Winter is one of my favourite times for photography, and I admit I am off to a bit of a slow start this year. But this morning when the little puppy we are looking after woke me up at 4:45 to go outside (good girl!) and the weather was clear, calm, and cold, I figured I had no excuse. All I had to do was wait 2 more hours for dawn, then I would head down to Gull Island at Presqu’ile Park.
As I arrived on the beach, stylishly outfitted with ice cleats and 2 pairs of pants, wrapped up from head to toe, I was immediately rewarded with spectacular sunrise light on the ice formations that are starting to form at the shore.
Two mute swans quietly fed in the shallow water. Swans live just off the ice edge each winter, and I wonder how they can manage such a harsh existence and still look so calm and graceful.
At this point the ice volcanoes that Presqu’ile are famous for are just beginning to form. It will take successive days of wind and waves to gradually build them up to the spectacular heights they have achieved in previous years.
Looking south from Owen Point, Gull Island lies across an area of rough ice, frozen absolutely solid and pretty easy to cross with the ice cleats. Often this time of year one can see thick lake effect clouds hanging to the south as well even though it remains sunny in Brighton.
Here’s what some of the ice formations looked like on my crossing to Gull Island.
Same rock, different light. There was steam coming off the water as it was still much warmer than the air.
Small flocks of waterfowl feed in the shallow waters around the island and fly away instantly when I approach. Lots of waterfowl means good eating for Snowy Owls. And of course you know that is why I was really walking out there in the first place.
As I rounded the bend on the island there was the unmistakeable form of a snowy owl, sitting up on a wooden frame of an old duck blind. This is the first Snowy Owl I have seen this winter. This year has not been a big year for snowies coming south from the arctic, but some usually do. I just had to wait a little bit longer than usual this winter.
What a beauty! This is a young one, based on all the dark barring. This photo is cropped heavily, as I gave the owl lots of space as not to disturb it. When I am photographing owls I usually sit down on the ground a distance away from them and stay as still as possible. Then I get to watch them behave naturally. This owl barely even looked my way, even when the log I was sitting on started to slip down the little hill I was sitting on, causing me to tumble towards the shore.
Eventually the owl preened its feet a bit, pooped, and then flew off to spend some time on the ice. Once the lake freezes over more it will be increasingly hard to spot the owls.
Can you believe it, just sitting out on the ice like that? Well that is where I left this beauty, and I was back in my car by 9:00 AM. Great start to the morning.
Thanks for visiting.