Owl back

A bit of brighter weather tempted me out today. I was going to scour the lanes to try to find a February Snowy Owl, but had to drop into St-Lazare town first. On the way out I had to go past the the fields that had hosted the Great Grey Owl until last Thursday. Naturally I cast a glance and there was the familiar oval blob. Plans changed and so I slushed along the skidiot trail hoping to take advantage of the good light. The thaw is underway here and the snow such fun to walk on, it being a couple of feet deep and full of surprises!

The owl took flight as I reached the area and jumped onto a featureless bit of snow then hopped about a bit, looking surprised that it had missed. It stayed on the ground behind some vegetation for a few minutes then flew about 80m away to do the classic ‘look at me’ thing on another sapling top. I watched for a while taking record shots with the new camera, as much to see what it would produce and expecting very little. The owl was clearly in hunting mode having had another sally at some unseen rodent, the latest escapade bringing it a bit nearer. Sensing that there might be some more action, I moved slowly through the snow and parallel in order to get the sun behind me, I then waited.

Eventually the owl launched groundwards again, landing on the open snow roughly 50m away from me, snap, snap, snap. I used the camera on maximum optical zoom plus some shots using the digital zoom too. I also fiddled around taking manual and auto shots, it was almost a toy camera workshop. Bored with stomping around, the owl then settled on an unfeasibly thin stalk just above the ground and set about doing some 360° scanning – all without moving its body. Boots full of snow and trousers wet to the formerly important bits (I am 55 and I’ll get some feeling back by July!), I sloshed back to the car happy, leaving the owl busy with another yet featureless spot in the snow.

Below are the fruits of my labour. There are also a couple of context photos but mostly cropped close up views. BTW, this is a different owl from last Thursday so now I’ve seen both.

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Effort rewarded

The Great Grey Owl influx has attracted a lot of birders wanting to connect with what is one of the great owls of the World. I had a request from Mikkel, a Dane living in New York and who had great grey gap in his life experience. I am always happy to help birders and so it was that we met up in St-Lazare Friday for the ‘guaranteed’ bird which had been around since 29-Dec-2012.

In his enthusiasm, Mikkel arrived after 1pm; the owl normally arrives after 4pm. We did a perfunctory search but ‘Old Faithful’ was presumably somewhere deep in the scrub. Plan B was to try around Senneville where three birds had been seen. We found the photographers but no bird, none had been seen that day mmm. I felt very confident that we would still get the bird at St-Lazare so we went back, followed by Bruce who was also keen to see the bird, preferably through the lens of his camera.

We walked and scanned and scanned and walked and the owl, that had shown so well the evening before, simply refused to show. Down, but not out, Mikkel retreated to a local hotel and we arranged to meet back at St-Lazare Saturday morning in the hope that the bird had not gone too far.

The sky said snow later and it did not lie. We searched the area at St-Lazare briefly but it was not there, back to plan B. This time Mikkel followed in his car and we split up the search area, he going along Senneville Road, me checking east to Cap St-Jacques. I managed to find distant bird in fields south of the road and called Mikkel, aren’t cell phones wonderful. Mikkel came haring back and enthused over the reasonable (but not great) views.

I had a hunch that we might be closer if we pretended to have dead relatives in St-Genevieve Cemetery and so it proved. We trekked out behind the cemetery and across some fields, me expecting the French version of “get orf moy larnd” (it’s phonetic) but it never came. After 250m of snow tramping we found ourselves a respectful distance from the bird, getting excellent views.

I left Mikkel still gushing and noted the first flakes starting to drift down, five minutes later another fall of white s**t (to quote a friend) had begun.

The weather people are saying that the warm is on the way, the average temp bar easing to positive. How long the magical owl of the north will stick is anyone’s guess – I hope they do stick a bit longer though, more admirers might be on the way.

Below shots from today.

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Still around

After a fruitless drive around looking for Great Grey Owls in the area yesterday, well not entirely fruitless as two Ruffed Grouse in the crown of a tree nipping buds were most welcome, today I went back to old faithful, the Great Grey Owl we found at St-Lazare on the 29th-December CBC. I had been past the chosen spot a few times recently and had an idle scan from the car without seeing it but a couple of birders saw it yesterday so I had another go and there it was. The light was kaka as the sun had gone down the residue was right behind it but I ramped up the camera to ISO-800 and rattled off a few, the best of which is below.