I was on my way home from work last night and I saw my fourth Snowy Owl. He was sitting on the guard rail along highway 401 just over highway 410. It freaked the heck out of me, just wasn't what I thought I would see mere feet from the truck and eye level. Just like others I have seen over the years along the 401, it's the bird that escapes a photo because it's just plain suicidal to try and do such things on a busy highway, never mind it being dark... and I didn't have my camera.
And last week, exactly one week from last night, I had a re-visit with a Snowy Owl near where we live. I assume its either the second or third bird I saw. It could be another but since I don't know for certain (I count birds in each area). So unless I see 3 in one day here, I won't be adding them to my list from this spot.
It was a cold blustery morning, -21c with the wind chills but the sun was shining and I wanted to get out for a bit. We just had some snow recently and I was hankering for a winter photo or two.
The outing was pretty quiet, saw a couple Hawks hunting off in the distance and that was it. No Cardinals, Jays, Juncos, Woodpeckers, Chickadees, nothing. I was nearing the end of my trek as work would be beckoning soon. I decided to check one more path quick, a very short path I might add. I came up empty once again. And as I turned around and started to walk back to the truck, I noticed a Wooly Bear atop a pile of snow and ice cleared from the path. How could I miss this creature the first time around, passing it only minutes earlier? He just stands right out against the blanket of white!
I should have taken the Wooly Bear's photo on the snow mound but easily you can see these colors of black and reddish brown would scream at you from a snow pile.
Here he is, shot is cropped and was a full zoom with the 500mm.
The best approach to wildlife is not direct in my opinion. Actually Big Frank told me this the other year we were out viewing a Snowy Owl north of Toronto. "Don't walk right at them. You gotta try and walk away from them but move closer". It's hard to explain here being first thing in the morning and working on my first coffee. But for this bird, here is what I did...
I crossed the small field he was in, because I wanted to be on the other side with the sun behind me (better for a photo). I did like a half circle, moving away from the bird as I made my way over to the other side. He watched me, looked elsewhere, watched me, and so on. Once I was on the other side, the bird lost interest in me probably because he lost most sight of me. The fence he was on was atop this small hill. I worked my way up the side of the hill now, slowly and quietly. Even when I got to the top, we still had some distance between us, once again probably 60 or 70 ft, but we'd be eye level. There were some small conifers here that I hoped to use as a shield in my sneaky attempt for another photo op. And it worked! He was aware of my presence, probably long before I got a view of him again. But since I wasn't in his face or making aggressive moves towards him, he allowed me some time with him. And I was thankful for that. And I don't abuse such a moment.
In the next six or seven minutes, I took some photos, played with my settings, waited for some clouds to roll by and took some more photos. The bird looked in my direction, he'd look away, and so on. And then I left him where he was... grinning from ear to ear. It was an awesome moment with such a majestic bird and I was ready to go to work and take on all the nonsense of the afternoon with a smile.
I guess you guys forgot about the Wooly Bear in my pocket, eh? Haha! I almost did too. When I got back to the truck, I pulled him out of my jacket pocket and set him on the centre console. A few blocks from home, the little creature work up on my toque. I half suspected he would with the heat but still another part just thought he was dead.
I was texting Angie about him, and she did some research. They have quite the remarkable story which I will share another time. But I put him out back in one of the bird houses full of wood shavings to go return to his winter slumber. I plan to check up on him come mid-March or so. Google the Wooly Bear or wait until the Spring when I blog about him.
The holidays are just about upon us. I want to thank everyone who has read my blogs the past year; the good ones, the sad ones, the long ones, whatever. I wish all the best, to you and yours, through the Christmas season, into 2014, and beyond!