Owls and Islands just seem to go together!
It’s been another great winter for Snowy Owls here, and treks to the islands out in Lake Ontario to see these mysterious beauties never fail to reveal something special.
Why do Snowy Owls like islands so much? A few reasons. First of all the islands out in Lake Ontario are flat, with many open areas like the tundra the Snowy Owls like so much in the north. Also, food availability is high, since the islands seem to have high populations of voles and mice on land, and ducks out in the water.
In our area, Wolfe Island, Amherst Island, and Gull Island have all been excellent for finding Snowies.
Early in the winter, trips out to Gull Island at Presqu’ile Park allowed me to watch this beautiful, reliable Snowy Owl go about its daily routines.
Snowy Owls arrive at Presqu’ile around mid November, and are fairly easy to spot against the backdrop of grasses until Lake Ontario becomes covered in ice. At that time the owls tend to sit out on the ice far away and are much harder to spot.
Later in the winter Wolfe Island and Amherst Island are great bets for seeing Snowy Owls. Both Islands require a drive towards Kingston, and a short ferry ride. Those trips are great to do with friends, to make all the driving more enjoyable.
We made a couple of really interesting finds on Wolfe Island. First of all, we saw this owl with blue all over its wings. Upon investigation, we found out that “airport owls” – ones who hang around at airports, are often marked with blue before they are captured, banded and released in another area. So although all of us thought there was something wrong with our cameras, that really was a blue owl we were seeing!
Another thing we found was an owl sitting on a fencepost right by a herd of deer, totally unperturbed. Even more astounding was when the owl stayed put as the deer leaped over the fence one by one, right past it.
Amherst Island, where owls roost on the top of people’s houses it seems, is closer to me than Wolfe Island, so I made it out there quite a few times this winter.
I love Amherst Island!
The best time to go there to see owls is early morning, or the couple of hours before sunset.
The rest of the day the owls tend to hunker down on the ground and are difficult to spot unless they happen to be near the road.
But if you get there at the right time of day, you will certainly be treated to a great show- owls hunting, screeching at each other, even fighting brief arial fights for territory.
Snowy Owls will be around roughly from mid November until the end of March each year. If you have never tried looking for them, grab a friend, and head to the islands!