I had never understood how rare the appearances of snowy owls were to the Boundary Bay marshlands, near Vancouver, Canada. Every four or five years, the lemming population in the Arctic declines, and the owls travel south to find food, sometimes as far as Northern California. The snowy owls visited Boundary Bay during the winter of 2011/12, with the first sightings back in December. With all the press and word-of-mouth, the area got quite crowed. One sunny Saturday in early February had about 70 people watching and photographing owls. Some even traveled from the United States. I have now visited Boundary Bay on eight occasions to see the snowy owls, and every time, I marvel at these beautiful creatures.
The snowy owl is the largest of the North American owls, and can be up to two feet, or 60 centimeters, high. They are nocturnal hunters and eat lemmings, other birds, small hares, and moles and other rodents. Whether the owls reproduce at all is dependent on the availability of lemmings and other food in the Arctic. For more information on the snowy owl, please visit this page by Think Quest. CBC.ca also had a news story entitled, Snowy owls flock south to B.C. for rare appearance. On this post, I’ll look back at my evening walks, and focus on the times that I saw a snowy owl in the trees. Thus, the name of this post: Snowy Owls In Trees.
Before I get to the snowy owls, this is Boundary Bay. In the distance is Mount Baker, located in northern Washington State. The marshlands of Boundary Bay are approximately 25 kilometers south of downtown Vancouver. They are important as resting and feeding grounds for migrating birds along the Pacific Flyway. The marshlands are protected and designated as a Hemisphere Reserve and Important Bird Area (IBA).
Signs advise people to stay out of the marshlands, but that doesn’t stop many photographers from wandering in for a closer photo. Most of the owls can easily be seen from the dike path, however, those on logs or stumps always garner more attention. During my visits, the owls seemed relaxed and didn’t move much, unless startled. Many of them perch or sit for hours within 10 meters from the path, while shyer ones found a spot farther in the marsh. The most owls I counted on one visit was 18.
I know this owl isn’t really in a tree but I thought I’d include it anyway as a preview. Snowy Owls on Logs and Stumps will be future blog posts. This was taken from the path.
This tree and owl were in the adjacent Kings Links golf course.
A prominent tree over a kilometer away from the parking lot and most of the crowds. In all of my walks, I have only seen an owl here this one time.
This was on another evening in late February. A friend and I were walking along the dike when a photographer in the marsh startled an owl that proceeded to fly right toward us, and land on this tree beside the path. Again, I have never seen another owl in these particular trees. We were very excited, and felt fortunate to witness this owl so close.
As I wrote earlier, these are truly beautiful creatures.
As I drove away, the sunset on farmland at the edge of Boundary Bay.
Thanks for joining me as I looked back at my memorable evening visits with the snowy owls. Please also check out my post, A Snowy Owl and Mount Baker, Boundary Bay, for more photos from another special visit to Boundary Bay.
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