It's been quite a winter with sightings of Snowy Owls. We had an irruption of these majestic birds in the winter of 2013/2014. This winter, they called it an "echo", kinda like a smaller irruption. The 2103/14 winter, I stopped counting at 2 dozen. This winter, I gave up before I really got started. I made mention of that in a blog back in January. I took it easy and just enjoyed the show. I only wish I did what I said I was going to do and document my "encounters" because that number would be staggering. So many nights coming home from work I've spotted these birds along the stretch of the 401. Most nights one bird, sometimes two and a few nights up to four I spotted in what is probably a 10 km stretch of road.
There was a lull back in December for a few weeks. I heard they were trapping the Owls around Pearson Airport and relocating them. Within a couple weeks, I was seeing birds once again, just out of range of Pearson. I was fortunate to spend many lunch breaks with an Owl or two near the Pepsi plant in Mississauga. We had a nasty storm in February, everything iced up, the weather turned frigid for what felt like forever and suddenly the birds were gone again.
March rolled in. Spring was approaching. I figured that was it for steady sightings but could probably spot a few migrants in the coming weeks. And that is happening now. I've had one or two Owls 3 of 4 nights so far this week. Last week I had 2 nights of the 5 spotting one Owl. Same Owls? Perhaps? So hard to tell since they are nomadic and move with where they can find food. Hence my want to count the encounters instead of really trying to count Owls.
I get a whopping 30 minute break in my 8 hour shift. In those 30 minutes, I have my lunch, get out to the nearby Tim's for my coffee and do little drive around a couple spots no more than a few blocks from the plant. It's a nice break, taking in the fresh air, the noise of the traffic and passing planes doesn't bother me as it's nothing compared to sitting on a 16,000 lb propane forklift with the motor right under my seat (add all the production lines running, producing those Pepsi products for the masses). Yes, the outdoors, I can shut those things out and tune into the natural world. Hell, even the radio gets shut off so I can focus on my surroundings better.
Please note, any 401 sightings do not have me pulling over for photos. I don't care if it's day or night, it's not worth the risk of getting killed for a photo op (not to me anyway). If the birds are in vicinity of some back roads, I may take the next exit and seek them out. Most nights though I grin at the sight of them and continue my journey home.
It's funny how people get wow'd by what I see after dark in a rather busy part of Mississauga. To me, and other bird buds, it's really freakin' cool but not beyond belief. It's what interests me. It's part of my passion, seeing and being amongst the wildlife around us. I get wow'd by the guys who know stats on their fave hockey players, sometimes the whole team. Sure I like hockey but I'm not that "into" it.
My night sightings intrigued Angie enough to wake me one Sunday morning at the wee hour of 3am to go look for some. We found 2 about 10 minutes from our home.
It's a very different experience seeing the birds at night. They are active because they chose to be active and not because they are being flushed by someone getting much too close for a better photo. It is peaceful for me because it's just the Owl and I. I may have just finished work 20 minutes ago but that is out of my memory at this point. I almost forget that work thing when I'm on lunch and the clock is ticking.
It's March 27th. I wonder how many more encounters I will have before they are gone?
Enjoy the night photos, some are cool and ghostly, nothing museum quality, but they are memories of a fantastic winter with these Owls, and the best winter to date for me personally. This may not happen again for another 5 years.
Flash is never used. I use manual settings and take advantage of the "natural" HA city lighting around us.
If you are still here, have yourselves a fine weekend!