A Walk in the Woods

I wanted to go for a walk while the weather was still so nice. I saw on Google Maps that there was a nearby wooded area called Heart’s Desire Park. I wanted to see what it was like and maybe take some pictures.

When I arrived, there was no designated parking so I parked next to the (locked) gate. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to park there, as the vehicle gate to the entry road was locked,┬áthere were no signs, and no one else was around. I didn’t want anything to happen to my car.

Purple flowers
Purple flowers

I entered through a gap in the fence and walked up a vehicle path into the woods. Soon, I could hear others in the park, walking dogs or with their children, so I relaxed a little about where I had parked my car.

At one end of the paths was a waterfall over a small (1 metre) dam. I stopped and tried to take longer exposure photos of the water, try for that silky look from the moving water, but it was too bright (water is a near-perfect mirror for the sun). I could not get the correct exposure even at f/22. To the look I wanted, I would need a neutral density filter.

Tree stump
Tree stump

I walked along the banks downstream and realized that this was the same stream that I wanted to explore from the kayak a week ago. I tried some more longer water exposures in the shaded areas but it was still too bright.

I walked down to the far end of the park, closest to the Rideau River before turning back.

As I was walking back, I noticed three blue jays who were making a lot of noise and seemed to be flying from tree to tree in an unusual way. I stopped to see what they were doing. When I looked up at where they were flying, I saw the biggest owl I have ever seen in my life. It was HUGE! The blue jays were flying at it, but it just sat there unperturbed trying to sleep away the day. The owl must have been 40cm tall. It was the size of a small eagle.

Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owl

I was thrilled to see such a huge owl. I’ve only seen a few owls before, possibly because of their nocturnal feeding.

I left after a few minutes of staring up and taking lots of photos. I wish I had a better lens or brought my tripod. With the cheap Canon 75-300mm (non-IS), the photos look blurry (ISO 250, 1/80s, f/5.6, 300mm focal length). The camera shake is noticeable – the shutter speed should be kept as the inverse of the focal length. In this case, I should have used 1/300s for the shutter, but I could not open up the aperture enough to get the correct exposure. I should have also increased the ISO as well, but the higher I go the more noise I would get. A trade-off: more noise versus more blurring. Sigh.

When I got home, I looked up owl references on the internet. The blue jays were performing a tactic called “mobbing“, which they do to draw attention to a predator. That behaviour was what caught my attention. After lots of research, I discovered that I had seen a Great Horned Owl. The Great Horned Owl is also known as the Tiger Owl due to the feather patterns. They are an average of 55cm tall and have average wing-spans of 124cm – WOW! They can weight 1.4kg.

Seeing the owl really made my day.

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