Snowy owls on the Prairies

A beautiful day to fly - © Christopher Martin-9219

The past weekend involved a lot of Snowy owls so it was fantastic.  On Friday, I made a solo run east of Calgary and roamed the country roads between Langdon and Strathmore eager to find the white owls which enthrall me.  I found one perched on a fence post warming under bright sunshine along  and had several minutes to enjoy watching her before a tanker truck roared by and the sound spooked her off the roost.

Watching from the fence - 2013 © Christopher Martin

I say her because females Snowies often have dark banding  – often but not always as adolescents of both genders have heavy banding as well.  It used to be thought that males were usually white with little or no banding and the females were as described.  There are convincing arguments for and against however I found this link persuasive.  It has helped me to realize that I would need an expert’s opinion before I would state any Snowy owls gender in absolute terms.  So, please allow me the license to use he and she with these owls so that I can avoid referring to individuals as “it” which seems to drop them into object status rather than that of a living creature.

Snowy owl into the air - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The owl took flight across Highway 901 and flew out over the fields.  I watched it glide low and out of sight behind the rolling hills to the southwest.  I zigzagged along the roads in the same general direction and found her on a telephone pole scanning the landscape.  I pulled alongside slowly, set up my camera through the window and got comfortable.  Fast forward half an hour and she seemed to lock onto something out in the grasses.  When she did launch it was under a cloudy sky which makes for an interesting contrast of white on white (as in the image above).  I love watching the Snowy owls fly and then glide low.  She dove down in the middle of farmland and settled for several minutes on what seemed to be a successful kill.  She was a long ways out so I headed off along the crisscross of back roads.

Full spread - 2013 © Christopher Martin

About a quarter of an hour later I found another owl in a different field.  I pulled off, set up and waited to see if this owl would fly in my direction.  After five minutes it flew parallel to the road I was on and then swooped up to another telephone pole.  This owl was actively hunting and moved around a lot over the next hour.

Field rest - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The highlight was when it perched on a fence post near the road where I was parked and we looked at each other for over a minute before it went over to a higher perch on another pole. The evening was coming in slowly and I left the owl once it had flown up to a very tall transmission line tower where it was glowing in the sun against a dark cloud background.

Touchdown - 2013 © Christopher Martin

As the light failed, I retraced my steps back towards the highway but had a visit with one last owl, this one a male (maybe).  The soft pastels to the east and the glow from the west on the white feathers were beautiful and I photographed him until the darkness overwhelmed my camera’s sensor.

Watching the night fall - 2013 © Christopher Martin

And then, on Sunday, my wife and I took the kids and one of their cousins to Drumheller to visit the Royal Terrell Dinosaur Museum.  This allowed us to search for owls on our drive there and we were not disappointed with the weather or with what we found along the way.  The blue sky was a change from Friday’s mixed weather and always provides a great background for white birds.

To the air - © Christopher Martin-9215

We saw several owls and all but one lingered on their perches for 5-15 minutes before alighting or us moving on.  This allowed the kids the opportunity to watch them and appreciate a magical part of nature.  They had a great time with my son surprising me the first time that we drove away from one bird, saying that we should stay and watch a little longer.  Normally, having grown up with his dad always stopping to photograph wildlife during walks, hikes, rides, drives, etc., he is often anxious to get going again – not this time.  I think the Snowy owls cast the same spell on the children that I have been under for almost two years now.

Stretching into the air - © Christopher Martin-9258

26 responses

  1. Spectacular pictures Christopher!

    March 4, 2013 at 9:03 am

  2. Christopher, These are gorgeous. Owls are wonderful birds and you’ve captured some beauties.

    March 3, 2013 at 7:02 am

  3. Thank you so much, Christoffer for visiting my site – I am so amazed of your white owl also I have to tell I got excatly that owl like a teddy when I visit our “Local” Zoo. I wished I was able to do same kind of pictures but I am sure if I had the opportunity I would not be able to make same like you. AWESOME is my word for your photos. Thanks for sharing

    March 2, 2013 at 6:37 pm

  4. These are THE best photos of owls I have ever seen. My sincere congratulations. I don’t know how you managed to capture the white owl against the white snow. Its simply brilliant :D

    March 2, 2013 at 4:37 pm

  5. Gorgeous photos of one of my favourite birds! I’m honoured that you took the time to visit my blog …

    March 2, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    • One of mine too (obviously I suppose).

      And I too am honoured with you visiting my blog as well.

      March 2, 2013 at 4:27 pm

  6. westseventhfreelance

    These are all just spectacular shots..but my favorite is the Snowy perched on the fence post with the rails diminishing toward the horizon. He/ she seems to be peering at you…

    March 2, 2013 at 4:07 pm

  7. When I saw your owls, I thought of the scenes in Harry Potter where the owls are delivering messages!
    We have Great Horned Owls on our property and one often sits on a tall spruce outside our bedroom window – usually before dawn. “Whoo, whoo – is getting up?” I imagine they are saying.

    March 2, 2013 at 3:35 pm

  8. Amazingly striking photos! I love the white owl on white, the white owl on blue, the white owl in flight, the white owl in rest.

    March 2, 2013 at 3:14 pm

  9. Simply stunning.

    March 2, 2013 at 2:59 pm

  10. What amazing photographs and the owls leave me speechless. I would love to see one in the wild.

    March 2, 2013 at 12:26 pm

  11. Wow! Fab shots! Love how the eyes stand out, particularly in no. 2.

    March 2, 2013 at 12:02 pm

  12. Looks like an exceptionally successful foray Christopher. Love that one of the snowy owl against the snowy cloudy sky.

    March 2, 2013 at 11:54 am

  13. I am a total Owl lover, and the blessings they bring. I wanted to say thank you for coming to my blog today-I am an amateur compared to you for photos. I am learning and the Girl Scouts taught me to never give up.

    March 2, 2013 at 11:45 am

  14. They look awesome!

    March 2, 2013 at 11:36 am

  15. Christopher, these are all wonderful but that shot on the post with the yellow eyes is magnificent!

    March 2, 2013 at 11:09 am

  16. Gorgeous! I’ve never seen a snowy owl, either…I don’t know much about them, but are fascinated by bird behavior – is it unusual to see them in the daylight? Great shots!!

    March 2, 2013 at 7:30 am

  17. Those are wonderful descriptions of the quality time with an amazing bird. Great photos.

    March 1, 2013 at 11:15 pm

    • Thanks Lyle. It was a very good couple of days on the Prairies :) christopher martin photography | christophermartinphotography.com | 403.880.2411 | @kananaskisphoto

      March 2, 2013 at 11:26 am

  18. I got chills by just looking at that owl. Spooky. Good that I saw it during daytime. Those eyes…
    I loved your “Lost in the Details” photo for the challenge. I am already inspired to learn more about photography. I am following you now to keep up with your fabulous shots.
    Have a nice day!

    March 1, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    • I’m glad that you enjoyed the challenge. I hope you have fun with your photography.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting.

      Cheers,

      Chris

      March 2, 2013 at 9:44 am

  19. Your dedication to this beautiful bird is truly inspiring. Great photos!

    March 1, 2013 at 6:04 pm

  20. Stunning!

    March 1, 2013 at 4:49 pm

  21. You are some awesome photographer! I’m amazed at your photos. I would be very happy if you check out some of my pics at: http://internationaleconomicmatters.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/25-photos-of-fantastic-flowers/ The pics I’ve posted today are to do with flowers.

    March 1, 2013 at 2:12 pm

  22. There are lots north of Edmonton as well. Better get out there and spot one. My favourite is the one on the post with the fence trailing off to the left.

    March 1, 2013 at 1:14 pm

  23. These are fantastic. I love owls. I’ve never seen a snowy owl. Maybe one day I’ll have an opportunity to photograph onw.

    March 1, 2013 at 9:08 am

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