[Ontbirds] 3 Great Gray Owls at one location (Ottawa)

willott123 at sympatico.ca willott123 at sympatico.ca
Sun Jan 20 18:35:34 EST 2013

Hi Ontbirders:
As everyone knows by now, winter 2012-2013 is right on schedule in the cyclical 4 year (occasionally 5 years) irruption of Great Gray Owls in eastern Ontario and various parts of Quebec.  The last one was in winter 2008-2009 and previous to that, the big irruption in winter 2004/2005.  The irruption this winter appears to be even betetr than the one in 2008-2009.  I gleaned these records from a Quebec birder posting to a Quebec birding listserv. 
"Here is the list of the most recent invasions of Great Gray Owls in Quebec
With the approximate number of birds reported.

Winter 1978-79: 60
Winter 1983-1984: 350
Winter 1987-88: 26
Winter 1991-92: 60
Winter 1996-97: 60
Winter 2000-01: 103
Winter 2004-05: 600
Winter 2008-09: 70

As you can see, invasions occur at every 4 years, sometimes 5 years." - Pierre Bannon"

Anyway, to the report for Ottawa.  Three and possibly four Great Gray Owls have been seen at this one location in Ottawa's east end.  They have been there for at least 3 weeks and are very cooperative as some northern owls tend to be.  Sometimes they can be seen right from the road on the Rockcliffe Parkway and other times....like today, you need to walk farther into the field straight in from the road.  walk all the way to the back wheer the creek or ravine is located.  When the snow was soft, this was quite the walk and I used snowshoes.  Many made the walk without snowshoes.  However, the cold today has hardened the snow so that it is relatively easy to walk along the already flattened "trails" made by others.  I did not use my snowshoes this afternoon and the walk was fairly easy.  Still have to be careful as occasionally you may step into a soft area and sink a bit.  The winds were gusty this aftenoon but at the back of the field you are sheltered from the winds.
Deending on the weather, the owls may need to be searched for but can always be found with some rare exceptions.  On suuny days, the owls tend to roost earlier than on cloudy overcast days.  But they are then usually out in the late afternoons again.  At least one great gray owl was seen at the back of the field this morning and two to three were seen this afternoon.  Two owls were only maybe 40 yards apart offering great close-up looks.  It was an awesome experience both days with the owls.  On Saturday during the big snowfall, all 3 owls were easily seen and very visible.  A fourth may have been seen as well.  Hard to keep track.  
The location is right where the Rockcliffe Parkway crosses over Green's Creek.  There is only one spot where that happens and you can see it in Google Maps.  Right at the bridge.  You travel along the Rockcliffe Parkway and park at parking lot P8 which is exactly 1 kilometer past the owl location at the bridge.  Each parking lot belonging to the NCC (National Capital Commission) has a designated number.  This is NCC land and is public so anyone can go on it.
After parking your car at P8, you have 2 or more options to get to the owls.  I'll just mention 2 of them.  If the snow is cleared on the bike path/shoulder you can walk back to the owls.  Walking at a leisurely pace will take 12 minutes....I timed it.  You are walking back because you will drive past the owl location but there is no parking....yes and no.... until you drive 1 kilometer past it....and that would be P8.  The owls are on the same side as the parking lot P8.
Second option when the shoulder/bike path is covered in snow is to cross the road from the parking lot....P8.  You will see a ski/snowshoe trail.  Go onto the trail/path and follow this trail to the right.  You will eventualy come to a fork in the trail.  Take the right fork.  Right at the fork or just slightly further along the path you will see the bridge that crosses over Green's Creek.  Then you walk across the Rockcliffe Parkway (a 60 km/hr speed limit.....2 lane road....one lane in each direction) and onto the other side where the owls are.  
You can look up "Rockcliffe Parkway Ottawa" on Google Maps and then move the map eastward to where Green's Creek crosses or goes underneath the Rockcliffe Parkway.  You will see the creek starts at the Ottawa River and meanders along and goes underneath the RockCliffe Parkway.  Enjoy.  
A couple of photos taken yesterday in the snowfall.
Owl in the falling snow.
Owls tend to perch for long periods in the same spot and snow starts to accummulate on the head of this one.
W. Hum
Coming from the west end of Ottawa, take the Queensway east and go left at the split to Orleans.  Head toward Orleans.  Get off at the Montreal Road exit.  Turn right on St. Joseph Boulevard.  At the lights you will see the road sign for the Rockcliffe Parkway to the left and Bear Brook to the right.  Turn left at that intersection onto the Rockcliffe Parkway.  Keep driving....the first bridge will be the one that goes over the highway and the second bridge is the one that goes over Green's Creek.  The owls are in the field just to the left but you need to drive 1 kilometer past that to patking lot P8 on the left.  Then walk back to that bridge. 

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