As residents of cliffs (alternatively, downtown office towers), it should come as no surprise that peregrine falcons breed at Niagara Falls. My first visit was in 2008, when they nested on the Canadian side and entertained photographers and birders at length. From my understanding they then bred on the American side for several years, which is not well-suited for photography. This year (2012) they once again nested on the Canadian side, in the old OPG building. This put them directly below the sidewalk along the edge of the gorge, just hundreds of yards from the falls’ edge.
I visited on several occasions, and while opportunities are never guaranteed, one day in particular was incredible, with the young peregrines testing their wings, chasing each other and learning how to take food from their parents – all in midair. It is one of a kind sight to see a peregrine rapidly coast upwards on thermals, just inches from the gorge’s fall, spiralling hundreds of feet up, only to tuck its wings back in a rapid stoop in pursuit of prey. These spectacular stoops are almost too difficult to photograph at close range, as these have been measured at nearly 200mph! Here’s to hoping they return next year to entertain onlookers. To be honest, I think the birds are almost more curious about us at times than we are of them.
I’ve added two more images of snowy owls from last winter, photographed here in Ontario, Canada. I have many more photos to go through. I really liked the light on both of these, and it was great to have this co-operative female snowy to photograph as she hunted.
Ottawa was host to at least one hawk owl last winter. They are more common at those latitudes, but still don’t occur that often; in fact I haven’t seen one this year, although there have been a few scattered reports. The light was better than on my previous trips to the local hawk owl the previous year.
Raptors are always one of my favourite subjects to photograph. Their size makes them easy to spot and they are generally more approachable in the winter, and the absence of leaves on trees makes them even easier to spot as they often hunt on roadsides.
One of the more unusual owls for a southern area Northern Hawk Owl. We had one over-winter near Hamilton in 2008 and it stayed for about two months. It was an unprecedented bird for the area, and many people saw it during its stay. A small, falcon-like owl, it lives up to its name – hunting by day and mostly by sight. They can be quite aggressive, and show little fear of people.