Animals & Wildlife Magazine

Great Gray Owl in Kingsville, ON

By Timschreckengost @timshrek

Hello to all the Words about Birds readers! I was asked by Tim to do a special guest post about the Great Gray Owl I went to see in Kingsville, Ontario this past weekend.  A little bit about me – My name is Krista and I am a graduate student at Michigan State University.  I have only been birding for just over 2 years, but I love to get out and take pictures of birds.

I was out of town at the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012 (doing some birding in the Everglades, you may get to hear about that trip sometime soon), and as I was going through my massive amounts of email that accumulated during that trip, I noticed one that said a Great Gray Owl was being regularly seen in Kingsville, Ontario, which is only about 125 miles (and a border crossing) from East Lansing.  I didn’t have time til the next weekend to get over to Canada, so I crossed my fingers and hoped he would still be hanging around.

On Saturday night (Jan 7th) I got confirmation that I’d have a co-adventurer for the roadtrip, so the plan was to head to Royal Oak, MI to pick John up, then head across the Ambassador Bridge into Ontario.

Google map of the drive to see the Great Gray

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In true Krista fashion, I was an hour late leaving my apartment (still on the road by just after 8am), only to be delayed another 15 minutes because I left without grabbing my passport.  Without that, I wouldn’t get very far, so I had to turn around and grab it.  Finally, around 9:30am I was schlepping my bins, camera, scope and lots of warm clothes into the truck for the second leg of the trip.  Border crossing was uneventful and pretty soon we were passing greenhouse after greenhouse (apparently Canada likes to grow lots of tomatoes and cucumbers in greenhouses…).  We headed south on Hwy 29 toward Kingsville, per directions I was given.  The directions I had were pretty vague (south on 29, west on 2, turn by a church), and as we drove along Road 2 and didn’t see a church, I started to get worried…were we going to miss the bird? The church was a little further down the road than I thought, but there was no mistaking where the Great Gray was once we got there…

Great Gray Owl in Kingsville, ON

The church in the distance and all the cars parked by the owl

There were at least 30-40 people (birders, photographers and tourists) checking out the Great Gray.

Great Gray Owl in Kingsville, ON

You can see the Great Gray low in the tree farthest to the right...

Walking up to the group of people, I was looking up in the trees, still unable to spot the Great Gray.  Then, I realize the group is looking straight out in front of them – and there the Great Gray is…at EYE-LEVEL, not more than 10 feet off the road.  Un-fricking-believable! I was able to get a couple nice shots of the owl.

Great Gray Owl in Kingsville, ON

Great Gray Owl, Kingsville, Ontario, Canada. Photo by Krista Greenwood

Great Gray Owl in Kingsville, ON

Great Gray Owl in Kingsville, Ontario, Canada Photo by Krista Greenwood

I think the owl has been seen pretty regularly since the end of December and though I did not see it hunt at all while I was there, I was told that many people have seen it hunting and that it seems to be pretty tolerant of all the people flocking to see it.  It is pretty incredible that this owl is so far south.  I have been up to the Soo (Sault Ste. Marie, MI) in the UP birding in February the last two years in hopes of finding one of these giant owls, and they are even considered ‘rare’ when they are seen way up there.  To see it south of East Lansing on a sunny 40 degree day in January was a real treat.


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