Serene Snowy Owl Goes With the Floe

A snowy owl rides on a small ice floe in Lake Ontario. (Photo: Gary Cranfield/YouTube)

Snowy owls have been in the spotlight a lot this winter. Whether they're making rare cameos in the Southern U.S. or "dancing" with foxes in the streets, it has felt like these majestic birds are everywhere lately.

The owls don't want publicity, of course. They're mainly just looking for prey to help them get through winter — and maybe a good place to meditate now and then.

One snowy owl seemed to find the latter on Lake Ontario last week, serenely riding on a small ice floe atop the churning lake. Luckily, two nature enthusiasts were also there to record the scene, which you can see in the video above.

The video was shot by Gary Cranfield of Oswego, New York, who visited the lake with partner Betsy Waterman on Jan. 20 after hearing about snowy owl sightings.

"Gary and I went over to Lake Ontario to see what we could see," Waterman writes on Facebook, "and we could not believe our eyes when we spotted a snowy owl. I have always wanted to see one and have traveled to places where they had been seen, but had never been lucky enough to see one until yesterday."

The owl was initially perched on a post, Cranfield adds, and too far away for a good photo op. They watched it for a while, then left briefly to warm up. When they returned, the wind had picked up and the owl was gone.

"As we were walking back to our car we found it, amazingly riding on this loose ice bobbing in the waves," Cranfield writes. They took photos for about 30 minutes, but still images didn't quite convey what they were seeing. That's when Cranfield had the idea to shoot a video, which he says "turned out to be the right thing to do."

The sound and motion of the ice are oddly soothing, and the owl's demeanor suggests it might really be doing this to unwind. It's hard to be sure, though — wintering snowy owls often sit in one spot for most of the day, and not just for relaxation. Snowy owls are less nocturnal than many owl species, and as EarthTouch News points out, this one could have been using the ice as a hunting blind.

Some commenters worried the owl was hurt or stuck, but Cranfield says it "took off and moved again to a much calmer spot on the ice" around dusk. Whatever it was doing, it was lucky to meet people who knew to keep their distance and avoid stressing it out. Thanks to that restraint, they captured this moment of Zen without ruining it — and now the rest of us can channel this owl when we need to chill.