A Day with an Owl
Great gray owl hunting during the daylight on a snowy day
Owl in the tree in our field - taken with my cell phone
The owl had chosen a fairly open field with a few small clumps of trees as his hunting ground. I observed him from early morning right through until midday which may seem unusual for a great gray owl, and yes while uncommon, they do hunt on occasion during the day. But it's still not everyday, so I was excited to spending time with one well after sunrise.
Snow above the top of my mukluks as I walked in the field
Owl as I first approached him in the field
Let me say I find it an absolutely privilege to spend time with an owl. They are constantly aware of your presence and make a choice to allow interaction with you or to fly off to another location that is less accessible. Frequently I find great gray owls are usually tolerable if you keep a respectful distance and approach slowly. It's my opinion that If an owl moves frequently from one perch to another, moving each time you move, it is a sign they are stressed by your presence and you should move away. If they ignore you and continue to listen for their prey, take a dive after a vole or exhibit preening behaviours they are at the very least tolerating your presence and at the very best really unphased by it. So I was happy he was tolerating me!
I spent over an hour and half standing there watching him hunt from one tree and then another. I was not dressed for the elements really, my legs started to feel the cold, my fingers I am sure close to frost bite, but this owl just stayed close and kept giving great photo opportunity after photo opportunity. How could I leave?
Swooping in for the prey
Beyond cold at this point, I was actually a little thankful when the owl moved to a tree about another 400 meters away and I convinced myself I could not possibly get any better photos. So it was time to go inside versus trying to break another trail even further than the first. I reluctantly went in, a little grumpy at myself for not being tougher and sticking it out and following the owl. I am always worried I am going to miss that one incredible award winning shot once I leave. But I made my way back to my home anyways, got the kettle going, made a cup of tea and curled up under my blanket to warm up. Looking out the window about a hour later, there was the owl just sitting there no more than 50 meters from my front door. Okay, how could I not go back outside, but this time it was prepared with ski pants and snowshoes. And I am glad I did because he gave even better photo and video opportunities for another 2 hours more. In total that owl was in our field for over 5 hours, wow! I was so incredibly blessed to watch him in full daylight giving incredible photo opportunities the entire time. A day to remember for sure!
Ski pants and snowshoes this time!
A rare sight an owl hovering above its intended prey. Usually once owls lock onto a prey's location they drop down and pounce, rarely do they hover which is more commonly seen in different hawks species like the Northern Harrier.
If your goal is to see an owl in the wild, now until early March is the time to be looking in the Boreal Forest. The owls will be out more frequently during the daylight hours and be less obscure. Take a drive down a back country road some Saturday, pay attention to trees near wetlands areas such as small ponds which are likely places for great horned owls, watch for trees lining open fields a prime spot for great gray owls and pay attention to smaller owls flying low over fields which is likely a short eared owl.
Wishing you the best of luck on your own adventure!