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by OntPhoto on Mon Jan 02, 2017 8:04 pm
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Although it had been quiet for fall, I had a feeling winter 2016-2017 would be more like winter 2008-2009 far as Great Gray Owls are concerned.  A smaller number of these owls showing up.  (Winter 2004-2005 and winter 2012-2013 were big irruption years where great gray owls showed up early in November and December).  Well, a few of them are starting to show up now.  That was the case for winter 2008-2009 too when they only showed up in January.  Check eBirds (Montreal/Laval area).

I could also go photograph them only a 5 hour drive north of Ottawa in Quebec where there have been about 5 sightings since fall 2016.  Same with Northern Hawk Owls.  But Montreal is much closer - a 2 hour drive.

In Ottawa, we have about 3 to 4 Snowy Owls in the same place as last winter, between Rushmore and Brownlee east of Eagleson including one almost very white adult male snowy.  Sometimes they're deep in the field so may have to go trekking to look for them.  Many folks park along Brownlee and then cross Eagleson and into the field.  That's where they hang out and all the way left toward those tall double hydro poles all the way toward Rushmore.  Akins (just off Eagleson) is good too.

Great Gray Owls should be in the Ottawa area too. I was checking out some locations late this afternoon.  Have to go check the east end too including Petrie Island.  And even further east where I have seen them in the past.


The most popular location for Northern Hawk owl is near Quebec City.  Enjoy, have fun and photograph responsibly.  :)

PS.  There are more GGO around than is being reported but can't talk about it as info is from birders.  All you need is one anyway.


Last edited by OntPhoto on Tue Jan 03, 2017 12:17 pm, edited 5 times in total.
 

by OntPhoto on Mon Jan 02, 2017 8:08 pm
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The Secret Lives of Owls on the CBC on January 17th.

http://www.cbc.ca/natureofthings/episodes/the-secret-life-of-owls
 

by rajandesai on Tue Jan 03, 2017 8:54 pm
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Thanks for sharing this information. I might drive up there from Boston, MA area one of these weekends. Will you be able to guide me with the area that I should focus on? Thanks in advance for any help.

Cheers,
 

by OntPhoto on Wed Jan 04, 2017 8:25 am
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rajandesai wrote:
Thanks for sharing this information. I might drive up there from Boston, MA area one of these weekends. Will you be able to guide me with the area that I should focus on? Thanks in advance for any help.

Cheers,


If I can give any advice, it is to use eBird.  That is how I find out where birds are.  I can talk about the Northern Hawk Owl near Quebec City since everyone knows about that owl along highway 138.  When I was there several weeks ago, I counted about 24 photographers and that was in 1.5 hours.  The owl is hard to see as you drive by because of the high mound of snow along the road and the land slopes down from the road to where the owl is located.  People cannot see you from the road when driving unless they are standing on the sidewalk looking down.  I drove by several times and didn't see anything and was about to leave when I saw many cars parked at this one road opposite the owl location.  That is usually a good indicator something is up.  Sure enough, across the road (hwy 138) is where the owl was.  I'll send you the coordinates via PM soon (like I said, just about everyone knows about that northern hawk owl). Feel free to share it. There are actually 2 and some have said 3, in that general area.

Far as great gray owls are concerned, I only know of the 2 reported to eBirds and I haven't gone looking for them yet. Check eBirds and I mentioned one of the locations already in my original post. Both in Laval, Quebec.  But for the northern hawk owl near Quebec City, you will find it pretty easily once you know where to look.  I plan to head back there soon to show some non-birder and non-photographers what an owl looks like in person.  There's nothing like seeing an owl in person to spark an interest.   

Updated January 8th:  Lots of people were looking for the GGO on Saturday but wasn't found.  But another one has popped up elsewhere in the city.  They're definitely around and I'll continue to look for them in my city too but can only share the ones that many people already know about. 
 

by OntPhoto on Mon Jan 16, 2017 8:19 am
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We have just as many snowy owls around the greater Ottawa area this winter as in the past several years.  They seem to return to the same farm fields.  I counted about 4 snowy owls in the farm fields running along Rushmore, Brownlee, Akins and Eagleson area of west end of Ottawa.  Same place as last winter.  Same owls?  Maybe.  If you follow Project SnowStorm where they band and put GPS tracking monitors on the backs of snowy owls, some owls do return to the same location in the winter.

One banded snowy owl, Baltimore, spent last winter on Amherst Island before leaving for the north in the spring.  They tracked it again this winter to Amherst but apparently it didn't stay long.  I've heard that Amherst Island has not been good for owls or raptors this winter.  Maybe the vole population is down this year on Amherst.  The hard-packed snow with freezing rain weather we've been getting also makes it hard for raptors to find small mammals.  Last I heard Baltimore was in Kinburn, an area just west of Ottawa.  

Someone in the Montreal area had seen a returning snowy owl for a few years too.  This particular snowy owl has a bad eye making it easier to identify. So, who knows, maybe a couple of the snowy owls I photographed this weekend are owls that also spent last winter in the same farm fields.  Last winter they had 4 to 5 in the exact same area.  

Photographed all 4 on the weekend. I counted 14 cars along Rushmore photographing the large female on top of the tall double hydro poles.  The weather was really nice for a change and great to see people spending some time enjoying the great outdoors.
https://www.theweathernetwork.com/photos/view/birds/4-snowy-owls-in-one-afternoon/28491639

The almost all white male snowy owl  in the same area.  It is often being chased away by the much larger female snowy owl. 
http://www.pbase.com/golfpic/image/164805375/original
 

by OntPhoto on Sun Jan 22, 2017 10:12 pm
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A very nice irruption of great gray owls this winter.  They seem to be concentrated in the greater Montreal area so far.  Mind you, people in eastern Ontario aren't talking but it could also be that there are very few around this neck of the woods.  Reports and sightings are trickling out now. There was a report of one in the Prince Edward County area last weekend, Renfrew County, Stormont Dundas area to name a few places.  But Montreal, they have a mini-irruption going on.  

Sightings of boreal owls are surfacing too. 

Updated Jan. 28, 2017.  Stats of Great Gray Owls in irruption years in Quebec from Pierre Bannon posted to a Quebec discussion group.

1978-79: 60
1983-84: 350
1987-88: 26
1991-92: 60
1996-97: 60
2000-01: 103
2004-05: 600
2008-09: 70
2012-13: 70
2016-17: 20 as of January 28, 2017 (my translation from French)

- from Pierre Bannon, a Quebec birder posted to a Quebec birding discussion group.
 

by OntPhoto on Sat Feb 11, 2017 9:58 pm
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Found my first great gray owl in Ottawa late today at dusk.  Along March Valley Road on DND property.  March Valley Road had many great gray owls back in winter 2004-2005 (big irruption winter) and at least one in winter 2012-2013 (another big irruption winter).

PS.  I was reading a comment somewhere else where someone mentioned seeing more than the normal share of barred owls this winter. If you recall in another thread here, I mentioned that last fall saw a high number of barred owls being banded at the PETBO banding station located in Prince Edward County.  While browsing through a blog for the Quinte, Ontario area, I noticed a similar comment for winter 2012-2013 where larger than normal numbers of barred owls were seen.  Winter 2012-2013 was also an irruption winter for boreal forest owls like great grays. The person writing the blog wondered whether all these barred owls being seen was a precursor to the movement of boreal forest birds such as the great gray owl.  He got his answer that winter. 

Great gray owls seem to be still moving down into the Ottawa and eastern Ontario area this late into the winter.

Two great gray owls along March Valley Road in Ottawa - Monday, Feb. 13th.  Photos attached as well.

http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S34352777
 

by OntPhoto on Tue Mar 14, 2017 10:13 am
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Hope everyone had a great winter observing and photographing owls.  They were late showing up here in the Ottawa area but not so much really.  In the past they have showed up in mid to late January depending on the snow cover further up north.  Montreal had the most reported at locations like the TechnoParc, ile Saint Bernard, ile du Boucherville, ile Bizard and a number of other locations.  

A number of spots in the greater Ottawa area and nearby places on the Quebec side too.  We had one glorious week in middle of February when 2 great gray owls were present.  March Valley Road is normally a busy roadway with cars moving thru at 80+ kilometers an hour and extremely narrow shoulders bordering a ditch.  As it turned out, the one week the road was closed for a culvert replacement.  That meant the road became a pedestrian walk way the whole week.  Not only that but the weather was almost spring like that whole week.  And the owls were very cooperative.  You could not have wished for better conditions for seeing owls.  

As in a typical irruption winter we had a few boreal owls around too.  I only had the opportunity to see one of them.  These owls were kept hush hush. I got an inside scoop and can keep a secret until the owl was gone.  :)  

Great gray owls in the Amherstview area too (considered to be the Greater Kingston Area) with someone reporting 2 along Coronation Boulevard a kilometer or two apart from one another.  They may still be there.  This sighting was not confirmed and I had my hands full with owls in my area to go for a visit.  Not far from there was a Boreal Owl seen only for a day or so. I think people are seeing a Great Gray Owl in the Lemoine Point area just recently. 

All good things must come to an end.  Spring is just around the corner and we'll have to wait another 4 years to see the next irruption of these owls.  Great gray owls have been known to move back north beginning in March and into mid April.  Some have stayed into mid-May and the odd one even later.  Very rarely a pair will stay behind and breed right here.  Maybe 7 years ago a pair of great gray owls nested in the Fitzroy Harbour area producing 3 owlets.  Unfortunately all 3 got hit by cars.  

Very few northen hawk owls reportd here in eastern Ontario.  They should be around as they are known to irrupt with great grays and boreal owls.  Sightings were likely kept very quiet.  You only need one and so the bird near Quebec City along Hwy 138 across from Chemin du Roy, saw a large nunber of people there every week.  This owl was well fed all winter.  Northern hawk owls typically leave eastern Ontario by mid-March and stay a bit later in more northerly locations like the Saguenay and maybe even Quebec City area.
 

by OntPhoto on Wed Mar 15, 2017 6:22 pm
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Here is an interesting note about the great gray owls seen in winter 2017.  According to Jean Iron a well known birder living in Toronto, Ontario, "more than 50% of Great Gray Owl photos we've examined in winter 2017 show first year birds hatched in 2016."  Interesting.  That is compared to more than 99% of great gray owls seen in 2004-2005 which were older than first year birds.  

What this means, I'll have to take some time to ponder.  I think first year birds are more inexperienced in hunting and may be the first ones to move southward when food is scarce.  So, the older more experienced birds mostly stayed behind in winter 2017.  

Winter 2004-2005 may have seen less than 1% first year birds down here in Ontario because there was very little successful nesting that occurred in spring/summer 2004 up north due to scarcity of food and the food shortage was severe and widespread causing a large movement of great gray owls southward that winter (one of the largest ever in the past several decades).  Less than 1% first year owls were seen here that winter because there weren't many great gray owls born that spring or summer.

http://www.jeaniron.ca/2017/GGOW.htm


Last edited by OntPhoto on Fri Mar 17, 2017 5:07 am, edited 6 times in total.
 

by James Vellozzi on Wed Mar 15, 2017 6:53 pm
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How do they know the owls age? Are they capturing them and banding them? I cannot see how plumage will tell an owls age.. thanks for the information
James Vellozzi
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by OntPhoto on Sat Mar 18, 2017 9:24 am
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James Vellozzi wrote:
How do they  know the owls age? Are they capturing them and banding them? I cannot see how plumage will tell an owls age.. thanks for the information


There is a link to an article on aging of great gray owls on that same page. 


PS.  Great Gray Owls are still around here and I photographed one late yesterday.  A number of them will be around into April and a few maybe later than that. 
 

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