became very active at dusk. Although considered uncommon, great grays can be spotted throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. 

Strix nebulosa

Although both Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks remain closed, two great gray owls made my recent trip to Jackson, Wyoming a lot more enjoyable. It’s common for great grays to show up for a few days to hunt in a general area before moving on. Quite a few photographers and birders were thrilled to view these magnificent birds at close range on the edge of forest and a ranch close to town. I was fortunate to photograph the owls with Tom Mangelsen, a legend of nature and conservation photography and heck of a nice guy. Great grays are often called “ghosts of the forest” for their ability to blend into the landscape – in spite of their size. They are noble, stealthy hunters with an appetite for small mammals, mostly at the ends of the day.

great gray owl, jackson hole

Great Gray Twilight : Prints Available

A great gray owl hunts from a ranch fence in Jackson Hole. Although considered uncommon, great grays can be spotted anytime of year in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. They are North America's largest owl, reaching 27' in length. Great grays are easily recognized by their white 'bow tie'.

Strix nebulosa

Photographing the Gros Ventre River Valley in October, 2013.

“Ghost Of The Forest” great gray owl hunts from an aspen stand on the edge of a meadow.


Great gray owl in aspen forest.


A great gray owl dives from his hunting perch on a spruce tree just after sunset.


Great gray closeup.

12 thoughts on “Ghost Of The Forest

  1. These are just stunning, Dave. Nice job showing the habitat too. I think my fave is the fourth one, that is a wallhanger for sure. Awesome work.

  2. Wow, these are all fantastic, Dave, and I especially like #4: the owl there looks like the spirit of winter come to lead autumn and its aspen leaves off to the underworld. I always love owl photos in any case. There are some great horneds here at Deep Springs who really need their portraits taken.

    1. Thanks Jackson! And thank you for describiung why you like the habitat image, the feeling of seasonal change. Autumn waning was on my mind throughout the trip, at least when I wasn’t all pissed off about the government shutdown. I made a nuumber of landscape in transition images that I hope to share here soon. Go photograph those Great horned owls!

  3. Great shots. I enjoyed Mr. Mangelsen’s photos of the owls last fall, and I see they are just as beautiful. I particularly like the last one you posted as I am a sucker for owl faces. I don’t know of another group of birds that can stare so intensely. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Awesome images, Dave! My favorites are the second one (the facial feathers remind me of dogs’ ears, making it very clear what the owl is paying attention to) and the third (the wing feathers are fantastic…like striped fingers that you can see through). Thanks for sharing!

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