ONTARIO – Part 2: The Big Three

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Jan 2, 2009 | by Adrian Binns

We were back on Amherst Island shortly after dawn watching a male Snowy Owl stalking prey and distant Short-eared Owls making their last forays before settling in for the day. It was far warmer and windier today and we seemed to dodge the snow they were calling for this morning. The open water around on the lee side (north) of the island had a good showing of Greater Scaups and Tundra Swans. A nice find was flock of a dozen White-winged Crossbills feeding on spruce cones. This winter there has been a small irruption as the cone crop to the south has been good.

It was the Amherst CBC today, so with many extra pairs of eyes it made locating the owls a little quicker. First up was the Boreal Owl, roosting in a different tree from yesterday followed by a couple of Saw-whet Owls. Seeing these two species in quick succession made it easy to recognize the size and bulk difference between them. We picked up Rough-legged Hawk, American Kestrel and several Northern Harriers on our way to the late morning ferry.

It was a long journey west to the Orillia area, punctuated with the obligatory stop at Tim Horton’s. A very reliable Northern Hawk Owl was exactly where we expected it to be. Perched at the top of a maple tree it was looking all around in search of any unsuspecting rodent. At one stage we had a flock of 40 Bohemian Waxwings land in the same tree and interestingly it did not bother the Hawk Owl one bit. Our next stops produced our target species…Trumpeter Swans, Glaucous and Iceland Gulls.

Through intermittent heavy snow showers at last light, we checked an area where a Great Gray Owl was sighted 10 days earlier. The car came to a screeching halt as one was spotted flying parallel to us, low over a field and up into a tree. What excitement! We watched it for 10 minutes flying around looking for voles, perching in 4 different trees, before it flew over the woods and out of sight. It is not too often that you can say you saw the all the ‘Big Three’ owls in one day.

all photos © adrian binns

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