Great Grey Owl snow-plunges and catches mouse!

Our family was sitting at home eating pancakes this morning when my daughter pointed out the kitchen window and said, “Whoa, look at that huge bird!”

We turned to look – it was an owl, and a big one. We had never seen one here before; in fact, I last glimpsed an owl for just a moment as a kid. This one turned out to be a Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa, according to Wikipedia).

A couple of weeks ago I saw some deep holes in the snow as I was dumping the ashes from the woodstove. There were marks on either side of the holes, and I figured it was a crow (we have a lot of those) catching a mouse. My wife suggested this morning that perhaps it was this owl.

Out came the camera, and we saw something pretty amazing. I took about 250 pictures, and here are some of the better ones, mostly in the order I took them. I didn’t touch them up, although I did resize/crop a little. Click on each photo for a slightly larger version; I’ll post full-size (4272px by 2848px) for specific requests (tell me the filename).

(For the curious, the camera is a Canon Rebel XSi, and I used a Tamron 70-300mm zoom lens. It has a UV filter on it also.)

Listening at the top of a spruce tree.

Listening at the top of a spruce tree.

Ready to plunge - hearing breakfast under the snow.

Ready to plunge – hearing breakfast under the snow.

In flight, searching...

In flight, searching…

Starting the descent...

Starting the descent…

Tucking in...

Tucking in…

In the snow.

In the snow.

In the snow, closer.

In the snow, closer.

Looking around. Watching for predators, maybe?

Looking around. Watching for predators, maybe?

Back to business.

Back to business.

Success!

Success! (That’s a rodent; maybe a mouse or a vole)

IMG_8027

Flipping it up.

Flipping it up.

One...

One…

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Two…

Three. (This reminded me of Tootsie Pops.)

Three. (This reminded me of Tootsie Pops.)

Jumping up from the snow. Look at the talons!

Jumping up from the snow. Look at the talons!

Soaring away.

Soaring away.

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Another picture in flight.

Perched in a birch, being pestered by blue jays. They're shouting at each other.

Perched in a birch, being pestered by blue jays. They’re shouting at each other.

Ruffling....

Ruffling….

And ruffled. What an enormous bird.

And ruffled. What an enormous bird.

Very yellow eyes, distinctive white markings.

Very yellow eyes, distinctive white markings.

The hole and marks left in the snow from the plunge (Canon 50mm prime lens, FYI).

The hole and marks left in the snow from the plunge (Canon 50mm prime lens, FYI).

Closeup of the hole, with visible blood (Canon 50mm prime lens).

Closeup of the hole, with visible blood (Canon 50mm prime lens).

Last picture as he left our yard.

Last picture as he left our yard.

Exciting morning! I’m writing this blog post, and my wife and daughter were both inspired to write books, which was possibly the coolest thing about the whole experience. I love living in the country!

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20 thoughts on “Great Grey Owl snow-plunges and catches mouse!

  1. Very cool. And fantastic pics. How on earth did the owl know there was a rodent that far down in the snow?! Also, what a beautiful view you have from your home :)

  2. There were a lot of awesomes, epic, that’s incredible, from the two small boys at this house as we looked at these (one even tore himself away from Minecraft -that’s a big deal! Reminded me of the last stretch when the great greys were in our neck of the woods (winter 03-04) when I was on mat leave, and my husband would call us to say he’d seen one on the way to work, and give us the spot, and the 3 of us would hop in the car, and go see if we his bird was still there. We saw 2 that winter, but never this close. We did, however, have a hawk come down and grab a baby bunny from under our cookie-sheet bird feeder that same year – great marks in the snow!

  3. So cool Brandon! When I taught grade 7 & 8 we got owl pellets and carefully dissected them to see what the owl had eaten. It was very cool to carefully remove the hairs and organize the bone to discover the animal. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to find an owl pellet and dissect it together.

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