Owls fascinate me. They are definitely a passion of mine from a photographic perspective. But, I think that what I love most about owls is their behaviour. We learn lots from just simply sitting and observing them. This is a time of year when there are three owls that I look for – great gray owls; northern hawk owls; and great horned owls. Great grays and hawk owls are both active during the day time. Because the the leaves are off the trees, they are easier to see. Northern hawk owls can be seen in Riding Mountain during the winter months.
How to watch for owls
What is involved in looking for owls? A good pair of eyes – knowing what to look for, and learning to look at the landscape to distinguish the shape of an owl; being out at the right time of day for nocturnal owls (great horned owls, or spring arrivals of saw-whet or boreal owls); having a pair of bright field binoculars and a spotting scope; a field guide – either book or electronic editions; and being warmly dressed. Often, you are standing outdoors for short periods of time. By being warmly dressed, you’ll be able to persist and watch.
Great gray owl in spruce
Here is a photograph of a great gray owl I noticed, as I was driving along. It swooped low across the road and then up into a spruce tree. If I had not noticed its flight, I likely would not have noticed it in the tree. It is very well camouflaged.
Earth Rhythms creates small group photo safaris to learn how to use your digital camera in new ways. Along the way we spot birds, photograph tracks, and share stories about Riding Mountain wildlife. Bring your family or friends. Combine it with a stay at a local resort or a visit with friends in the area. Call us at 1.888.301.0030, or visit Earth Rhythms online. Happy owling!
I’ve had a couple of really delightful days with guests from California – discussing the implications of climate change policies, legislation, and tourism. These wonderful folks had spent a few days in Churchill, Manitoba viewing polar bears and decided to come down to Riding Mountain National Park for a couple of days of wildlife viewing and photography.
While we were skunked on moose in the more accessible locations of travel, we did have quite a photo session with a beautiful Great Gray Owl in the middle of a light snowfall.
As well, we spotted a fisher (infrequent sightings), and had a few minutes to observe and photograph a badger. A highlight was photographing snowflakes in the middle of a very thick snowfall and discovering some optical illusions reflected in the surface of water that were best captured with video. A morning sunlight session today with bison topped off a great couple of days.
One of the things that was wonderful about working with these guests is that they understood that wildlife are not predictable. They enjoyed the “zen of just being out there”, experiencing the landscape, the falling snow, bison behaviour, and the remarkable moments with the great gray owl, the fisher, and the badger.
Yesterday, we left at about 6:00 AM, Stephanie Lisoway, an enterprising young writer with the Neepawa Banner in Neepawa, Manitoba. (Neepawa is the birth-place of Margaret Laurence, the well-known Canadian writer). Stephanie contacted me some weeks back, asking if she could head out for a morning of wildlife viewing and a short photo safari. She felt that the 13,000 readers of the Neepawa Banner would like to know what we do, as an outdoor learning adventure company.
We had a great morning. I am grateful to be able to live beside a national park, where I can be reminded of the bio-diversity of life, where the water that comes out of the national park is rich with invertebrates, and where wild nature re-connects me each day to the why I enjoy inspiring and putting visitors in touch with the beauty of our planet. She has kindly provided us with a downloadable pdf link of the article – Hidden Gem In Our Own Backyard– that she wrote. Thank you Stephanie!
The video below gives you some short insights into a few memorable moments of wildlife that we encountered during our morning photo safari into Riding Mountain National Park. A lost gosling, a white-tailed deer buck feeding, whose antlers were in velvet, young bison calves, some beautiful footage of our bird of Manitoba – the great gray owl, and a gray catbird singing its heart out…be patient; it will take a few seconds to load, as it is saved for high speed broadband viewing.
We were going for our regular afternoon walk yesterday, just outside Riding Mountain National Park, where we live. Another reminder that we live in paradise…a Great Gray Owl flew softly, with large slow wing beats across the road in front of us and perched in a snag off on the hillside. My wife has seen three different species of owls here this winter – a Long-eared owl (most unusual), a Great Horned Owl (common), and now a Great Gray Owl (unusual). Riding Mountain National Park is a great spot to bird-watch during the day, and watch stars by night.
Earth Rhythms facilitates both kinds of experiences. Call 1.204.848.4680 to reserve a customized adventure to look for wildlife.