Jeff Schill captures owl and Christmas joy with his camera

Jan 2, 2024 | Ottawa Outdoors | 1 comment

Aidan Schill, left, often accompanies his father, Jeff Schill, right, on Jeff’s wildlife photography ventures. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

BY SHERI TRUSTY

Sometimes, Christmas miracles are found in the simple, quiet moments.

This winter, Jeff Schill of Port Clinton made multiple trips to Magee Marsh Wildlife Area in the hopes of capturing a photo of a Short-eared Owl. Jeff snapped many photos of the owl, known for ear tufts so small they are barely visible, but the bird was wary and never flew close enough for a clear shot.

“All my shots were taken from far away, and the weather was garbage. It was always raining, misty or foggy, so the photos were grainy,” Jeff said.

On Christmas Eve, Jeff and his son, Aidan Schill, made a Christmas Eve trek to Magee to see what they could find.

What they found was a little unexpected Christmas joy.

As they were driving to Magee, Jeff didn’t know what to expect. It was a holiday, which meant Magee could be either packed or barren. When they pulled into the parking lot, they were alone, except for the Short-ear.

“Aidan and I pulled in and saw him. He was hunting the berm, and he popped down and grabbed a vole,” Jeff said.

This Short-eared Owl, which had been elusive for weeks, presented an impromptu photo shoot for Jeff Schill as it ate a vole atop a muskrat den on Christmas Eve. (Photo by Jeff Schill)

Normally, the owl would fly off with its catch to find an isolated place to enjoy its breakfast, but on Christmas Eve, the bird landed on a nearby muskrat den, providing an impromptu photo shoot for Jeff.

“There was no one around but us, so it wasn’t afraid,” Jeff said. “I took over 500 photos.”

For Jeff, it was a small Christmas miracle. After weeks of waiting in rain and fog, Jeff captured the photo – hundreds, actually – of the bird he had been admiring from afar.

Wildlife photography isn’t just a hobby for Jeff. It’s an integral part of his recovery journey. Jeff, who is a leader in the local addiction recovery community, has mentored countless local men and impacted the lives of hundreds.

For him, stepping into nature is a way to step back, refocus, and spend time in meditation with God.

“It’s part of my recovery,” Jeff said. “It has helped a lot. Nothing is more freeing than being in nature with the phone off. I believe God presented most of the animals that come in front of my frame.”

On Christmas Eve, it was a long-awaited Short-eared Owl. Jeff and Aidan experienced their own “Joy to the World,” and they saw firsthand that Heaven and nature sing.

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1 Comment

  1. Rick

    Jeff,
    Very cool shot, I know you been waiting along time for that image!
    Spending time in the outdoors pays off big sometimes.

    Reply

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