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by wdg on Wed Oct 25, 2023 2:27 pm
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Does anyone know what the Owl (Snowy, Northern Hawk, Great Gray, …) forecast is for this winter?
I haven’t heard positive indications of the Snowy Owl breeding season so wondering. 
Thanks 
 

by OntPhoto on Thu Nov 02, 2023 5:07 am
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wdg wrote: Does anyone know what the Owl (Snowy, Northern Hawk, Great Gray, …) forecast is for this winter?
I haven’t heard positive indications of the Snowy Owl breeding season so wondering. 
Thanks 
You and me both.  If the irruption cycle for northern owls keeps to every 4 years and sometimes 5, then winter 2024-2025 is the next irruption winter.  But the winters preceding and following an irruption year can see a higher number of these owls.  

Last winter was a dud for northern hawk owls in my area (eastern Ontario to western Quebec) but I'm seeing more eBird sightings this October compared to last October.  Northern hawk owls tend to move southward starting in November.  

There was one about an 8 hour drive from Ottawa in late October 2023 but I didn't want to put the kilometers in and the gas.  Waiting for one closer to home.  It's even more exciting now because I want to see how the Canon R6 MK2 handles fast flight shots.  :)
 

by Mitash on Mon Nov 06, 2023 7:45 am
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I'm no expert, but I think owl populations can be quite variable depending on factors like prey availability and weather.
 

by wdg on Sat Nov 11, 2023 12:54 pm
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Frustrated as no SNOW or GGOWs as of yet (altho one snowy was just reported about 20 miles east of me)
I’m not sure if bad breeding season or if the major loss of habitat around here has created this absence.
Just a few years ago I could find 10-15 SNOWs in a day within 5 miles of my home. Great Grays - 20+ in an area an hour or so from me.
Short-ears are also very hard to locate now (there used to be 4-5 areas where they were easy to see).
I realize there is a fluctuation - 4 years or so - but the decline is obvious.
 

by OntPhoto on Wed Nov 15, 2023 11:11 pm
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wdg wrote: Frustrated as no SNOW or GGOWs as of yet (altho one snowy was just reported about 20 miles east of me)
I’m not sure if bad breeding season or if the major loss of habitat around here has created this absence.
Just a few years ago I could find 10-15 SNOWs in a day within 5 miles of my home. Great Grays - 20+ in an area an hour or so from me.
Short-ears are also very hard to locate now (there used to be 4-5 areas where they were easy to see).
I realize there is a fluctuation - 4 years or so - but the decline is obvious.
Not sure where you are located.  There were a number of years, maybe 5+ where we had a lot of snowy owls here in eastern Ontario to western Quebec.  If I recall, these numbers were partially attributed to good breeding seasons.  It is normal to have dips in these cycles.  Quiet here for snowy owl too.  We had some last winter but not in the larger numbers as those 5 good winters. The Project SnowStorm blog hasn't been updated since the spring.  Maybe that's a sign?

I am mostly looking forward to the northern hawk owl.  Looking at the eBird species map, there are way more birds reported this October and November compared to last year at the same time. 
 

by wdg on Thu Nov 16, 2023 12:12 am
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OntPhoto wrote:
wdg wrote: Frustrated as no SNOW or GGOWs as of yet (altho one snowy was just reported about 20 miles east of me)
I’m not sure if bad breeding season or if the major loss of habitat around here has created this absence.
Just a few years ago I could find 10-15 SNOWs in a day within 5 miles of my home. Great Grays - 20+ in an area an hour or so from me.
Short-ears are also very hard to locate now (there used to be 4-5 areas where they were easy to see).
I realize there is a fluctuation - 4 years or so - but the decline is obvious.
Not sure where you are located.  There were a number of years, maybe 5+ where we had a lot of snowy owls here in eastern Ontario to western Quebec.  If I recall, these numbers were partially attributed to good breeding seasons.  It is normal to have dips in these cycles.  Quiet here for snowy owl too.  We had some last winter but not in the larger numbers as those 5 good winters. The Project SnowStorm blog hasn't been updated since the spring.  Maybe that's a sign?

I am mostly looking forward to the northern hawk owl.  Looking at the eBird species map, there are way more birds reported this October and November compared to last year at the same time. 
I’m located near the Canadian/ND border. We’ve always had high numbers of Snowys and Shorties here. 
 The numbers fluctuated (seeing 2-3 a day in the worst years) but not to where they were (and are) very hard to find. 
The recent report from ORI indicated a significant down turn over the last few years - with 0 nests found in the research area this last summer. 
Shorties have also all but disappeared as well. 
I have read that there might be northern hawk owls moving into the area where I see the great grays. Hoping so …
 

by OntPhoto on Mon Nov 20, 2023 8:46 pm
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wdg wrote:
OntPhoto wrote:
wdg wrote: Frustrated as no SNOW or GGOWs as of yet (altho one snowy was just reported about 20 miles east of me)
I’m not sure if bad breeding season or if the major loss of habitat around here has created this absence.
Just a few years ago I could find 10-15 SNOWs in a day within 5 miles of my home. Great Grays - 20+ in an area an hour or so from me.
Short-ears are also very hard to locate now (there used to be 4-5 areas where they were easy to see).
I realize there is a fluctuation - 4 years or so - but the decline is obvious.
Not sure where you are located.  There were a number of years, maybe 5+ where we had a lot of snowy owls here in eastern Ontario to western Quebec.  If I recall, these numbers were partially attributed to good breeding seasons.  It is normal to have dips in these cycles.  Quiet here for snowy owl too.  We had some last winter but not in the larger numbers as those 5 good winters. The Project SnowStorm blog hasn't been updated since the spring.  Maybe that's a sign?

I am mostly looking forward to the northern hawk owl.  Looking at the eBird species map, there are way more birds reported this October and November compared to last year at the same time. 
I’m located near the Canadian/ND border. We’ve always had high numbers of Snowys and Shorties here. 
 The numbers fluctuated (seeing 2-3 a day in the worst years) but not to where they were (and are) very hard to find. 
The recent report from ORI indicated a significant down turn over the last few years - with 0 nests found in the research area this last summer. 
Shorties have also all but disappeared as well. 
I have read that there might be northern hawk owls moving into the area where I see the great grays. Hoping so …
Nice newsletters on that ORI site.

The Roost Owl Newsletters

I am no owl expert by any means but the lack of some owls this fall is not likely due to lost of habitat.  I say this without knowing what is happening where you are located.  The owl population is cyclable matching the availability of food.  As for northern hawk owl, I am already aware of several locations.  ALMOST got a photo of one.  This close.  It's a story I'll tell when the season is over as I can't mention location at all.  
 

by OntPhoto on Sat Nov 25, 2023 7:40 pm
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Not looking good for snowy owls so far in Ottawa or anywhere in easterrn Ontario or western Quebec.  It's looking a lot like winter 2010-2011 where few snowy owls showed up.  Let's wait until early to mid-December to see if anything changes.

Probably a poor breeding season up north.  Many of the snowy owls that move down here in the winter are juveniles. I took a drive around the usual hotspot for snowy owl in Ottawa and area.  Nothing I could find around Eagleson, Fallowfield, Akins, Rushmore and Brownlee.  I did see one car parked and prowling one of the roads at dusk but it may or my not be bird related.  More than likely looking for snowy owl.  East end is next

As mentioned, looks to be a normal season for northern hawk owl.  I had a close encounter with one recently.  A story to be told after the season is over.  
 

by OntPhoto on Sun Dec 03, 2023 11:45 pm
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Project SNOWstorm had a new blog post that hinted at a poor breeding season up north.  "This is in keeping with the reports we received from the Canadian Arctic this summer, which suggested a general lack of significant snowy owl breeding activity."  It didn't say 'no' breeding activity but a general lack of significant breeding.  It is kind of weirdly worded.  Maybe intentional :-)

On the otherhand, I already know the location of a few northern hawk owl sightings.  But there are a lot more I don't know about.  Some are too long a drive, so I’m going to forget those.  Good northern hawk owl season but poor season for seeing snowy owls in any significant numbers.  

How about almost none in eastern Ontario.  I'm sure one or two may have made their way down here but no reports.  This isn't a species people worry too much about posting. Never say never but surely in a couple of weeks we'll know for sure.  We had a good run.  

Lastest Blog Post from Project SNOWstorm.

Otter's Summer Rumble - Dec. 2, 2023.


PS.  One day I plan to make it to the Sax Zim Bog.  Think they have reported a Northern Hawk Owl already.  That is one location where they share owl sightings freely.  
 

by wdg on Tue Dec 05, 2023 2:55 pm
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OntPhoto wrote: Project SNOWstorm had a new blog post that hinted at a poor breeding season up north.  "This is in keeping with the reports we received from the Canadian Arctic this summer, which suggested a general lack of significant snowy owl breeding activity."  It didn't say 'no' breeding activity but a general lack of significant breeding.  It is kind of weirdly worded.  Maybe intentional :-)

On the otherhand, I already know the location of a few northern hawk owl sightings.  But there are a lot more I don't know about.  Some are too long a drive, so I’m going to forget those.  Good northern hawk owl season but poor season for seeing snowy owls in any significant numbers.  

How about almost none in eastern Ontario.  I'm sure one or two may have made their way down here but no reports.  This isn't a species people worry too much about posting. Never say never but surely in a couple of weeks we'll know for sure.  We had a good run.  

Lastest Blog Post from Project SNOWstorm.

Otter's Summer Rumble - Dec. 2, 2023.


PS.  One day I plan to make it to the Sax Zim Bog.  Think they have reported a Northern Hawk Owl already.  That is one location where they share owl sightings freely.  
Sax Zim Bog wonderful area - great grays are there every winter. 
Come down from Canada into Minnesota- northern Minnesota is another great area for great grays and northern hawk owls. 
One year I located 23 great grays in a day in that area. Message me for specific locations if you decide to travel. 
Hope you can make it. 
 

by OntPhoto on Mon Dec 11, 2023 8:39 pm
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wdg wrote:
OntPhoto wrote: Project SNOWstorm had a new blog post that hinted at a poor breeding season up north.  "This is in keeping with the reports we received from the Canadian Arctic this summer, which suggested a general lack of significant snowy owl breeding activity."  It didn't say 'no' breeding activity but a general lack of significant breeding.  It is kind of weirdly worded.  Maybe intentional :-)

On the otherhand, I already know the location of a few northern hawk owl sightings.  But there are a lot more I don't know about.  Some are too long a drive, so I’m going to forget those.  Good northern hawk owl season but poor season for seeing snowy owls in any significant numbers.  

How about almost none in eastern Ontario.  I'm sure one or two may have made their way down here but no reports.  This isn't a species people worry too much about posting. Never say never but surely in a couple of weeks we'll know for sure.  We had a good run.  

Lastest Blog Post from Project SNOWstorm.

Otter's Summer Rumble - Dec. 2, 2023.


PS.  One day I plan to make it to the Sax Zim Bog.  Think they have reported a Northern Hawk Owl already.  That is one location where they share owl sightings freely.  
Sax Zim Bog wonderful area - great grays are there every winter. 
Come down from Canada into Minnesota- northern Minnesota is another great area for great grays and northern hawk owls. 
One year I located 23 great grays in a day in that area. Message me for specific locations if you decide to travel. 
Hope you can make it. 
Thanks.  I know there was a pair at the Bog and think they stayed into he summer.  I was tempted to visit last winter because there was a lack of northern hawk owls up here but the Bog was hit and miss as well for this species based on reports I had read. 

This fall and winter, we are OK for northern hawk owl.  A couple have already been reported nearby.  I drove by one back in November.  It was likely still on the move.  

Also, this is the winter preceding the next expected irruption winter (winter 2024-2025) for great gray owls if they stick to the 4-year cycle.  Winters preceding and following an irruption winter tend to see several owls moving down here into eastern Ontario and western Quebec.  

As you know, Snowy owls are slow this fall in eastern Ontario and western Quebec.  A few will likely trickle in just like they did back in winter 2010-2011.  The next couple of weeks will be telling.  

Ever since I have been paying attention to the movement of owls, fall / winter 2010-2011 was the only other time where I recall seeing very few snowy owls only a week or two away from the Christmas holidays.  It is now Dec. 14, 2023 and very little in the way of snowy owl sightings.  Plenty of snow cover on the ground already but warming up later in the week.  I can always try and compare the weather of winter 2010-2011 to this fall and see if any similarities and its possible association with lack of snowy owls.  Mostly it's due to a poor breeding season up north.  
 

by OntPhoto on Thu Dec 14, 2023 12:56 pm
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Image
Map of snowy owls for December 14, 2023.


Map of snowy owls for December 2010 (winter 2010-2011).
Image
 

by OntPhoto on Mon Dec 18, 2023 8:56 am
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There are a number of these owks around this fall and soon winter.  I have seen at least one every year for the last 20 years.  It is my favourite winter owl even moreso than the great gray owl.  Some of the people I have run into are still expecting snowy owls to fly in soon.  Anything is possible but the odds are against it based on the indications so far which is backed up by snowy owl nesting research up north showing it was a poor breeding season this past summer.  Well, these northern hawk owls will make up for it this winter. 

Taken with the Canon R6 MK2 and Canon 100-400L IS (v.1).  Manual exposure mode and heavily cropped. The lens is 20-years old but still works great.  It did spend roughly 10 years sitting on the shelf in-between.  So, 20 year old lens but only 10 years of actual use, the key to its long life?.  

Image
 

by OntPhoto on Wed Dec 20, 2023 9:43 pm
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Four more days before Christmas and no change in snowy owl numbers here.  I'm not expecting any significant change.  Winter 2010-2011 which saw very few snowy owls is similar to this year.  

Owls are my favourite subject and I make it my business to know their behaviour and habits.  I pay close attention to the cyclical nature of the northern or boreal forest owls.  Lots of research out there already and I compare the research with personal observations.
 

by wdg on Thu Dec 21, 2023 12:59 pm
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Finally found a Snowy - been around a couple of days. Nice to see.
Most likely an immature from plumage. 
Another SNOW was found about 70 miles south of me.
However, for an area that usually sees at least one a day, it’s discouraging. 
 

by wdg on Thu Dec 21, 2023 1:01 pm
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OntPhoto wrote: Four more days before Christmas and no change in snowy owl numbers here.  I'm not expecting any significant change.  Winter 2010-2011 which saw very few snowy owls is similar to this year.  

Owls are my favourite subject and I make it my business to know their behaviour and habits.  I pay close attention to the cyclical nature of the northern or boreal forest owls.  Lots of research out there already and I compare the research with personal observations.
Winter isn’t winter without a snowy 😁
 

by OntPhoto on Sat Dec 23, 2023 6:11 am
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wdg wrote: Finally found a Snowy - been around a couple of days. Nice to see.
Most likely an immature from plumage. 
Another SNOW was found about 70 miles south of me.
However, for an area that usually sees at least one a day, it’s discouraging. 
Hey, congrats!  Extremely low snowy owl numbers here in Ottawa, eastern Ontario and western Quebec.  You know what a disappoointing snowy owl year means?  We've hit the bottom and better years are coming.   The owl's cyclical nature and my glass is half full attitude.  :-)   Attitude aside, it's the science.  
 

by OntPhoto on Sat Dec 23, 2023 8:58 am
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Project SNOWstorm's latest blog post on how this winter is similar to Winter 2010-2011.  

I had a feeling back in mid to late November that it was going to be a poor fall and winter for seeing snowy owls. You heard it here first :-)  This was based on snowy owl numbers typically expected in eastern Ontario for the month of October and November.  Moreso for November.  I wanted to call it by mid-November but wasn't sure until late November into early December.

Link to latest Project SNOWstorm blog post dated December 22, 2023.

They mention the possibility of the avian flu affecting snowy owl numbers.

It's Quiet.  Too Quiet?


PS.  Keep in mind, this winter wil be a winter preceding the next expected great gray owl irruption (winter 2024 to 2025) if it keeps to the 4-year cycle.  Preceding and following winters to an irruption year can expect to see a number of these owls down here.  Of course if it turns out to be the odd 5-year cycle then all bets are off.  Great gray owls tend to show up in Ottawa around mid-January.  There are never any guarantees when it comes to owls but data collected over several decades have provided some insight into their movement and what to expect.  So, let's see. 

UPDATE:  December 26, 2023.  Well, one snowy owl trickled into the Casselman, St-Isidore area (about 50km east of Ottawa off the 417) recently based on a report to eBird.  You can be sure everyone is looking at eBird for the first sighting of snowy owls.  St-Isidore is an annual hotspot for seeing snowy owls.  Well, at least I get to see one snowy owl this winter. 
 

by OntPhoto on Fri Jan 05, 2024 12:36 am
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One last look at snowy owls for this winter.  Almost none are around here in eastern Ontario to western Quebec.  However, out west in Sakatchewan there seems to be a good number of snowy owl reports.  

Northern hawk owls continue and is a very good winter for seeing one. No great gray owl reports yet but they're more into the middle of January.  Lack of snow cover may mean they don't have to move too south to find food.  But I think a couple are around already but just not reported to eBird.  

UpdateJan. 12, 2024.  Saw my first snowy owl of the season as it flew across the 417 near St-Isidore.  


Second northern hawk owl of the season.  I have seen at least one every year for the last 20 years.  2024 is covered :-)
Image
 

by OntPhoto on Tue Jan 16, 2024 12:42 pm
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Latest blog post from Project SNOWstorm.  Jan 15, 2024.  Having a lot of snow on the ground and colder temps may help to push some southward?  There are still very few snowy owls around.  

Right about now is when we should have seen more reports of great gray owl but very few have been reported so far.  I'm sure a couple are around but people are keeping it quiet.

Finally - Owls!
 

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