Winter & Winter Subjects

Where would I rather be, here or there? One friend, Chris Dodds, is spending his winter doing private owl workshops. Yes, I’d love to be out photographing owls but not able to do the walking required to do the species I’d like to get. Another friend is on a cruise in a warm climate. That sounds pretty good too! My choice would be with my dear friend, Gay, who is with Joe and Mary Ann McDonald in Tanzania!!! Not only would the species be fantastic but I could pay a porter to carry my gear to and from my room!

BUT, I am here in the land of ice and snow. It’s really been quite a good winter with not much snow to contend with. We have had cold, clear sunny days and gray snowy days but the snow has been light and leaves everything with a frosted look.

My friends, Gwen & Gerry, faithfully watched a couple of trees in Bracebridge for me. One, an ornamental crab in a town park and the other a mountain ash by our downtown Tim Horton’s. In early January Bohemian Waxwings found the bright orange crab apples but the birds were not there reliably and even though I made a few visits I wasn’t able to photograph them. Still hoping they would find the mountain ash berries when they finished the crabapples we kept a close watch out for visitors.

At last about fifty birds sat at the very top of a large tree and about eight or so would fly down into the berry branches. They would try to grab two or three berries before taking off. They worked in shifts flying in and back across the road. It wasn’t the traffic or people walking or people watching close-by that set them off. They have their own timing worked out. The only pattern was that I had time for ony a couple of shots before they would be gone. Two sessions got a few keepers.

After the birds twist their heads around to pull the berries off their stems sometimes they toss them up to reposition them for swallowing. They don’t always do it and it seems to be a combination of luck and preparation to catch the action.

One of my fist images of Bohemian Waxwings was taken before I changed over to digital. I still like it! These ones were feeding on winterberries.

There seem to be two migrations of Bomenian Waxwings. Ones in the image above were taken in early winter. I have seen them a few years when they come down early and feed on fresh winterberries found on bushes in large swampy areas then move on. The second flush come down later and stop to feed on the berries of native and ornamental trees and shrubs that have been frozen already. They all stay only as long as there is lots of fruit in the area.

The lighter snows we have had means that lots of tall vegetation is still standing and not burried under deep drifts. Usually, by this time of the winter it has all been flattened down. One still, cold, snowy day led to the following images. The still air and light snow allowed the fog forming above the Bala falls to float and form a soft wall behind this vegetation.

I have a display opening next Tuesday, February 1st at the Muskoka Information Centre, South of Gravenhurst on Hwy 11 and my big show opening February 26 in Bracebridge. More on that soon!

Lots of winter left and each day is different with more photographic possibilities!

All the images in this blog are the sole property of the photographer, Eleanor Kee Wellman, are copyrighted and may not be used for any reason without the written permission of the photographer

Northern Hawk Owl

Gray and somewhat snowy weather has kept me uninspired for photography until today. The prospect of seeing the Northern Hawk Owl that was recorded on the Carden Christmas Bird Count pried me out. I found the location quite easily as there were other birders looking as well. One car load of people had seen it briefly so at least we knew it was still in the area.

With a couple of scopes set up on tripods everyone got to have a good look when it showed up again. There were several snippets of conversation about the pattern on the back of a hawk owl’s head as it is supposed to have the look of eyes in the feathers.

In January and February of 2005 a Northern Hawk Owl stayed around Bracebridge and I took the opportunity to take more than 1600 images. At one point I did a photo essay of its feather patterns on That forum has disappeared but I still have all the images.

The above images were all taken with a Canon 40D and a 100-400 lens.

I realize that not all birds will be exactly alike and it would depend on your angle of view but I don’t see the false eyes in the back-of-the-head feather patterns in that particular bird. Maybe I just don’t have enough imagination!

The Carden bird flew off and we all went looking for Common and Hoary Redpolls at a few bird feeders nearby. Lots of Common Redpolls seen but no Hoary Redpolls.

On returning to the hawk owl location a Common Raven harassed the owl a few times and I was able to get a few images. The bird was quite far from the road and was backlit. Not ideal for photography even with a long lens!

The above images were taken with my Canon 7D and my 500mm lens plus a 1/4 converter, handheld. All the images in this and all my posts are the property of Eleanor Kee Wellman and may not be used for any purpose without the written consent of the photographer.

A beautiful sunny day with no wind and a few good birds! One of those days that makes me glad to be alive! I hope you are enjoying the same!