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Great Grey Owl We Sighted Near Ottawa

Posted by on February 15, 2013

Great Grey Owl looks towards me - Ottawa - Ontario - Canada - Frame To Frame - Bob & Jean picture

A Great Grey Owl In An Ottawa Forest

On a warm winter day, Bob and I lucked out and managed to sight this Great Grey Owl in a forest south of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Bob stands beside Winterlude - ice sculptured Owl

On a whim, we had returned once again to Ottawa, Ontario, to enjoy skating on the frozen Rideau Canal.  This would be our fifth visit to the city, over a number of years,  for the famed winter carnival.  Given our interest in bird watching, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to snap a picture of this handsome owl carved out of a block of ice.

Frozen Ottawa River through trees along shoreline - Canada

On our third day in the city of Ottawa, Bob and I decided to check out a greenbelt along the Ottawa River because we had heard that a Great Grey Owl had been sighted in the woods there.  As we drove along Rockcliffe Parkway, it surprised us to see open sections of water in the river, but there is a swift current that prevents the center of the waterway from freezing.

Rockcliffe Park sign on the Ottawa River - Canada

A lookout provided along the route to the urban park displayed several signs that tell the history of the area.

Ottawa River - frozen with fish huts on it - Canada

Even with open sections of water in the middle of the river, fishermen had set up ice fishing huts all along the shore.

Two people cross-country ski on frozen river in Ottawa - Canada

These two intrepid fishermen were engaged in cross-country skiing from their hut back to the edge of the river.

Frozen Creek 1 South of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

After we parked our car along Rockcliffe Parkway, Bob and I trudged through the deep snow into and through a mixed evergreen and deciduous forest and across a frozen creek bed.

Staghorn Sumac by creek near Ottawa

In amongst the Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) and pine trees were signs of ample wildlife, judging by the tracks in the snow, and the twittering of various birds as they flitted amongst the branches.

Staghorn Sumac Bracts near Ottawa

Although the flowers of sumac are fairly unremarkable, come autumn, the fruit turns to shades of red, rose and mahogany.

Staghorn Sumac Bract in Snow, Ottawa

Numerous sumac bracts or drupes were strewn on the snow with evidence that some small creatures had been eating them.  Tiny tracks were left in the snow leading to the sight of each one.  Rabbits, birds, squirrels and mice all love to gorge on the energy-rich fruit during the winter months.

White Breasted Nuthatch -  Ottawa - Canada

I love the endearing sounds emitted by nuthatches, and even as Bob filmed the location, I could hear some of these birds in the vicinity.  I was pleased to spot a white-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) on a nearby tree trunk, but it repeatedly flew between the tree and a spot on the ground that seemed to hold an attraction for it and a number of Black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapilla).

Great Grey Owl sits high in tree 2 - Ottawa - Ontario - Canada - Frame To Frame - Bob & Jean picture

Deeper in the woods, perched silently in the dappled shade, is where Bob and I located this Great Grey Owl.

Great Grey Owl - sits proud in pine tree 2 - Ottawa - Ontario - Canada - Frame To Frame - Bob & Jean picture

After hiking for about a half hour, we were thrilled when we picked out the profile of the owl where it roosted on a branch about midway up a tree.  We made a point of keeping our distance and letting our lens do the work for us!

Great Grey Owl spots something - Ottawa - Ontario - Canada - Frame To Frame - Bob & Jean picture

As the owl peered into the distance, I wondered what had caught its interest.  A couple of crows were making themselves known, so perhaps the owl was on alert to their potential intrusion.  Or perhaps the owl had noticed some possible prey.  Great Grey Owls often forage during the daytime, especially during the winter.

Great Grey Owl - looks right in pine tree - Ottawa - Ontario - Canada - Frame To Frame - Bob & Jean picture

The camouflage provided by the Great Grey Owl’s plumage makes a perfect cover as it lurks in the trees waiting for some unsuspecting prey to pass by.  The same can be said for all other owls that we have come across, too.

Great Grey Owl - spots something off to its right - Ottawa - Ontario - Canada - Frame To Frame - Bob & Jean picture

Great Grey Owl - looks back over right shoulder in pine tree - Ottawa - Ontario - Canada - Frame To Frame - Bob & Jean picture

Great Grey Owl - back plus tail feathers 2- Ottawa - Ontario - Canada - Frame To Frame - Bob & Jean picture

Bob and I cautiously took our leave of the owl, and then circled back behind it so as to have a view of its back.  The color pattern on its wings is so intricate and makes the feathers almost iridescent in nature.

Great Grey Owl - back plus tail feathers - Ottawa - Ontario - Canada - Frame To Frame - Bob & Jean picture

In are video the owl is acutely aware of us but continues to be relaxed as it preens itself.

Great Grey Owl looks left - Ottawa - Ontario - Canada - Frame To Frame - Bob & Jean picture

Great Grey Owl - Jean takes pictures in forest - Ottawa - Ontario - Canada - Frame To Frame - Bob & Jean picture

It was an unusually warm, sunny day allowing us to really enjoy the setting.

Great Grey Owl - gives me a look - Ottawa - Ontario - Canada - Frame To Frame - Bob & Jean picture

Great Grey Owls have a very large facial disc, conspicuous white throat markings and bright yellow eyes.  What a majestic and wise looking bird!  At times, the owl’s piercing gaze made even me feel uneasy.

Great Grey Owl - sits proud in pine tree - Ottawa - Ontario - Canada - Frame To Frame - Bob & Jean picture

Bob and I observed the owl for about 45 minutes, but it was fairly content in its chosen location so stayed put unlike a Great Grey Owl that I had seen less than two weeks ago well Cross-country skiing in Algonquin Provincial Park, near Oxtongue Lake.  On that occasion, the Great Grey Owl flew in and landed on a branch above my head, took a good look at me, and then took to the air once again.  So we were grateful for this opportunity to get numerous pictures of a member of the same species.

Great Grey Owl preens feathers 2 - Ottawa - Ontario - Canada - Frame To Frame - Bob & Jean picture

Great Grey Owl preens feathers 1 - Ottawa - Ontario - Canada - Frame To Frame - Bob & Jean picture

Great Grey Owl preens feathers 3 - Ottawa - Ontario - Canada - Frame To Frame - Bob & Jean picture

The owl busied itself with preening as the warm breeze ruffled its feathers and the sunshine warmed its back.

In this video that Bob filmed, you get a good opportunity to watch the Great Grey Owl preen its feathers.

Great Grey Owl looks below tree - Ottawa - Ontario - Canada - Frame To Frame - Bob & Jean picture

Great Grey Owl - cross eyed in pine tree - Ottawa - Ontario - Canada - Frame To Frame - Bob & Jean picture

At one point, I had to chuckle as the owl appeared to cross its eyes, but before we knew it, the owl was settling in for a sleep.

Great Grey Owl - time for a snooze in pine tree - Ottawa - Ontario - Canada - Frame To Frame - Bob & Jean picture

We left the owl at rest high up in the tree, most certainly getting ready for its next foray into a neighboring meadow where it will hunt meadow mice.

Great Grey Owl - closeup  - Ottawa - Ontario - Canada - Frame To Frame - Bob & Jean picture

This had been a glorious and very rewarding bird sighting for Bob and I.

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Frame To Frame – Bob & Jean

8 Responses to Great Grey Owl We Sighted Near Ottawa

  1. Eileen

    Cool owl shots! I love the owls and any sighting is great to me!

    • frametoframe

      I feel the same way. Up until this past few months, neither Bob nor I had ever seen any owls in the wild. As a matter of fact, we had thought them rather rare. But with our increased awareness of sightings, and efforts on our part to get out into the forests, we are pleased to see that many different species of owls seem to be alive and well, if not numerous. It is really heartening!

      • timupham

        Screech owls are very difficult to find. They are small and hide deep in conifer thickets. They sound like a cat hissing, and they are terrified of great horned owls, because great horned owls will have for dinner anything they can overpower. In spring look for an abandoned woodpecker hole, a woodpecker will only use it once. Find what interesting birds have taken it over. I one time found an American kestrel, but also different types of owls will take them over too.

        • frametoframe

          thanks for the tips. We have yet to sight a Screech Owl of any kind. Interesting that you should mention how a woodpecker will only use a hole once as I had just learned that this morning when reading up about Pileated Woodpeckers.

  2. hazel maria blakeley

    I was enthralled reading this and seeing your photos.You are truly inspirational in your blogs.Thank you Bob and Jean.

    • frametoframe

      It means a lot when you say that we are inspirational. Anything that we can do to raise awareness and appreciation for nature is a good thing. I think nature is amazing and awe-inspiring.

  3. timupham

    I hope there are lots of voles for that great grey owl to eat. They are not generalist hunters, like the great horned owl is.

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