Owl angels in the snow

Have you ever seen an owl's snow angel? (Photo by Jaimee Dupont/NCC staff)

Have you ever seen an owl's snow angel? (Photo by Jaimee Dupont/NCC staff)

March 28, 2016 | by Jaimee Dupont | 0 Comments

My hometown is a small, lovely and isolated boreal mining town in northern Manitoba. On a recent trip back to visit family, my husband and I were out for an evening walk when we stopped alongside the edge of town to marvel at the silence. That deep silence, the kind only found on a winter’s night in the wilderness, was interrupted with the haunting call of a barred owl: “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?”

Hear the barred owl’s call at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s page >

Barred Owl (Photo by Bill Hubick)

Barred Owl (Photo by Bill Hubick)

We followed the call for a few minutes, but being unprepared for late night owl searching, we noted the area and vowed to come back the following day to try and find the owl. The next day, armed with winter boots and my zoom lens, we went out searching for barred owls, potential nesting holes and to just enjoy the lovely weather. The forest where we were looking was good barred owl habitat with an intact mixed forest of large trees and in close proximity to water. We kept our eyes open for large cavities suitable for nesting, any napping owls on tree branches and signs from their activity.

We braved booters (Manitoba slang for a boot full of snow or water) and headed off in the direction of the tracks (Photo by Jaimee Dupont/NCC staff)

We braved booters (Manitoba slang for a boot full of snow or water) and headed off in the direction of the tracks (Photo by Jaimee Dupont/NCC staff)

Despite our best efforts, we didn’t find any owls — but we were incredibly lucky to find some evidence of a hunting trip the night before. We had been sticking mostly to some rustic trails as we didn’t have snowshoes to combat the knee-deep snow. Off one side of the trail, a clearing stretched back into the forest.

What looked like large ungulate tracks off in the distance turned out to be the imprint of an epic hunt between the owl and some small rodent. (Photo by Jaimee Dupont/NCC staff)

What looked like large ungulate tracks off in the distance turned out to be the imprint of an epic hunt between the owl and some small rodent. (Photo by Jaimee Dupont/NCC staff)

We almost walked by, but my husband spied what looked like large ungulate (hoofed mammal) tracks off in the distance. Curious, we braved booters (Manitoba slang for a boot full of snow or water) and headed off in the direction of the tracks.

Once we got close we could see that spread throughout the clearing was the imprint of an epic hunt between the owl and some small rodent that looked like it was quite good at escaping. You can just imagine the owl hoping around, then lifting off and swooping back down again.

We found no less than five separate trails spread over the clearing. It was an incredible experience! We visited the site again a few days later and the imprints had already melted away. Still no owls, but at least we have the memories and photos of the owls’ “snow angels” to remember.

  • A barred owl's snow imprint (Photo by Jaimee Dupont/NCC staff)
    Click on the image to enlarge.
    A barred owl's "snow angel" (Photo by Jaimee Dupont/NCC staff)
  • A barred owl's
    Click on the image to enlarge.
    A barred owl's "snow angel" (Photo by Jaimee Dupont/NCC staff)
  • A barred owl's
    Click on the image to enlarge.
    A barred owl's "snow angel" (Photo by Jaimee Dupont/NCC staff)
  • A barred owl's
    Click on the image to enlarge.
    A barred owl's "snow angel" (Photo by Jaimee Dupont/NCC staff)
  • A barred owl's snow angel (Photo by Jaimee Dupont/NCC staff)
    Click on the image to enlarge.
    A barred owl's snow angel (Photo by Jaimee Dupont/NCC staff)

 

About the Author

Jaimee Dupont is the manager of conservation operations for the Parkland & Grassland Region of Alberta.

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