Snowy owls will be with us only a few more weeks and although the numbers are down from previous winters I have enjoyed some memorable encounters already.

Of course, I look forward to more.

It was snowing when I arrived along my regular circuit yesterday and the visibility was very poor. But on my second lap I saw one of the pure white, mature adult male owls that have been in the area most of the winter.

On the weekend, while I had been in the field opposite with a large female owl, a few cars had stopped with photographers stepping out to snap what, I assume, was this same male owl. Often owls will gravitate to the same fields to roost or to hunt. 

The female I was with that day had been looking over my shoulder with interest and when I turned to see what was so intriguing I saw the male fly deep into the field. An overzealous photographer had gone into the field and spooked him, apparently. Yesterday there was nobody else around so I had the owls to myself.

I parked my car, put on the four way flashers, and went into the field. The male owl watched me approach. He looked at me and at his surroundings but remained in place. I am confident he now recognises me and I have gone to great lengths to let him know I am not a threat.

I moved closer and into a position where there was nothing but a blank background. I was about thirty to thirty-five metres away. The snow was coming down pretty hard now so I had no idea what my images might look like or what might occur.

The owl studied me. When I changed position occasionally he watched me. The sounds of my arm brushing against my down jacket also attracted attention. Then he started looking over my left shoulder frequently as if he had heard and spotted prey. Would I be lucky enough to see him hunt again?

Without warning he suddenly turned his back to me with his wings outstretched. I fired off a burst of shots to capture whatever was going to transpire. Through my fogged up glasses and with the snow coming down hard it was all I could do to keep focused on this owl.

Then he turned back towards me briefly before taking off and vanishing in the snowy landscape. It wasn’t until I got back to my car and took a look at my images that I saw he had been attacked by another male snowy owl. 


Snowy owls might roost in the same field very close to one another. But, when it’s time to choose the best hunting spots their aggression surfaces.  Fortunately for ‘my’ owl he wasn’t harmed. But I have seen owls bloodied by their own species.

This was one of those precious encounters that reinforces my belief that getting out into nature, no matter the conditions, can yield beautiful results. Moreover, it justifies spending all those hours learning the habits of a species.


As previously mentioned I will be presenting ‘Predators’ on Thursday April 20th, 2023 at Idea Exchange (Old Post Office) in Cambridge, Ontario. Beginning at 7:00 p.m. I will be showing images of some of the greatest predators I have encountered here in Canada and around the world and telling the stories behind them.

This is a live, in person event. Free admission. But registration is required as there is limited seating capacity.

Here is the link. Please copy and paste into your browser.


    1. Paul E Gains

      Thanks Jerry. I maintained my focus on the first owl as I was hoping he would hunt. When he turned and raised his wings I knew something was up but didn’t see the other male coming in. As I wrote, I only looked at the shots once I got back to my car. The snow was coming down pretty good by then.

    1. Paul E Gains

      Nature can be cruel, for sure. Just the other day I watched a female owl steal a pigeon from another owl. A day later that thief flew right across the field and missed her prey (another pigeon). They will do what is necessary to survive.

    1. Paul E Gains

      Hey Garrett, thanks for continuing to read these blogs and for viewing my pictures. I enjoy sharing my experiences with folks and like to encourage others to get out and enjoy nature.

  1. Lynn Kanuka

    Wow Paul – I’m glad you’re safe in the process! Sheesh these creatures are amazing, and it’s amazing how you have captured them… You take us all right there with your photos:)

    1. Paul E Gains

      Hey Lynn, thanks for your note. I was delighted to experience this confrontation between the two owls. I have seen this happen up close maybe four or five times in ten years. They are aggressive around the time they start thinking about hunting. I don’t think they would attack me. I know that a lady I know who worked with The Owl Research Institute in Montana was attacked while on a research mission to Utqiagvik Alaska. But the owl was defending its nest.

  2. Brad Morley

    As always, Paul, an excellent set of photos along with an interesting story. Well done. Rose and I will be in the UK for most of April, getting home on the 24th, so I won’t be able to be at the presentation. I am sorry to have to miss it.

  3. Don and Pat Bruce

    Those photos were just amazing….even in the snowy conditions they were so good.
    Last year 2022 we met you on one of the many back roads we travel in the Linwood area looking for Snowy’s we were very honored to have met you Paul …..and now receiving your emails with your beauiful photos. Thanks so much.

    1. Paul E Gains

      Hi Don and Pat, thanks for your kind words. Glad you enjoyed this blog and the images. It is my pleasure to share them, after all, snowy owls are the greatest, eh?

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