Close encounter with a barred owl

Barred owl at night (Photo by Quincin Chan/NCC staff)

Barred owl at night (Photo by Quincin Chan/NCC staff)

February 11, 2023 | by Damien Cheung

This blog was written by Damien Cheung (with the help of his mom, Quincin Chan).

I went to Arrowhead Provincial Park in Ontario for the Fire and Ice Night event with my family on a weekend in January and stayed in a cabin in the park. We had visited the park many times, but this was the first time I skated at night! The torches along the skating rink were lit up at dark, and I skated around the skating trail three times. It was getting late and as we headed back to roast some marshmallows we saw a black shadow swoosh by right in front of us. It was big and we thought it might be an owl. We thought it might be in a tree, so we started searching for it.

The owl was hard to find because it was well camouflaged among the trees. It took my eyes a few seconds to adjust to the dark forest. Finally, another park visitor saw it! It was staring at us from a high up tree branch. Everyone was excited about the owl, but we kept our voices down because we thought the owl would fly away if we were too loud. We made sure to keep a respectful distance from the owl, knowing if it reacted to us being there by fidgeting or staring right at us, we were too close.

At first, we thought it was a snowy owl because its front was mostly white. But then it turned around and we saw that its back was dark, unlike a snowy owl. This owl was big! It had large round, black eyes. Its beak was small, but it looked sharp! No one knew what kind of owl it was, but we looked it up on our phone using the Merlin app and it said it was probably a barred owl since they are a fairly common owl in forested parts of Ontario. I wondered where it lives and where it finds its food because I did not see any other animals out in the forest. After a few minutes, the owl flew away, and we went to roast marshmallows and then walked back to our cabin.

Barred owl in cedar tree (Photo by NCC)

Barred owl in cedar tree (Photo by NCC)

I always love it when I see wild animals in nature. When I can, I like to take pictures of the animals and plants I see and identify them with my Seek app to learn more. I always do this from a safe and respectful distance. But seeing this barred owl was one of the best moments I had in nature because there are less animals out and about in the winter, especially at night.

Note from the editor: At the Nature Conservancy of Canada, we recognize the importance of respecting wildlife, giving animals their space and not using flash photography. To learn more about observing and photographing owls respectfully, read this page from the International Owl Center.

About the Author

Damien Cheung is a young nature lover who enjoys spending time outdoors with his family.

Read more about Damien Cheung.

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