Snowy Owl makes an appearance in Petrolia



Paula Hoskin may be an amateur photographer, but the Petrolia woman has a nature shot that professional photographers would envy.

Hoskins captured a shot of a snowy owl and she didn’t have to go to the Arctic Circle to get it.

Hoskin was at home when her husband called to say he would be late because he was watching a snowy owl at the corner of Petrolia Line and Mandaumin Road.  Hoskin wanted to see it, too but figured it would be gone by the time her husband came to pick her up and took her back to the spot.

But a few moments later, Hoskin was standing in a field watching the majestic bird which is usually thousands of kilometers away from southern Ontario.

Tanya Pulfer of Ontario Nature says Hoskin is one of many people getting a rare glimpse of the bird this year.

“They don’t come very far off the Arctic usually,” she says. But with the population of their favourite food – lemmings – crashing there, the birds headed south this winter in search of something different, snapping up mice and voles in farmer’s fields in southern Ontario. That happens about once every four years.

But the distance the birds are traveling this year is unusual. “I believe the last time this occurred was in the last 20 years.”

Pulfer says the snowy owls have been spotted in North Carolina and another in Bermuda. Some of the birds have been found at airports in larger centers because the tarmac in the winter simulates the Arctic.

All this makes for great viewing for birdwatchers and photographers. “We’ve just been loving all the pictures of snowy owls coming in,” says Pulfer. “We usually see this quality of pictures coming from photographers, a lot of these are coming from people with point and shoot cameras.”

Pulfer encourages people to take pictures of the birds from a distance since many of the birds are probably food-stressed and need to hunt to maintain their strength. “Close approach by birders or photographers could make this much harder for them.”

If you do see a snowy owl, Pulfer encourages you to go to the citizen birding site to report where you caught a glimpse of the bird.