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.....