Warning: This blog is about snowy owls,  confirming what many of you already know – I am obsessed with snowy owls!

A few days ago, January 2nd to be precise, the weather in Southern Ontario changed for the better – as far as winter lovers are concerned.   A deep freeze hit overnight along with a serious snowfall which is just the setting that makes snowy owl photography that much more enjoyable.

After watching a female unsuccessfully hunt pigeons, I continued my drive along my regular route and came across this beautiful adult male perched on a utility pole. It was -14C with the windchill and I stood at the side of a road with the wind, fortunately, at my back and the owl facing me.

After more than an hour and a half waiting for some action – during which a beautiful farm dog trotted 2oo metres through the snow to greet me and accept my offer of dog treats – two other photographers turned up.

At first they parked a wee bit too close to the owl. I pointed out that they might well be in his flight path should he decide to head into the wind. They graciously moved their cars back. We all waited for some action.

It was late afternoon now and the sun was low.  Thirty minutes passed when, to my great surprise, the owl looked behind him and suddenly went after a rodent in the nearby field. I moved quickly to a better vantage point. Here he is seconds after swallowing his prey whole.

After looking around at his options he chose to return to the same utility pole offering us a wonderful photographing opportunity – as well as a lesson in how unpredictable snowy owls can be.  As he lifted off he was focused on the pole.

The wind was very strong and so many times I have seen owls lift off facing the wind before turning with it and going in the other direction. The female owl had done exactly that two hours before. Instead this guy continued his flight path which was very lucky for us.

Ironically, I had been in a nearby field for each of the three preceding days with an adult male owl. At first I thought this was him but I was wrong. One of the photographers told me she had seen another adult male in the field where I had been those three days and when I compared the markings I could see the difference.  

Two males in the same vicinity? It promises to be a wonderful winter and I am so pleased to have such a great start to 2022. Here’s wishing you all a happy and healthy new year!

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Don’t forget to sign up for my January 20th (7pm – 8:30 p.m.) zoom presentation: ‘Wildlife In Peril’

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7 Comments

    1. Paul E Gains

      Hey Spencer, great to hear you are out and about. The snowy owls are tricky aren’t they? I have sore shoulders from getting a cue he/she is about to fly and then they start preening again or simply remain in place. I think it is best to follow individual owls over the winter and study their habits. Fingers crossed! Thanks for re-connecting!

  1. JOHN PALMER

    Splendid photographs! Thanks for your obsession. While you were out with the owls, Jaellayna and I were walking trails along the Nith and spent some time gazing at the pair of Bald Eagles perched by their nest – the same adult pair that you have often shared with us.

    1. Paul E Gains

      Thanks John! And thanks for checking in with us about the eagles. In my haste to satisfy this obsession with the snowy owls I have neglected those beautiful eagles. Will have to drop by in the next few days.

  2. Hanson Cheng

    Paul, I enjoy your great shots of the snowy owls. I live in Toronto and I have never had the luck to see a snowy owl before. I wonder if you could provide me the specific location(s) that there is a better chance to see one and take photos? Many thanks.

    1. Paul E Gains

      Hello Hanson, thanks for your comments. I have become reluctant to give specific locations because I have had photographers follow me into a field while I am with an owl which places unwanted stress on the bird. The owls, like most wildlife I have encountered, are better in one-on-one situations AND only after they recognized individuals. Having said that I would suggest you look on ebird.org and OFO.ca two websites where birders often post locations. I know, for instance, that snowy owls have been spotted in Tommy Thompson Park and Colonel Samuel Smith Park each winter. Hope that helps! Good luck out there!

  3. Hanson Cheng

    Paul. great shots. I have never seen a snowy owl and I would like to photograph them. Could you please share with me some locations where I have a better chance to see them? Thanks.

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