Over the last few years I’ve heard about how Boundary Bay has been receiving some visiting owls. Not just some regular local owls such as Barred owls, but visitors from the colder north, the Snowy owls (Bubo scandiacus). These large white owls migrate south from the cold arctic regions and recently they have been hanging out in Boundary Bay, Delta.
To get to the area where the owls hang out in the winter months, you can either drive down 72nd Street or 64th Street south of Ladner Trunk Road in Delta. I am sure during busier times (like weekends) the parking can be a bit adventurous. Make sure you abide to the road signs as typically, you can only park on one side of the road. I am sure you’ll get towed quickly if you do not pay attention. There are private residencies nearby that I am sure pay attention. I parked at the end of 72nd street which is next to the Boundary Bay Municipal Airport.
The other great thing about Boundary Bay is that it is also home to a variety of birds. While I was there I managed to see Short-eared Owls, Northern Harrier Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles, a variety of smaller birds and water fowl, and of course the Snowy Owls.
Here are my photos from my recent outing, I am sure I will be heading back more often this season. Seeing the Short-eared owls was a new first for me as were the Snowy Owls.
What is needed for decent photos
So you want to get some photos of the Snowy Owls or other feathered residents of Boundary Bay? What you will need is a camera with telephoto capabilities. I shot all these photos with my Nikon D5100 with the Nikon AF-S 55-300mm f4.5-5.6 VR mounted on a 3 Legged Thing Adrian tripod. Ideally, I would like 400mm or greater for getting in close. Combinations of like a 300mm lens with a 2x teleconverter, 400mm lens with a 2x teleconverter. I’ve read that there are even some people who have a 600mm lens with a 1.4x or 2x teleconverter when shooting birds. When you get up there, you’re going to be shelling out tens of thousands of dollars. If you know the weather will be decent, renting a big telephoto lens would do well too! I’m thinking of looking at the 200-400mm Nikon lens or even the 400mm with a 2x teleconverter. Either way the longer your lens can reach, the closer you can get without disturbing the birds!
I’m not saying you cannot get decent photos with a point and shoot camera either, you just need to ensure it has some good optical zoom capabilities.
You will want to ensure you shoot on a tripod as well. When you’re using a telephoto lens, even system such as VR (Vibration Reduction) or IS (Image Stabilization) will not be of much help at the longer focal lengths when you are hand-holding. Not saying they won’t work, but it is nicer to have a sturdy tripod. It is recommended to turn of VR or IS while on a tripod too, though some lenses will even auto-sense that they are on a tripod and disable it.
Your shutter speed should be at least 1/[focal length]. So, since I was shooting at 300mm I would try and ensure I was shooting at least 1/300th of a second. I actually liked keeping it higher 1/500 and faster in case the birds would take flight. Since the light was not changing all to much, I stuck with shooting on full manual if I was sitting in one spot. While I moved around, I switched to Shutter priority and let the camera work out the rest.
Have you seen the Snowy Owls in Boundary Bay yet? If not, this winter season try and get out to Boundary Bay and see the Snowy Owls!