Great Grey Owl we spotted near Ottawa

Great Grey Owl we spotted near Ottawa

Great Grey Owl sitting on tree limb in a forest near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

What a beautiful specimen of the owl family…

Great Grey Owl sitting in a forest near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

On a trip to Ottawa, Bob and I lucked out and managed to sight this Great Grey Owl in a forest south of the city.

Bob stands beside ice sculptured Owl at Winterlude in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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.

Winter on the Ottawa River near Ottawa, Ontario, 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.

Fishing huts on the Ottawa River near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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

Fishing hut on the Ottawa River near Ottawa

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.

Bob Films South of Ottawa

Mild temperatures negated the need for toques or even gloves.

Staghorn Sumac by creek near Ottawa, Ontario

In amongst the Staghorn Sumac 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, Ontario

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

Staghorn Sumac Bract on snow near Ottawa, Ontario

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 on tree near Ottawa, Ontario, 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 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.

Great Grey Owl on tree branch near Ottawa, Ontario

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

Great Grey Owl in pine tree near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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 on the ground near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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 backwards in a tree near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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 near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Great Grey Owl looks over its right shoulder in a pine tree near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Great Grey Owl in tree near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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 in tree near Ottawa

In our video you will see that the owl is acutely aware of us but continues to be relaxed as it preens itself.  The wind is gently ruffling its feathers.

Great Grey Owl in tree near Ottawa

Jean takes photograph of a Great Grey Owl in tree near Ottawa

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

Great Grey Owl near Ottawa, Ontario

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 on tree limb near Ottawa, Ontario

Bob and I observed the owl for about 45 minutes, but it was fairly content in its chosen location so stayed put.   So we were grateful for this opportunity to get numerous pictures of the owl.

Great Grey Owl preens feathers near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Great Grey Owl preens feathers near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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

In our video, you get a good opportunity to watch the Great Grey Owl preen its feathers.

Great Grey Owl looks towards the ground beneath a tree near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Great Grey Owl sleeps in a tree near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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 sleeps in a tree near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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 near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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

You May Also Enjoy:

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Eastern Screech Owl: A Master of Disguise In Burlington, Ontario

Black-backed Woodpecker in Algonquin Provincial Park

A Black-backed woodpecker in Algonquin Provincial Park

Eastern bluebird along the Brant Waterloo Road near Cambridge, Ontario, Canada

Eastern Bluebird Sighting Near Cambridge

Frame To Frame – Bob and Jean


  • Have pictures of Owl (grey) behind Hillcrest High School on the path in the woods Dec 9 2017

  • Bob and Jean
    I now remember how I first met you wonderful folk. It was this forum which led me to become a member of Ontario Bird ID’s and Sightings. Great piece of work about the Great Grey, am still hoping to see one. Keep up the good work you two The ambassadors of Bird Life

    • Thank you for such kind words, Wendy. I am just thankful that we have met so many wonderful people through our bird watching activities in the field and online. We really strive to make people aware of the fantastic wildlife and outdoor spaces that abound here in Ontario as well as abroad. It seems a small effort compared to others, but hope that it will bring about better understanding and appreciation for the wonders of Nature. We are glad to have met so many like-minded people. That is an added extra bonus.

  • Happy to know that they are back! Great creatures!

  • Beautiful footage and photos. Thank you for sharing this.

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