Tuesday 11 February 2014

The Great Gray Owl Twitch

Feb 10 2014 Tynehead Regional Park Surrey B.C. Rain and more rain.

After days of blue sky and sun, the rains normally associated with winter have returned to British Columbia. Initially I had hoped to catch up with a few chores but when the news of a Great Gray Owl sighting surfaced those plans were suddenly scuttled. As I had never seen one before, I decided to make my way over to the park. Despite it being only fifteen minutes away from home it was a location I had never visited.
I spent the morning walking the trails peering at every branch and bush but to no avail. Perhaps twenty or so photographers and birders were also looking. At noon I went home cold, hungry and wet and without a sighting. No sooner had I arrived home my phone rang with the news that the owl had been spotted. With no time to eat I headed back to the park by which time the rain was coming down in buckets and the light was failing.
Thanks to the generosity of other birders I was able to capture these images. Just to see the bird sitting up in the Alders was breathtaking, such a magnificent  creature and a 'lifer' to boot!

Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa)

From the pathway and from a respectable distance a group of us watched the owl for over an hour. Due to the heavy rain the bird was quite wet and occasionally would shake its head sending spray everywhere.
The owl was perched above a small glade or opening. Surrounded by alders large fir trees and some Himilayan blackberry bushes made up the perfect hunting environment for rodents, rabbits and other prey.
Finally it was time for the bird to hunt and off it went to a nearby branch but being partially hidden and with the light failing it was time to head back to the car and home.

The Great Gray Owl in flight.

As I mentioned before on the way back to the car  we came across the owl perched in a tree just by the pathway. It had obviously taken a short-cut and had beaten us back to the car park. The car park is situated at the north end of the dog park close the Trans Canada.

We came across this bird close to the pathway.
 Numerous people with their dogs stopped to view the owl  before it flew off.

The owl was perched about fifteen feet above the ground. From where we stood the background was plain sky or if we moved a few feet we could compose a different image with fir trees behind the owl. We tried both but no sooner had we done that a number of rambunctious dogs began to play too close and the bird flew off a few yards to another perch.

On the way to the car park and with failing light the bird was only a few feet from the pathway.

By now the light was dim so with a ISO 1250-2500 and VR enabled the above shots were captured.
A far cry from the days of birding with Kodachrome 64 at $20 for 36 shots.
What is most interesting about this bird was its lack of concern for walkers, joggers and dogs, never mind the birders and photographers.

My only concern for the bird is that we never saw it catch anything and as far a I know it didn't show the following day so it may have moved to another part of the 270 hectare park, hopefully the bird will find enough to eat and provide the kind of special moment I enjoyed.

Good Birding 
John Gordon


  1. Thank you! Thank you so much. I went to see him but he was high up in the tree. I see you caught him on the blackberry bush too. I am so glad you got these amazing photos. Gorgeous and rare bird and your photography is perfection!

  2. Oh PS when I was there he caught a rodent so I think he is doing fine.

  3. Nice images, thanks for sharing Gordon.

  4. I am happy to hear that the owl has caught something to eat. The bird may have been in the park for quite a while without anyone noticing. I am hoping to return a few times especially in the Spring when the warblers arrive. While walking I did photograph a Varied Thrush which I'll post in my next blog. The bird is a 'Lifer' for so many and is bringing much joy and awe to those who have seen him. Life is good!

  5. Good to hear from you Harold and thanks for the comments.Long time no see. It was a hard slog in the rain and cold but such a beautiful bird. Fortunately it almost flew into our arms on the way back to the car so I count myself blessed.