About a month ago, I posted a story about Snowy Owl on Wolfe Island. On the weekend I visited Amherst Island, just upriver from Wolfe Island, and a place that is internationally famous for wintering owls.
While driving about the island, we were privileged to see 6 Snowy Owl, a magnificent bird. We were also able to locate three other owl species: Northern Saw-Whet (about which more tomorrow), Short-eared ,and Long-eared Owls. I saw a Boreal Owl earlier this year, but no luck on this occasion.
The first time you see a Northern Saw-Whet Owl, someone in your party is guaranteed to say “It’s so cute!!” And it is but it is also a fierce predator. The smallest of the eastern North American owls, it is capable of killing birds larger than itself.
I’m sure there are good numbers of this species but they are rarely seen due to their habits. They are nocturnal hunters who keep tucked away in trees during the day, and even when approached, keep perfectly still.
One of my favorite winter birding destinations is Amherst island in Ontario. It is well known for the wintering owls. I have posted about Snowy Owl, Boreal, Long-eared and Northern Saw-whet from there, and Short-eared Owl, Asio flammeus, can also be common.
They are easiest to find around dusk, favoring open areas on exposed perches.
Usually when you are lucky enough to see a Boreal Owl, Aegolius funereus, they are sleepy and nestled away with twigs and branches around them. I was lucky enough to see one that had come out to hunt about an hour before dark on an overcast day. It was a very exciting experience.
FThis bird has been my nemesis, there always seem to be branches obscuring part of him. I love the dark eyes on this species. For Ontario owls, the only other species with dark eyes is the Barn Owl, a species that has been almost extirpated in Ontario .