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Snowy Owl Sighting At Frenchman’s Bay – Ontario

Posted by on February 24, 2013

Snowy Owl sits on icey Frenchman's Bay - Ontario - Canada

A Snowy Owl Sits On The Ice In Frenchman’s Bay

After one failed attempt, Bob and I made our way back to the shores of Frenchman’s Bay in Pickering, Ontario, to see if we could spot the Snowy Owl that has been making its stay there during the past winter.  We drove to a little park on the east shore of the bay, and started scanning with our binoculars.

Frenchman's Bay - winter - Pickering - Ontario

This was our view of Frenchman’s Bay when we first arrived at Progress Frenchman’s Bay East Park.  It took a good 20 minutes of scanning the surface of the frozen bay before I picked out what I thought to be the hard-to-distinguish white owl.  The Snowy Owl was on the ice on the far side of the bay, approximately in front of the yacht club.

Snowy Owl sits on ice with catch- Frenchman's Bay - Ontario - Canada

In order to get close enough for picture taking, we drove around to the yacht club where we walked out on a series of docks for a better vantage point.

Snowy Owl - eating prey on ice - Frenchman's Bay - Ontario - Canada

The owl was tearing into prey that it had caught earlier in the morning.

Snowy Owl - eating prey  - Frenchman's Bay - Ontario - Canada

Snowy Owl flies over Frenchman's Bay - Ontario - Canada

Eventually, the Snowy Owl moved off, and as it glided across the bay, we could see the dark-colored prey in the owl’s talons.

Snowy Owl - holds prey and looks at Canada geese- Frenchman's Bay - Ontario - Canada

The owl landed within sight of other waterfowl that were enjoying the open water of the bay.  Only a week earlier, the bay had been completely frozen over.  Although eyeing the other birds in its vicinity, the Snowy Owl was still preoccupied with its earlier catch that was still secure in its claws.

Snowy Owls - back - looking at ducks  - Frenchman's Bay - Ontario - Canada

Snowy Owl looks about on ice with catch- Frenchman's Bay - Ontario - Canada

Snowy Owl - eating prey- Frenchman's Bay - Ontario - Canada

It was easy to see why the Snowy Owl had chosen this location to hang out over the winter.  There certainly were ample species of birds in the area that the Snowy Owl could choose to feast upon.

In this video that Bob filmed, the Snowy Owl takes in its surroundings on a mild winter’s day.

Ice fishermen - Frenchman's Bay - Ontario - Canada

Despite the drizzly, overcast day, numerous ice fishermen were situated around the western shore of the bay trying for some pike, perhaps for the last time this season before it gets too risky to be on the ice.

Snowy Owl sits on ice - Frenchman's Bay - Ontario - Canada

The Snowy Owl seemed quite at home within sight of the fishermen, who, when questioned, weren’t even aware of the owl’s presence even though it sat on the ice about a hundred feet from them.

Frenchman's Bay - owl is out on the ice - Pickering - Ontario

Eventually we made our way over to Bruce Hanscombe Memorial Park, still on the west shore of the bay, and Bob decided to walk out on the frozen surface in order to get a closer look at the owl.

Ice fishermen heads out on ice - Frenchman's Bay - Ontario - Canada

The ice of the bay was literally treacherous to walk upon since all snow had melted and left a glassy, slippery surface.  Nevertheless, using the fishermen as a makeshift blind, Bob walked out amongst the undaunted sportsmen, hoping that the owl wouldn’t take notice of his presence.

Snowy Owl - hides catch with its wings- Frenchman's Bay - Ontario - Canada

Snowy Owls have a luxurious feather coat that is ideal for a life in the cold.  Their feet are densely feathered to the tips of their toes, and their bills are almost hidden in the warm feathers of the face.  Only the searching yellow eyes are fully exposed.

Snowy Owls - back  - Frenchman's Bay - Ontario - Canada

As Bob edged closer to the owl, he was able to see that it was being protective of its spoils, having lowered its wings to shelter the kill from pilferage.

Snowy Owl gives me a lookover - Frenchman's Bay - Ontario - Canada

Bob only made movements to adjust the camera or creep closer when the owl had its back turned.

Snowy Owl sits on icey Frenchman's Bay -  Ontario - Canada

We observed the bird for at least 2 1/2 hours, during which time, the owl was tearing apart and consuming its quarry.  It must have been a substantially sized bird that the owl caught that morning.

Snowy Owl on ice - Frenchman's Bay - Ontario - Canada

Snowy Owls appear in southern Canada about one winter in every four, and this correlates with the scarcity of lemmings in the Arctic.

Snowy Owl - profile on ice - Frenchman's Bay - Ontario - Canada

Snowy Owls are as large as Great Horned Owls but lack ear tufts.  I think this is an adult female which is more heavily marked than an adult male.  Adult males are mostly white, and in some cases immaculately white.

Snowy Owl gives me a closer look

We left the Snowy Owl still secure in its camouflaged position on the frozen bay.  We wonder how much longer it will reside there before making its return trip to the Arctic.

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Frame To Frame – Bob & Jean

10 Responses to Snowy Owl Sighting At Frenchman’s Bay – Ontario

  1. BBennett

    Wow. That looks like what i saw in my neighbours tree but thought couldn’t be a snowy owl in the city. But I think it was!
    (Gerrard and Greenwood area, toronto)

    • frametoframe

      Wow, that is amazing! I never think of a Snowy Owl sitting in a tree, I guess because I used to think of them as strictly an Arctic bird. I am learning as I go along.

  2. Jocelyn

    Really enjoy reading your entries that are in the Durham region areas, paralleling where my boyfriend and I also love to walk and spot creatures. We have not seen the snowy yet. There was however, one that spent the winter last year around Whitby Marina, which we discovered in Oct 2011 or so and saw many times albeit from a distance lol!

    Your photojournal blog is very interesting, thank you for sharing your adventures.

    Jocelyn

    • frametoframe

      I am glad that you enjoy following our pursuits in the wild. Getting out and enjoying nature, through hiking or skiing, puts a whole different face on winter. I actually look forward, in the fall, to the approach of winter weather. The cold months speed by when we are active.

  3. EG CameraGirl , Canada

    Glad you found the snowy owl. I’d heard it was out on the ice and I see this is so!

    • frametoframe

      Yes, we were glad to find it too. We hadn’t had many opportunities to drive out to Frenchman’s Bay since the owl had been sighted there, so spotting it on our second attempt was indeed lucky.

  4. hazel maria blakeley

    The Snowy Owl is no more than a rare winter visitor to northern Britain.So thank you Bob and Jean for this blog—i felt as if i had experienced the sighting myself.

    • Tim Upham

      Have lots of rain in Svalbard, and it will drive them down to the British Isles.

    • frametoframe

      thanks for saying so, Hazel. Bob and I like to share the experience of finding wildlife as well as the actual pictures of the birds or animals. I’m glad you enjoyed reading about the Snowy Owl.

  5. Tim Upham

    What drives snowy owls down from the Arctic is rain. Rain will flood the burrows of lemmings, which will drive them out, and do their famous “mass suicides.” So this drives snowy owls, down to the temperate latitudes. It does not just snow in the Arctic all of the time, and rainfall is not a indication of climatic change. What is an indication of climatic change is formation of pack ice, and increased precipitation, in both the form of rain and snow. Decreasing pack ice is affecting mammals, such as the polar bears, ringed seals, ribbon seals, and walruses. But increased snowfall is affecting the caribou and musk oxen, because they calf on the plains, and increased snowfall will drive them up into the mountains. There the calves are more vulnerable to grizzly bear predation. The plains lets them see predators, where they can either run from them, or put them in the center and surround them by adults.

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