Saturday, April 11, 2009

A boreal night

I love the “owl spring”, i.e. the period between mid March and mid April when owls are usually their most vocal as they establish their breeding territories. I do several Manitoba Nocturnal Owl Surveys in this period and I would do more if I could. Last night was a great night to be out surveying and I heard five species. Mostly when you do owl surveys, hearing is the sense you use. By that I mean you don’t see owls so often. For the past few years Boreal Owls (Tengmalm’s Owl if you prefer) have been hard to find, presumably because the vole cycle was in its trough. This year however is looking much better and last night however I heard a total of 6 Boreal Owls and got to see two of them that were close to the road. This first male was singing high in a jack pine – notice the posture and the puffed out feathers around the throat (typical posture of many small owls singing). In the case of this Boreal Owl, the whole body quivered with the vibrato song.

As luck would have it, he looked down at me, allowing this photo...

Amazingly, a second Boreal Owl a few kilometers away also allowed a few photos – again notice the body movement as he sings (compare the two photos)

I nearly got the take off shot I have been dreaming about – I like to try to predict when owls will take off by subtle changes in body posture but most of the time my reflexes are just a fraction of a second to slow… as in this case.

I’ll be heading back to the boreal forest as soon as I can!


  1. Gorgeous photos.Those take-off shots are not that easy to get.Makes me feel better if someone like yourself doesn't always get it right.

  2. Wonderful images of the Boreal Owl.

  3. Good snaps. Love the framing of the nighttime branches.

    *I Donated to Cornell Ornithology!*


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