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Great Gray Owls of the North Woods, Alberta

Up close with the Phantoms of the Forest

Encircling the northern pole of our planet is an immense tract of trees. Naturalists poetically describe this northern forest as Earth’s evergreen crown of larch, pine, and spruce—the largest terrestrial ecosystem on Earth. Many would argue that within this immense coniferous hinterland a single bird, the splendid great gray owl, embodies all that is mysterious and magical.

240320 Z1015394 Enhanced NR - gray owl

Every winter, these elusive gray ghosts of the forest move to the snow-choked edges of rural roadways in wilderness Alberta to hunt the voles and mice that tunnel beneath the drifts. Many of these owls migrate from remote forest areas where they have never encountered humans before and consequently are wonderfully unwary and approachable, making them the perfect photographic subjects.

For weeks in advance of the tour, our local guide scours the backroads that penetrate the forests of central Alberta for the least wary owls wintering in this area and for those that promise the greatest range of photographic opportunities. From our cozy ranch-style cabins we set out each day, amply fueled with delicious meals prepared by our gracious and hardworking host, to scour the surrounding forests in search of great grays—one of the most photogenic of owls. Opportunities to create many different images in a variety of winter landscapes are possible.

240316 Z1012913 Enhanced NR - gray owl

In March, at the end of winter, many northern songbirds are moving about eagerly searching for nesting partners and this is the perfect season to capture them with our cameras as they are distracted by this seasonal quest. Some of the many birds we can expect to see on the tour (especially at our guest ranch) include four species of woodpeckers, redpolls, chickadees, nuthatches, ravens, and jays, and we strive to add these to our individual photo libraries.

240319 Z1014284 Pano Edit - gray owl

Tour Itinerary

Day 1 (March 12, 2025)
Fly to Edmonton, Alberta. Contact our airport hotel for free shuttle service.  We meet this evening at our hotel for orientation followed by dinner. (D)

Day 2 - 4
Early this morning we travel by private van to an area in central Alberta near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains where we begin three days of great gray owl shooting. After each early morning shoot, we usually return to our rustic and cozy guest ranch for lunch and a break before our afternoon outing. Our flexible schedule allows us to take advantage of the potentially changing winter weather conditions which can vary from sunshine to clouds and blowing snow.

During the winter months, great gray owls often establish territories and once they’ve claimed a section of the forest, they tend to stay put for several weeks, making their whereabouts somewhat predictable. In these very secluded areas, far removed from human habitation and road traffic, we take the opportunity to feed them. There are no scientific studies that affirm supplemental feeding is detrimental to the owls.

We are always on the lookout for other wildlife subjects and ready to capture every photographic opportunity that comes our way. (BLD)

Day 5 (March 16)
This morning we return to Edmonton in time for afternoon flights. (B)

Please Note: Due to the limited number of cabins at the ranch, accommodations are shared cozy log cabins for two participants each.

Tour Details

Mar 12 2025 – Mar 16 2025
Register Now
*Additional trips will be scheduled as needed
Fee: $4,895 from Edmonton, Alberta
Deposit: $1,500
Limit: 8 participants
Activity Level: Easy

Tour Highlights

  • Three days of wild great gray owl photography
  • Photograph these magnificent birds of prey as they perch on snowy conifers, glide on wings that whisper over snow-filled roadsides, and drift effortlessly past you
  • Shoot the snowy boreal forest of central Alberta in March, the snowiest month of the year, when the trees are often cloaked in pillows of fresh, fluffy snow
  • Trip limited to 8 photographers interested in unique images of an elusive subject
  • Travel with a raptor expert with an intimate knowledge of great gray owls and their winter behavior
  • Extensive “owl scouting” prior to the trip
  • Reside in a real working cattle ranch surrounded by the wild boreal forest
  • Trip includes all meals, lodging, ground transportation, photo guides and instruction

Tour Details

Mar 12 2025 – Mar 16 2025
Register Now
*Additional trips will be scheduled as needed
Fee: $4,895 from Edmonton, Alberta
Deposit: $1,500
Limit: 8 participants
Activity Level: Easy

Encircling the northern pole of our planet is an immense tract of trees. Naturalists poetically describe this northern forest as Earth’s evergreen crown of larch, pine, and spruce—the largest terrestrial ecosystem on Earth. Many would argue that within this immense coniferous hinterland a single bird, the splendid great gray owl, embodies all that is mysterious and magical.

240320 Z1015394 Enhanced NR - gray owl

Every winter, these elusive gray ghosts of the forest move to the snow-choked edges of rural roadways in wilderness Alberta to hunt the voles and mice that tunnel beneath the drifts. Many of these owls migrate from remote forest areas where they have never encountered humans before and consequently are wonderfully unwary and approachable, making them the perfect photographic subjects.

For weeks in advance of the tour, our local guide scours the backroads that penetrate the forests of central Alberta for the least wary owls wintering in this area and for those that promise the greatest range of photographic opportunities. From our cozy ranch-style cabins we set out each day, amply fueled with delicious meals prepared by our gracious and hardworking host, to scour the surrounding forests in search of great grays—one of the most photogenic of owls. Opportunities to create many different images in a variety of winter landscapes are possible.

240316 Z1012913 Enhanced NR - gray owl

In March, at the end of winter, many northern songbirds are moving about eagerly searching for nesting partners and this is the perfect season to capture them with our cameras as they are distracted by this seasonal quest. Some of the many birds we can expect to see on the tour (especially at our guest ranch) include four species of woodpeckers, redpolls, chickadees, nuthatches, ravens, and jays, and we strive to add these to our individual photo libraries.

240319 Z1014284 Pano Edit - gray owl

Tour Itinerary

Day 1 (March 12, 2025)
Fly to Edmonton, Alberta. Contact our airport hotel for free shuttle service.  We meet this evening at our hotel for orientation followed by dinner. (D)

Day 2 – 4
Early this morning we travel by private van to an area in central Alberta near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains where we begin three days of great gray owl shooting. After each early morning shoot, we usually return to our rustic and cozy guest ranch for lunch and a break before our afternoon outing. Our flexible schedule allows us to take advantage of the potentially changing winter weather conditions which can vary from sunshine to clouds and blowing snow.

During the winter months, great gray owls often establish territories and once they’ve claimed a section of the forest, they tend to stay put for several weeks, making their whereabouts somewhat predictable. In these very secluded areas, far removed from human habitation and road traffic, we take the opportunity to feed them. There are no scientific studies that affirm supplemental feeding is detrimental to the owls.

We are always on the lookout for other wildlife subjects and ready to capture every photographic opportunity that comes our way. (BLD)

Day 5 (March 16)
This morning we return to Edmonton in time for afternoon flights. (B)

Please Note: Due to the limited number of cabins at the ranch, accommodations are shared cozy log cabins for two participants each.

Tour Highlights

  • Three days of wild great gray owl photography
  • Photograph these magnificent birds of prey as they perch on snowy conifers, glide on wings that whisper over snow-filled roadsides, and drift effortlessly past you
  • Shoot the snowy boreal forest of central Alberta in March, the snowiest month of the year, when the trees are often cloaked in pillows of fresh, fluffy snow
  • Trip limited to 8 photographers interested in unique images of an elusive subject
  • Travel with a raptor expert with an intimate knowledge of great gray owls and their winter behavior
  • Extensive “owl scouting” prior to the trip
  • Reside in a real working cattle ranch surrounded by the wild boreal forest
  • Trip includes all meals, lodging, ground transportation, photo guides and instruction

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Van Os Photo Safaris uses the information you provide to contact you about our upcoming tours, special offers, and trip reports. You may unsubscribe from these communications at any time.
For more information, check out our Privacy Policy.