Snowy owls have been seen infrequently in southern Ontario this winter but, finally,  I encountered one last Sunday and then again Wednesday.

Both times it was somebody else who spotted it roosting on the ground. Am I losing my touch? Normally I can see these birds at a distance without using my binoculars.

Sometimes I would pass an owl in my car without seeing it but driving in the opposite direction it might be more visible to the naked eye. Thankfully other photographers saved me on these occasions.

It hasn’t helped that the light has been very dull. Indeed, yesterday there was fog which rolled across the field.   For photography that was actually a pleasant surprise since it eliminated any unwanted distractions in the background.

Sunday was an opportunity to ‘introduce’ myself to this owl that may well be a young male despite it being heavily barred. It is very difficult to tell young males and females apart. Males will eventually lose more of that dark appearance until they are virtually all white.  

The owl checks out a car slowly coming up the nearby road on Wednesday.

The very nice couple from Guelph who pointed out this beauty were roadside while I entered the field. Again, I only go onto private property when farmers have permitted me. I kept my distance and used a 1.4x teleconverter on my 500mm prime so I could be sure I would not be too close to disturb the owl.

For the most part he remained still. The sound of a car slowly driving along the muddy road caught his attention. And any movement from the two photographers on the road earned a look. When I changed positions and my arm brushed against my down jacket he quickly honed in on the sound. But as attentive as he was he didn’t appear to be in any rush.

Here he can be seen cleaning his talons with his beak.

I sat with him for little over half an hour and then I could see he was deciding where he was going to go next. He looked back towards a nearby farm.  One of the farmers had earlier told me he had seen an owl fly across the road and onto his field last week.

On Sunday I had watched him go to a tree in the opposite direction. He looked over my shoulder towards that tree a few times too. 

He pooped – which is usually a sign a raptor is preparing for flight – then looked at his options again before taking off.


Now that we have had two encounters and I know a bit more about his behaviour I am hoping for more time with him. 


The Waterloo Region Record newspaper published my story along with four of my coyote photos on Tuesday. It’s entitled ‘Coyotes – A Maligned Predator’ for those interested in seeing it online.

This is also a good time to announce that I will be speaking – and showing a collection of my coyote photos – at Idea Exchange (Old Post Office) in Cambridge, Wednesday April 17th.

Registration has already opened. 

Although it is free to attend I do hope many of you will register in advance so organizers have an idea of how many to expect. There is limited seating. If you are interested please copy and paste the link below:



  1. Jerry Kooymans

    I’m glad to see you’ve finally had a snowy owl encounter this winter, Paul. Hopefully this winter’s scarcity is just a temporary blip, and they will return in larger numbers in the future. Great photos.

    1. Paul E Gains

      Hey Jerry, thanks….glad you liked the photos. Yes I hope that we see more in future years. In the eleven winters I have been photographing them this is unlike any other. Still, to see even one is delightful.

    1. Paul E Gains

      Thanks, Brad. I am pleased you can appreciate my delightful encounter as that is really the purpose of my blogs! I hope to encourage people to go out and explore nature and have their own memorable moments. I hope you are doing well!

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