Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Snowy Owls

Snowy Owls are making a rare visit to the Vancouver Lower Mainland area this winter. A group of Owls is called a parliament, and we have been lucky enough to host them "in session" this winter at Boundary Bay in Delta, British Columbia.
Snowy Owl
A local television station reported "Birdwatchers are flocking to Boundary Bay in Metro Vancouver to catch a glimpse of Snowy Owls, which migrate south only once every four or five years". In fact on the day I went to see the owls the bird watchers outnumbered the owls.

The Snowy Owl is the biggest of the North American Owls at about two feet tall and can weight from 1.5 to 3 kilograms (3.5 to 6.6 lbs). It is also known as the Arctic Owl, Great White Owl or Harfang and it is the official bird of the Canadian province of Quebec.

The adult male is virtually pure white, but females and young birds have some dark scalloping. Most of the owls I saw were probably females or younger owls.

Snowy Owls have thick white plumage and heavily feathered taloned feet, making them well suited for life north of the Arctic Circle where they usually live year round feeding on lemmings. However, every few years the lemming population declines in their usual habitat and they come south looking for other prey.  Lemmings, by the way, do not indulge in periodic mass suicides.

Since they gather here infrequently, they are attracting a lot of attention. It was cool, frosty morning so I also took a few shots of frosty plants.

The owls hunt at dawn and dusk and doze in between. My shots were taken late morning and I was behind the cameras with the long lenses, so I have cropped and resized some of the pictures.

This owl was giving its head a good scratch, so its eyes were open and below you can see its foot and talons.

These two owls were watching the photographers around them; their heads really do spin around rather like tops.

This beautiful video on the "Snowy Owl Invasion" is from the Cornell Ornithology Lab:
"Snowy Owls lead nomadic lives and travel vast distances from year to year searching for productive feeding areas. Some years, most recently in the winter of 2011/2012, conditions cause them to come south in great numbers.  Get an intimate look at these white owls from the north through video and photographs captured by the our photographer, Gerrit Vyn."

One last frosty plant shot.

One very important thing to remember when you are on a photographing expedition is to take along everything you will need including spare camera batteries; another important thing is to remember to charge the batteries! On this particular trip my spare battery wasn't charged, so the trip ended sooner than I had planned.

I am way behind on my blogging and have not been able to keep up with the blogs I usually follow because my Mother's health has taken a turn for the worse just recently and she has been admitted to hospital. Thank you to everyone that has visited my blog and especially to those that have left comments. I hope things return to normal soon, but I rather think it will be a while yet.

Here are a couple of my new works; both are watercolours. My search for colour has led me to paint these bright paintings featuring spring blooms:
Bright Spring Colour

First Daffodils
 More new works next week and I'll tell you more about the painting course that I have been taking.

Here's a favorite song of mine from many years ago, Cat Stevens, Moonshadow:

Happy Whimsy Wednesday, until next week.....


  1. The bright spring paintings illustrate your talent for capturing the crepe-like quality of a flower petal. Beautiful work, Gillian. The laissez faire expressions of the snowy owls are priceless. These creatures remind me a little of snowmen with feathers. Hope their visits mean they are looking for warmer NOT colder climate. Also, so sorry to hear about your mom. I’m sure you bring her much comfort and hope she is better soon.

  2. first, your paintings are beautiful. i especially like the first one. second, i hope your mother can return to better health! i know you must be stressed and worried. third, i just love these gorgeous owls! how lucky you are to see them! fascinating creatures!

  3. I love your watercolors and great shots and information about the owls. They are such beauties.

  4. Sorry to hear about your mom.

    Love your Paintings and the snowy Owl.

  5. First, my very best to your mother, Gillian!

    Lovely shots of the owls. I'm hoping the photographers were showing more consideration on the day of your visit than we saw when we were there. The owls are here because they need nourishment and for some reason, their natural habitat comes up short every few years. Stress and especially being forced into flight burns calories and lessens their likelihood of safely making the long trip back to their breeding grounds. I'm sure you were one of those respectful ones, but I feel as though we need to speak on behalf of the owls to those who do not understand their vulnerability.

  6. Gillian what a great Blog! I love the Snowy Owls..I enjoyed seeing them out there too......but your photos are so much better than mine.....must get a better camera?

    I'm sorry your Mom is in the hospital.... hope she is getting better?

    Love to hear about your course,,, and your paintings of Spring Daff's are beautiful!

    see youFriday Marilyn

  7. Your paintings are magnificent!
    I've never seen an owl in the wild ...... What a treat!

  8. I love your Snowy Owl and the music.

  9. Very interesting about the snowy owl, Gillian. There have been sightings of snowy owls in several places here this winter.

    But the very unusual sighting of a Great Grey Owl has been making the news lately. I personally have not seen it though.

  10. lucky you! That snowy owl is a rare sight. We certainly don´t have them. Nice shots.

  11. Love those snowy owls and your work is beautiful.

  12. Hope things work out ok with your mother.....
    Love your owl photos. They are very large birds aren't they.
    Your paintings are wonderful! O love the depth of shadows you have captured in the first.

  13. Great photos, great paintings, great music...I like it here!

  14. Lovely shots, I knew it wouldn't be long before you were out to see the Snowy Owls. I went early in the morning and so not too many photographers were there, yet. It is an incredible sight to see, such lovely visitors to our area.

  15. I just love the Snowy Owls, your photos of the Snowies are just beautiful. And wow, your paintings are gorgeous! You must be very talented. Great post, I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

  16. Great photos of the owls. They are magnificent birds. They don't seem too worried about all the people you said were there watching them. The frost and ice looks pretty - but I don't like the cold! I wish you all the best with your mum.

  17. I never knew about Snowy Owl. In the video, the landscape with them in the frosty fields is awesome. “They appear from nowhere....”, they look like winter manifestation of God. Thank you for this special treat, Gillian.

    The time with your mother is precious, the most important. Thank you for commenting on my blog in such a situation. In anticipation of spring with your lovely watercolor flowers, your mother would restore her health sooner, I pray and believe. Take care of yourself, too.


  18. Gillian, gorgeous shots, and what a treat to be able to see such a lovely creature in person.

    I am so glad to be able to actually view your blog today, it's been one of the ones that I just couldn't load. Sorry about that.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  19. I love your shots of the owls. They are such interesting creatures to watch. And their paint jobs are amazing :)

  20. bird watching is fun and it is more fun with a camera.