There has been a minor irruption in the east with now well over a dozen birds being reported in recent weeks. However, they are notoriously hard to find, even when you know where one hangs out, and because they are primarily nocturnal they usually only show close to or after sunset.
This bird eluded us for most of the winter but briefly reappeared in an area where we could observe it. The Great Gray is truly a woodland owl but likes to hunt the edges when it can. In this case it rarely came to the roadside. We identified it as a first year bird based on the pointed rather than rounded tail tips and pale rather than dark-tipped primaries. I last saw it early in January.
Ottawa - After six failed attempts to be present when this bird showed, I was finally successful. It had a schedule which tended to be two to three days on and two to three days off and if you guessed wrong you'd be out of luck that day. Yesterday I guessed right. We worked with the bird for an hour at the end of the day. Each trip is 1 hr 45 minutes so it is a significant time commitment but with a result like this and a bird that you often have to back up from to shoot it was worth it. Onlookers have grown over the winter with up to 70 Saturday. We had about 20 yesterday.
Ottawa - I don't usually post multiple shots of the same species but this photo shows an interesting aspect of GGOW biology. Note the slender branch the bird is perched on and that it is barely bending.The owl weighs only about 1.1 kg which does not seem to match its very large size. This is our largest owl but the bird is a big ball of feathers. By comparison, a Snowy weighs about 2 kg. The photo was taken on a tripod after sunset on a cloudy day with little light left. Very slow shutter speed.
Williamsburg - this individual has a very dark facial disk. The dark disk, dark around the eyes and overall darker brown plumage suggests the bird is partially melanistic. I rechecked other images and have reconsidered the bird's sex. It may have been a male after all.