The young hunter was stalking moose in a frigid Estonian forest when he found himself locked in the sights of another creature: a Ural owl. He looked into her ebony eyes and softly fringed, heart-shaped face. Sven Začek was smitten.
He soon returned to the woods armed for a different kind of shot. He pulled his hood tight, fearing the owls’ reputation for clobbering intruders’ skulls. But the next female he met was aloof, matching his advances with equal retreats. After two months of silent standoffs, she dared to dive for a vole right in front of his lens.
“That was the turning point,” says Začek.