Shooting Snowy Owls by Karl Egressy
Insert from my book, Birds of Ontario, A Photographer's Journal. "Breeding takes place on the Tundra. They build their nest on the ground. The staple diet is rodents, mostly lemmings. They also feed on birds and small mammals. Some individuals spend the winter in Southern Ontario and Northern USA. We find them on farmlands of southern Ontario.
Size: 23" from head to tail, weighs 1830 g (4 lb)"
For me and probably for most of us, going to the breeding ground, is out of reach. The good news is that some individuals will come down south to spend most of the winter month here. Based on my experience, Snowy Owls can be found in southern Ontario every winter. The question is; when and where to look for and how to find them.
Let's discuss the time frame first. My wife and I start looking for them towards the end of November, early December. We would find them throughout the winter until middle of March. The other question is what time of the day is good.
They are diurnal hunters, but prefer hunting early in the morning and late in the afternoon, and early evening. For some reason we like the afternoon hours, very rarely look for them early in the morning. The other question is where to look for. The reason they come down from the Tundra is to find food and hunting territory for the winter.
There might be a shortage of food or they are first year birds and they were disposed by older individuals, including their own parents. As they are heading south, they are looking for areas, similar to their breeding habitat.
Flat or relatively flat farmlands with very few shrubs and trees are the ones that come close to their northern habitat. If you have an area like this relatively close to where you live, you have a good chance finding them. We like to be in the area at around 2:00 PM.
We would then drive along lightly traveled country roads at a very slow speed keeping an eye on the snow covered fields. They would sit in the snow during the day. The way to find them is to look for a blob of white, whiter than the snow. Those are the males. The females are a blob of white with some pattern on them. Once you find them, the waiting game starts.
At one point they will fly out to their favourite perch that can be a shrub, tree, fence post, utility post, or a bale of hay. If the perch looks good, you can take a static shot. If the perch is not preferable, you can patiently wait until they fly as they always do. We never bait them since they are so close to roads and baiting could eventually end up in a run over Owl.
I like Owls and Snowy Owl is my second most liked Owls on the list. We go out as many times as we can. To look for them feels good, and finding them is very rewarding.
If you can get some good shots, it is a bonus. Happy Owling.