Anaïs Trépanier was to be the photographer, not the subject. But during a photo expedition in the Côte-de-Beaupré region north of Quebec last week, a great gray owl came up with other ideas.
“I was clicking the shutter and a few seconds later I see it landing on my lens,” she said. Break awayIt’s Alison Brown. “It’s the biggest owl we have here in Quebec. It’s not like a chickadee.”
Trépanier says the owl perched on his camera for about 30 seconds. She remembers staying as still as possible because her friends, who are also photographers, were telling her, “Don’t move! Do not move ! while they took some photos.
For someone who has taken up photography as a hobby during the pandemic, Trépanier considers herself very lucky to have had such an intimate encounter with a rarely spotted bird.
The great gray owl ranges from Quebec to the Pacific coast in northern North America and is also found in Scandinavia and parts of northern Asia. The birds are not always easy to spot and they do not venture into Quebec every year.
Goal as a perch?
Trépanier asked a few experts why the bird would have decided to land on his camera. She said they had a few theories, but no one is quite sure.
“It could just be a matter of luck,” said Pascal Côté, director of the Tadoussac Bird Observatory. “Maybe the owl thought it was a roost or was looking for prey.”
“She could have been in the right place at the right time.”
Côté said that while strongly discouraged, some photographers bring mice or other live bait in an attempt to lure owls or birds of prey to their cameras. He said the practice has made some birds more comfortable interacting with humans.
“That’s not what I did,” Trépanier said adamantly.
A few birders who saw the photographs Trépanier shared online said the perch theory made sense. The photographer wore a white jacket that blended in with the snow and she stood still for quite a while. Experts also told him that great gray owls are known not to be afraid of people.
“Most photographers were surprised, but they’re really happy for me,” Trépanier said.
Her own stunning photo of the owl coming to land on her lens set the bar incredibly high for where she will go from here. But she added that wildlife photography quickly became a passion she will pursue.
She said she had a lot of story ideas. This spring, she’ll be aiming her lens at Canada geese and trying to track down a few foxes raising new kits.
“You have to be really patient,” she said. “Sometimes we wait hours to get a good shot.”
“It’s a good way to live in the moment. I didn’t know I was going to love it so much.”