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by OntPhoto on Tue Oct 28, 2008 4:40 am
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It is shaping up to be a good year for Snowy Owls here in Ontario, Canada. Snowy Owls are arriving much earlier than what is expected of this species in our region.

I think there have already been 4 to 5 Snowy Owl reports so far this Fall in Ontario. A Snowy Owl had recently been reported from Cobourg, Ontario and one near Kingston, Ontario.

In my home city of Ottawa already 2 Snowy Owl sightings have been made, all within the past few days. And I've just learned of a third Snowy Owl in the city.

Still have not checked the traditional local Snowy Owl hotspot east of Ottawa yet. We may be getting to photograph Snowy Owls sooner than we think. See link: http://www.virtualbirder.com/bmail/ontb ... dex.html#1 Google Maps keywords are Ste-Rose Ontario.

This early movement of Snowy Owls means there is a shortage of food up north. It seems pretty bad for the owls to be on the move this early. Official start of winter is still 2 months away.

Revised. November 26, 2008.
An email to Ontbirds from Jean Iron today, November 26th, now indicates they're not sure what is causing the southward movement of Snowy Owls this Fall in Quebec and Ontario. The observation of mostly first year male Snowy Owls now have some reconsidering the reason for the current southward movement. "The Snowy Owl flight this fall and winter could be caused solely by high numbers of young being fledged this summer due to high lemming populations [during the Snowy Owl breeding season]." However, the report goes on to say that if a large number of adult Snowy Owls start to show up in the southward movement then they'll be more confident in saying there was a lemming crash up north.
See: http://www.virtualbirder.com/bmail/ontb ... est.html#1

I thought maybe something was up when I read this report on November 15th from Bruce DiLabio. "It appears they are arriving from the north in bad shape due to lack of food, maybe lemmings. http://www.virtualbirder.com/bmail/ontb ... dex.html#3


Last edited by OntPhoto on Wed Nov 26, 2008 2:29 pm, edited 4 times in total.

by jnadler on Tue Oct 28, 2008 6:02 am
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I have a few vacation days left I need to use. If the region described not only has snowy owls but a hoepful few boreal owls, I'd love to take a trip up. If I get to the planning stage, would truly appreciate lodging and area suggestions.

by c.w. moynihan on Tue Oct 28, 2008 8:14 am
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Looking forward to my week in Ottawa in February...
Christian

Cuz I'm free as a bird now and this bird you cannot change !

by srfnson on Tue Oct 28, 2008 9:27 am
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We already had sighting of several snowies in southern manitoba. Looking forward to getting some images of them without the snow (and cold temps).

by JB Goessman on Tue Oct 28, 2008 9:30 am
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I'll be up there in late January. This should be fun!
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by OntPhoto on Tue Oct 28, 2008 12:28 pm
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jnadler wrote:
I have a few vacation days left I need to use. If the region described not only has snowy owls but a hoepful few boreal owls, I'd love to take a trip up. If I get to the planning stage, would truly appreciate lodging and area suggestions.


The location east of Ottawa consist of a lot of open farm fields. It is mainly farm land with perhaps dairy as well. The open landscape and likely fair rodent numbers attract owls like the Snowy.

I think Boreal Owls prefer an area with more trees. I have not read any reports of Boreal or Great Gray Owls in that location over the past several years. If you hope to see Snowy and Boreal owls within close proximity, Amherst Island would be a better bet. Almost every winter you will find some Snowy Owls on Amherst Island (last year was an exception) and every four years Boreals may show up there as well. There is no guarantee of course. Keep informed of recent sightings by subscribing to Ontbirds email list or checking the web where these sightings are listed.

Getting back to the Snowy Owl location east of Ottawa. Snowy Owls have been migrating there over winter for perhaps decades now. If photographing in that area, one can stay nearby at motels or in Ottawa which has plenty of accommodation. It is the capital city of Canada afterall. And known as a government and high-tech town. During some parts of the winter, like at winter carnival time, lodging may be a bit more scarce.

One thing about Ottawa which I personally like is that most places in the city are within a 30 minute drive. I can go from the east end (Orleans) to the west end (Kanata...lots of high tech companies located here) in 30 minutes depending on traffic.

One can find the 417 highway from just about anywhere in Ottawa. This is the main highway (also known as the Queensway for the part that runs through the city proper) in the city. The Ottawa Airport is located in the south part of Ottawa (pretty close to where I live) and highway 417 (the Queensway) is only about a 20 minute drive away (depending on traffic). There are motels and inns located right near the airport. I mean, from the Ottawa Airport to the city proper is about a 5 to 10 minute drive if that. The area is called South Keys. A huge shopping centre (called SouthKeys) with Wal-Mart, Chapters (like Barnes and Noble), FutureShop (like Best Buy) and fast food places and restuarants are 5 to 10 minutes from the airport. That is how close the airport is. The 417 is also the highway that connects Ottawa to Montreal (becomes autoroute 40 once you are across the border into the province of Quebec). Highway 401 is further south.

Once you get onto the Queensway (as the highway is known in the city) or 417 (as it is called once you exit the city proper) you have a 30 minute drive east to a town called Casselman (50 kilometers east of Ottawa). The owl location is just another 10 kilometers east of that. So, about a 40 minute drive from Ottawa itself. Casselman has a motel and other amenities as mentioned. Hope this is helpful so far and if more info is needed, let me know (post it in this thread).

While Snowy Owls can be seen and photographed soon as they arrive at that location (generally this is in December when the first ones show up but this year it seems the Snowies are arriving earlier, at least in town as I have not taken a look at the location east of Ottawa) it is not until perhaps middle of January or February that things settle down. Individual Snowy Owls hopefully have found their particular spots or territories by then and therefore making them easier to find and more reliably. Also, by February there's lots of snow on the ground and the temps can get very cold and the owls may have a harder time finding food like mice and other rodents. If Snowy Owls are finding lots of food on their own, like on Wolfe Island near Kingston Ontario last winter, they are harder to photograph.

by jnadler on Wed Oct 29, 2008 5:57 am
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Thank you for the in-depth details! I will wait unitl Jan-Feb as others do. This year's vac time will be used elsewhere.

by kristenwestlake on Wed Oct 29, 2008 10:39 am
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We may get more snowy owls in Southern Wisconsin as well then. For two years in a row we had some great opportunities for snowy owl images though last year was insignificant. The two prior years there was a beautiful female snowy http://www.wisconsinphotos.com/gallery/feathers/content/Sn_Owl_121505_055b.html that hung out in Bong Recreational Area near Kenosha, Wisconsin. The following year a little male snowy owl made himself known to many photographers in Horicon Marsh NWR.

Good luck to all!

Kristen Westlake Nature & Wildlife Photographer
http://www.wisconsinphotos.com

by c.w. moynihan on Wed Oct 29, 2008 10:56 am
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Driving to Grateful Dead concerts back in the 80's at Alpine Valley always used to make us laugh when we passed "Bong" area's in Wisconsin...LOL
Christian

Cuz I'm free as a bird now and this bird you cannot change !

by OntPhoto on Thu Oct 30, 2008 7:49 pm
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kristenwestlake wrote:
We may get more snowy owls in Southern Wisconsin as well then. For two years in a row we had some great opportunities for snowy owl images though last year was insignificant. The two prior years there was a beautiful female snowy http://www.wisconsinphotos.com/gallery/feathers/content/Sn_Owl_121505_055b.html that hung out in Bong Recreational Area near Kenosha, Wisconsin. The following year a little male snowy owl made himself known to many photographers in Horicon Marsh NWR.

Good luck to all!

Kristen Westlake Nature & Wildlife Photographer
http://www.wisconsinphotos.com


At the rate Snowy Owls are moving down here this Fall I wouldn't be surprised. In my city, 2 people reported finding Snowy Owls, one on the sidewalk and another on someones rooftop. I see another one reported in the Quinte area and perhaps 2 in the Presqu'ile area. For the last 2 days it actually looks like winter down here. But much of the snow should be gone in a few days as temps warm up.

by OntPhoto on Fri Oct 31, 2008 6:45 am
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srfnson wrote:
We already had sighting of several snowies in southern manitoba. Looking forward to getting some images of them without the snow (and cold temps).


What are Snowy Owl sightings typically like in southern Manitoba this time of the year? I hear you about the snow. It's nice to get a background other than white :mrgreen:

by srfnson on Fri Oct 31, 2008 11:28 am
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OntPhoto wrote:
srfnson wrote:
We already had sighting of several snowies in southern manitoba. Looking forward to getting some images of them without the snow (and cold temps).


What are Snowy Owl sightings typically like in southern Manitoba this time of the year? I hear you about the snow. It's nice to get a background other than white :mrgreen:



Typically I usually start seeing them in mid November. This year the weather here has been quite mild (14c yesterday and 10c forecast for next week)so I'm surprised the owls are already here given the weather.

There's an area not far from my home which the owls return to year after year...they even use the same poles! I'm not sure if the owls that return to the same perch or quarter section are the same ones from the previous year but their return is always a welcome sight as if they were old friends.

I'm heading out tomorrow to hopefully get some early sightings and maybe a few images if I"m lucky :)

by OntPhoto on Sat Nov 01, 2008 2:48 am
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srfnson wrote:
OntPhoto wrote:
srfnson wrote:
We already had sighting of several snowies in southern manitoba. Looking forward to getting some images of them without the snow (and cold temps).


What are Snowy Owl sightings typically like in southern Manitoba this time of the year? I hear you about the snow. It's nice to get a background other than white :mrgreen:



Typically I usually start seeing them in mid November. This year the weather here has been quite mild (14c yesterday and 10c forecast for next week)so I'm surprised the owls are already here given the weather.

There's an area not far from my home which the owls return to year after year...they even use the same poles! I'm not sure if the owls that return to the same perch or quarter section are the same ones from the previous year but their return is always a welcome sight as if they were old friends.

I'm heading out tomorrow to hopefully get some early sightings and maybe a few images if I"m lucky :)


Sounds like the area east of Ottawa. I should be checking it out on the weekend. I have been observing some Short-Eared Owls lately. Awesome is all I can say as it's not a species often seen.

by Scott Fairbairn on Sat Nov 01, 2008 8:02 am
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Hey Ontphoto, don't you sleep? :D (u posted at 3:48am!)

by OntPhoto on Sun Nov 02, 2008 3:47 am
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Scott Fairbairn wrote:
Hey Ontphoto, don't you sleep? :D (u posted at 3:48am!)


Hi Scott. You can blame the birds :mrgreen: Went birding on Friday after work and discovered some Short-Eared Owls. At one point they were flying very close to where we were standing. Awesome thing to see. Really wanted to see these owls in better light. Not being a morning person I found the best way to wake up early was to go to bed early. Well, woke up early alright....too early. Wide awake and couldn't fall back asleep. Thanks for reminding me :)

Well, I now know why there have been so many Snowy Owl sightings this Fall. You've probably already read the latest Ontbirds report from Jean Iron. The link below (cut and paste into a seperate browser window) takes you to a map showing all the reported Snowy Owl sightings this Fall in Quebec. This winter there will be plenty of Snowy Owls to photograph in both Quebec and Ontario and perhaps even into the northern States as Kristen Westlake had mentioned in this thread.

Ontbirds email from Jean Iron.
"Snowy Owl: Lemming numbers are low across the Eastern Arctic. Quebec
is experiencing a big flight of Snowy Owls (Quebec's bird) with more
and more observations since 25 October. See http://maps.google.ca/maps/ms?f=q&hl=fr&t=h&ie=UTF8&lr=lang_en&msa=0&msid=107021843598614316035.00045a2c9790f83cc6f40


Last edited by OntPhoto on Sun Nov 02, 2008 6:40 pm, edited 2 times in total.

by srfnson on Sun Nov 02, 2008 7:30 am
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Didn't take long to find a nice pair of snowies yesterday here in manitoba. Quite a change to see them hunting in a hay field perched on the bales. It almost felt surreal photographing them without the need for handwarms and without frost build up on my camera :) The only detraction were the hunters in the same field shooting Canada Geese...the constant shotgun basts were disturbing but didn't seem to bother the owls.

by OntPhoto on Sun Nov 02, 2008 6:19 pm
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srfnson wrote:
Didn't take long to find a nice pair of snowies yesterday here in manitoba. Quite a change to see them hunting in a hay field perched on the bales. It almost felt surreal photographing them without the need for handwarms and without frost build up on my camera :) The only detraction were the hunters in the same field shooting Canada Geese...the constant shotgun basts were disturbing but didn't seem to bother the owls.


Cool. Amazes me what owls can put up with, even the species known for having acute hearing such as the Great Gray owl. Four years ago during the large irruption of Great Gray owls here in Ottawa, a fair number found a home on a shooting range. The sharp gunshots going off regularly were annoying to me and I wondered how the Great Grays were coping with it. They can hear mice running a foot or so under snow yet they are putting up with loud gunshots.

No luck finding Snowies yet but a farmer told me he has seen a Snowy sitting in his field for about a month now. That would put its arrival in early October. He said he sees the Snowy hiding in the tall grass whenever he makes it down to that part of the field in his farm vehicle. So he drives around it. Short-Eared owls are also resting in his field on the ground. Two weeks ago when he was turning his field with his large Combine tractor he would flush the Short-Ears. He said they hide in the field and when he drives his Combine near them they'd fly a short distance away. Then after he's driven by they fly back. He tries to avoid them when he can but doesn't always see them ahead of time since they blend into the surroundings on the ground.

by srfnson on Sun Nov 02, 2008 9:11 pm
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OntPhoto wrote:

Cool. Amazes me what owls can put up with, even the species known for having acute hearing such as the Great Gray owl. Four years ago during the large irruption of Great Gray owls here in Ottawa, a fair number found a home on a shooting range. The sharp gunshots going off regularly were annoying to me and I wondered how the Great Grays were coping with it. They can hear mice running a foot or so under snow yet they are putting up with loud gunshots.


No hunters in the field today and wouldn't you know it the pair of snowy owls choose to spend most of today on the ground in an adjacent field. Located another single owl as well which brings total to 3 in this area which was confirmed by a conservation officer. I was told the pair have been in the area for at least 2 weeks which from the records I have access to makes it the earliest sighting in the database (starts around 1999).

A real treat to photograph these birds in +10c weather!

by .miles on Sun Nov 02, 2008 9:53 pm
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There are now reports among birders of Snowy Owls for Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Could be an interesting winter.
Exploring through photography since 1995.

by OntPhoto on Wed Nov 05, 2008 1:24 am
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srfnson wrote:
No hunters in the field today and wouldn't you know it the pair of snowy owls choose to spend most of today on the ground in an adjacent field. Located another single owl as well which brings total to 3 in this area which was confirmed by a conservation officer. I was told the pair have been in the area for at least 2 weeks which from the records I have access to makes it the earliest sighting in the database (starts around 1999).

A real treat to photograph these birds in +10c weather!


I hear you :) Went to watch the Short-Eared Owls late yesterday. Mild temps even after the sun had gone down. I actually saw 3 little frogs hopping across the road in my headlights. Two days ago it was a different thing. Hands were freezing holding the binoculars because of the chill. Getting back to Snowies. Fields are muddy this time of year as farmers turn the soil and we've had some recent rains. Mild temps mean walking through muck. Harder to find Snowies too in that kind of setting as many Snowies are barred (black and white mix). Against a pure white snowy landscape they are much easier to pick out from the landscape.

Off Topic. Boreal Owls. From an Ontbirds email (Nove. 4th):
"Congratulations to Stu Mackenzie and long point for catching a boreal owl thought I would chime in that we caught 6 on Sunday night
( Nov 2nd) and this has me very confused. We had ended our sawwhet migration monitoring and had captured 7 boreals while playing a sawwhet call. In 2 nights of playing a boreal call on 1 of our sites, we have captured 8 boreals. This begs the question of how we would do with a boreal call. Birders may not be aware that there is speculation that the boreals show up in 4 year intervals. We have been banding owls since 200 and we have captured boreal in 2000 1 11 in 2004 and now 15 in 2008 and none in any of the intervening years. Whitefish point bird observatory and Thunder Cape bird observatory may be able to shed some more light on this topic as I am sure could Tadoussac in Quebec who have more familiarity with the boreal owl. I would point out though how impressed I am that the winter finch forecast based on Ron Pittway’s research predicted a boreal invasion this year base on a rodent crash in the north. Does the rodent cycle link to the boreal every 4 years? If it does can we at long last see grade 10 students drawing vole and owls graphs instead of snowshoe hare and lynx graphs ???? Just a suggestion to text book writers. Hope long point can get another boreal this season Well done to Stu and his gang most impressive." --- The Murphy's.


.miles wrote:
There are now reports among birders of Snowy Owls for Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Could be an interesting winter.

Good to hear. Birders may not need to come up here to see Snowies this winter.


Last edited by OntPhoto on Wed Nov 05, 2008 8:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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