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.