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Photographing Wild Snowy Owls in Ottawa, Canada

Snowy owls in Ottawa - photography in the winter.

I had the unique opportunity to track and photograph Snowy Owls in Ottawa (or just outside of Ottawa) during a winter trip across Canada.

A knowledgeable guide (and photographer) took me to the very specific farmer’s fields that the owls visit during these months every year—a few hours worth of driving from Ottawa. Apparently, the owls always return and stay within the same few miles each time to hunt and mate.

It’s a close-kept secret in the area, kept to dissuade crowds of visitors (the ones crazy enough to brave the temperatures and five feet of snow). If the owls are disturbed too many times in a row then they won’t be able to find prey or settle with a mate. We were careful to keep our distance and respect the owls' personal bubbles, using long telephoto lenses provided by my guide. (My own lens was just not up to the task.) If an owl flew away a few times, then we left them alone and didn't encroach on their privacy. Two of the owls were quite easy-going, however, and didn't seem to care that we were there.

In a month or so the owls will leave for the Arctic again, so this experience was unplanned yet perfect timing.

We spotted a male, all white with no spots, on top of the telephone post. Then we tracked two females (who have the black spots). The females’ hunting ground includes a number of acres in the area, and while trolling for mice and rabbits, they also look for their lifelong mates.

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