ONTARIO – Part 1: Amherst Island

I am in Eastern Ontario on a 4 day trip having driven up from Philadelphia today. We caught the 3:30 ferry for the short ride to Amherst Island on Lake Ontario, and with light fading we headed straight to Owl Woods. In certain years this small patch of woods can produce a wonderful variety of owls. We bundled up as today’s high temperature had only reached 9 degrees and walked in through the deciduous section of the woods. There was an inch of snow on the ground covering a sheet of ice, making us fully aware of each step we took. The further in we went the more numerous cedars trees became. In one grove we found the bird of the day, a Boreal Owl, sitting on a branch against the trunk, in full view and fluffed up to keep itself warm.

This winter the meadow vole population has exploded on the island. The voles are a major food source for a number of owls and the reason why so many owls can be found on Amherst. While walking Owl Woods we caught sight of many scurrying away from our footsteps.

Before dark we located a Long-eared Owl in the large stand of Jack Pines, peering down at the four of us. On the way out of the woods there were several small groups of Short-eared Owls hunting at dusk. There was one last owl to be seen as we headed back to catch the ferry, an immature Snowy Owl, perched on a telephone pole.

photo © adrian binns

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