A Visit to Owl Woods – Amherst Island, Ontario (April, 2006)

Amherst Island is an island on the east end of Lake Ontario and can be reached by a car ferry that leaves from the mainland on the half hour. (Location)

The trick, then , is to arrive at the dock a few minutes before the ferry arrives to pick up cars and passengers. On this particular day, we missed our turn-off point from Hwy 401 and sailed right on by. Since the 401 is a divided highway, we had to drive a fair distance before we could turn around and get back on our original plan. In the meantime, the ferry had come and gone and we had the pleasure of waiting dockside until the ferry had traveled to the island and back.

I kept myself busy looking for birds to photograph such as this Mourning Dove I found cooing in a nearby tree.

The ferry did eventually come (right on time) and it wasn’t long before lines were let loose from the dockside moorings and we left the mainland behind.

As soon as we got close enough to the island, Gerhard had his binoculars out and was scanning the shoreline for birds. I, on the other hand, was not looking at birds as being the only thing that I might like to photograph. 🙂

The first bird of interest, other than house sparrows and starlings, were the tree swallows.

The next was a lone Snowy Owl which was sitting one of a line of fence posts. I mention that it was a line of fence posts because each time that I thought that I was close enough for a good shot, the owl seemed to sense that and moved one post farther away.

The snowy owl is one of the norther diurnal owls and is often seen out in the open during the day and can often be seen swooping down on its prey during the day. My owl was just a fence-sitter today.

After I had provided enough entertainment for my birder friends, I stopped with the snowy owl and returned to the roadway ready to head out in search of something else. My birder friends had been watching the whole process thought the binoculars and thought that it was great fun to see the owl tying with the photographer!

My friends were all ready with their binoculars, so off we went into the woods in search of owls.

The Owl Woods as it is named is a section of woodlands with an area of open area of forest as well as an area of densely packed pines. The area of densely packed pines was our destination for toeay but along the way we did encounter a few other species such as woodpeckers and chickadees.

Female Hairy Woodpecker


Normally, I carry sunflower seeds in my pockets but this trip I didn’t have any. From its reaction, we determined that this Chickadee didn’t like its food gift wrapped so we unwrapped it for him and he was a a lot happier.

Although we did see lots of owl nests, we only had fleeting glimpse of owls on this particular outing so no photographs of those owls. Note on a later trip to the same location, I did obtain a beautiful photograph of a Saw Whet Owl.

While I didn’t find too many owls to photograph on this trip, with the exception of the Snowy Owl, I was really happy to get close to tow species of birds which are normally hard to see and find because they are so well camouflaged.

The first of these is the Brown Creeper which feeds on insect in among the gnarly pines and is both small and well camouflaged.

Brown Creeper

The second was the Wilson’s Snipe, a bird that frequents marsh margin land. It is often easy to hear in the Spring as it dives down from high overhead and makes a winnowing sound as wind flies through its wings. Seeing one in the air is easy once you hear one. Finding one, on the ground, is another matter as they camouflage very well with the marsh vegetation that they frequent.

Wilson’s Snipe

Although, I often see Downy Woodpeckers when out in the woods, I am always eager to see another.

Downy Woodpecker

Another beautiful Spring day to be out with friends on a birding excursion. Only question left for discussion was whether they should trim a bit or I should grow back a bit. We decided to leave the status quo as it was 🙂

About Ron

Ron has long had an interest in photography and traveling and, in recent years, has had more time to devote to both activities. Long a Pentax user, Ron switched to Nikon gear when he went digital. The advent of the digital SLR camera, and the ease of the internet blogging process, has provided a venue for sharing his photography and travel experience at the local, national and international level. More about Ron
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