Self-taught artist paints the 7 owl species found, but not easy to see, in province
Kristen Reuel has painted 11 of Canada's 16 owl species so far
An Ontario artist has painted New Brunswick's seven owl species as part of a project to paint all 16 species of owls found across the country.
Kristen Reuel taught herself how to use oil paints by watching YouTube tutorials, and she's spent the last year meticulously painting owls on five-by-seven-inch birch panels.
It all started when she took her dog for a walk through a snowy park last winter.
A cross-country skier gliding through the park pointed at an eastern screech owl sitting in a tree. Reuel had never seen an owl before then.
"I was just struck by their mysterious beauty and felt like doing this project and just educating people as to the owls around us," Reuel said.
Since then, Reuel has painted 11 of Canada's 16 owl species, most of which are found in Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces.
She finished painting New Brunswick's owl species in late June. Seven species of owls inhabit New Brunswick, including snowy, barred, boreal, great horned, long-eared, northern saw-whet and short-eared.
Owl experts have debated the exact number of species in the province because one, the northern hawk owl, tends to travel farther south, although it occasionally visits New Brunswick.
A couple of New Brunswick's owls migrate elsewhere throughout the year as well, like the snowy owl, a species that spends its summer months in the Arctic.
The western screech owl, flammulated owl and burrowing owl are among the five species Reuel has left to paint.
Reuel said she learns more about owls each time she pulls out a birch panel to paint a new species — and that's part of the joy for her.
"I wanted to show people that there are actually owls living here [in Canada]," Reuel said. "You would not usually see them because they are so quiet and mysterious."
Jim Wilson, a naturalist in New Brunswick, said spotting an owl anywhere is "a special treat."
Owls are nocturnal creatures. In the day, they tend to nest in trees and blend in with the foliage making them difficult to see.
"When they're active, we're not so active, because it's at night," Wilson said.
"We get fleeting glimpses, we hear them but we don't really see them. They have this air of mystery."
Those factors contribute to mysteriousness of owls, he said.
By painting the stoic creatures, Reuel has come to learn more some quirky facts.
"The great horned owl, which Reuel describes as "extremely fierce," can go after skunks and even a person's hat.
"They're called the tigers of the sky because they'll go after pretty much anything," Reuel said.
The 30-year-old artist has already sold 11 of her original owl paintings. The painting of a barred owl went to Cincinnati, Ohio. The rest were bought by someone in Almira, Wash.
She plans to save the remaining five for her mom.