It was a bleak and bitterly cold winters day early in the year in Vancouver BC, Canada and the great horned owls were sitting on eggs. I had been watching and waiting at the nest site for weeks – waiting for the first sign of a baby owlet – wrapping up myself warm and waiting in the cold, dark winter.

I was sure the adults recognized me and had begun to tolerate my presence as I kept well back and they understood I meant no harm and stood in awe of them.

One day I was standing there, frozen fingers and nose when all of a sudden! There was the baby great horned owl! Fast asleep with the adult behind him – glaring malevolently at me.

But after a while she returned to nuzzling her new hatchling – then she gently woke him and fed him pieces of rabbit (delivered by her mate earlier). The scruffy ball of fluff opened his yellow eyes and pink mouth, ate his breakfast and then the parent owl spread her wings and pulled the baby into her chest feathers – completely hiding him from the cold weather and the world! Too wonderful for words!

I am lucky enough to live in the beautiful city of Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada. We live in the delta of the Fraser River and are visited every winter by thousands of migratory birds.

Along with the snow geese, dunlins, dowitchers, northern pintail ducks and the many, many migratory visitors come the raptors. Snowy owls, short-eared owls, rough-legged hawks, red-tailed hawks and bald eagles. Some are resident here and some just winter here. As an avid birder and wildlife watcher the colder weather brings really interesting sights and sounds!


I try to always be an ethical birder and photographer – always respecting wildlife and their right to space. Don’t chase snowy or short-eared owls through the marsh for that perfect photo – totally unacceptable behaviour. Never bait and never flush – and pack in, pack out (never litter!)

Sadly, not everyone follows Audobon’s guide to ethical birding as I do. I keep my endangered bird sightings to myself until they have left the area. And the same applies to nesting birds.

These great horned owls I’ve been watching for months – years even! They breed every year here and I look forward to watching the baby owls grow as they have such lovely characters. Wildlife watching is so rewarding if you give it space and respect their right to live without man’s interference!

This entry is adapted from a story originally posted on

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