So, how do you find owls? You go owling. I don’t even know if “owling” is a real word! But it has become part of the vocabulary of family and friends.
A few days ago I went owling with a friend who had never done it before. The weather forecast said a high of -6C for the day, but it was way colder than that in the morning. More like -16 C. This is what the lake looked like that morning.
We were dressed properly (read: 3 pairs of pants, etc) and had a bit of a hike to warm up, so it was fine. I must say it was so cold that every time I put my camera up to my face to take a photo, the viewfinder in the camera fogged up- even if I held my breath. It was really challenging to tell if anything was in focus or even there.
We searched row after row of trees in the forest, one person on one side, one on the other, trying to be as quiet as we could despite the snow crunching underneath our feet. We were looking for some little shape or lump or colour that didn’t look like part of a tree. As we trudged along I was thinking it might be getting boring, or cold, or whatever, for my friend, when all of a sudden I heard her whisper- “Leslie- look!” and then saw the hand signal, meaning “it’s tiny!”
Oh boy! A Northern Saw Whet Owl. What a find! Cold? What cold?
One of the cutest creatures on the planet! Just tucked away roosting in a pine tree, about 7 feet up. You can see a couple of little branches sticking up through the feathers on the owl’s stomach. Sometimes Saw Whet Owls will save part of a mouse on a little stick like that, to eat another day.
Saw Whet Owls hunt at night and roost in the day. Their defence mechanism if found is to stay still, and count on their camouflage to keep them safe. You do not want to flush a tiny Saw Whet Owl, as they are a favourite meal of many larger raptors in the forest. They need to hide to survive.
We only stayed for a couple of minutes, got a few shots on our fogged up cameras, and moved on to let the little owl go back to sleep.
Not believing our good luck, we headed into the deeper woods to have a look around.
Deep in the forest, sitting out on the end of a branch was this amazing Long Eared Owl, looking right back at us. I was so startled when I saw it. What a face. Like a cat? Angry? Surprised? It was almost surreal to see one for the first time. These owls stretch themselves out tall and thin to try to hide. They are the most interesting looking creatures. Long Eared Owls are strictly nocturnal, and very secretive. What a treat it was to actually see one!
A great day owling, for sure!