Ramin Izadpanah has been taking photos of snowy owls in and around the Ottawa area every winter since 2012, but this winter he and other wildlife photographers are in for a treat.

An unprecedented number of the mighty birds are migrating south, spurring the International Union for Conservation of Nature to point to climate change as a threat to the snowy owl.

The agency has raised the snowy owl from "least concern" to "vulnerable" on its species "red list."

In the Ottawa area, researchers are hoping to learn about the owl's migration patterns from an electronic transmitter strapped to the back of one particular snowy owl named Hardscrabble. 

The invasion of snowy owls from the Arctic to the Ottawa region has made for stunning photos for photographers like Izadpanah, whose work has been featured in National Geographic. He also teaches photography at the Ottawa School of Art. 

For the best shot, Izadpanah said he likes to wait for what he calls "golden light" — the warm, sunny glow that paints the earth in the moments just before sunset and after sunrise. He then shoots the birds with a telephoto lens from a safe distance. 

Just three weeks ago, Izadpanah said he spotted a male snowy owl from his car in Ottawa South. (He doesn't want to disclose the specific location to avoid others disrupting the animals.) 

Thrilling encounters

What excites him during his birding outings is seeing other native birds, such as crows or hawks, harass snowy owls who encroach on their territory. 

"They are close, face-to-face. And the crow, [its] wing is totally open and [it's] trying to go at [the owl]," he said. 

"That's nature. That's the world of birds."

Below are some of his best shots of snowy owls spotted in the Ottawa area.


Ramin Izadpanah snowy owl photo 3

(Submitted by Ramin Izadpanah)

Ramin Izadpanah snowy owl photo 2

(Submitted by Ramin Izadpanah)

Ramin Izadpanah snowy owl photo 4

(Submitted by Ramin Izadpanah)