Early March is usually the time that barred owls make their appearance at birdfeeders in Muskoka. The most common owl found in the region, barred owls are medium sized, round-headed, (i.e. no ear tufts) with a warm, tawny, barred brown colour all over, hence the name. Don't confuse them with a barn owl. Barn owls are a different bird altogether, only seen in extreme southern Ontario, and rarely there.
Barred owls are residents in Muskoka and at Beacon, staying all through the year, which is why they visit backyard feeders as winter comes to an end. Their supply of food - mainly mice in the winter-time - becomes more scarce. If the snow is still too deep and ice-encrusted to break through, they look for the mice attracted to the spilled seed under birdfeeders. These may be deer mice or red-backed voles or even the shrews that are themselves predators of mice. Barred owls will also chase a red squirrel, as well as the nocturnal flying squirrels, and may even take a mourning dove or other bird, if there is an opportunity.
Food is not abundant at this time of year. Spring really doesn't arrive here until things start to 'green-up', usually in mid-April. From now until then it is a desperate time for many of the animals around Beacon and in Muskoka, and a matter of survival.
Deer have burned their winter fat but there is usually no fresh greens to eat in the first few weeks of spring. If it stays cold and the snow cover is slow in melting some will starve. When that happens they become food for the wolves and eagles that come into Muskoka in the winter for just that reason. Moose fare better, moving through the snow easily. But if winter tick is a plague some parts of their body can be literally naked by early April. If it remains cold they could die from hypothermia.
Other animals struggle at this time of year. The new arrivals from the south, such as robins and blackbirds, compete for the limited food supply. They are back early to stake out territories and get the necessary head-start on the breeding season. But sometimes it seems they are too early, or winter is too late. It's an example of how "the whole creation groans..."
Surprisingly, most animals make it through. Even when it seems they simply can't, they do. Phoebes (a type of bird) often arrive in early April, but how can these flycatchers survive when there aren't any insects? Sometimes you'll see them picking dead flies from around the windows of the buildings at camp, all the while calling their raspy 'fee-bee' calls. They make it somehow.
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved." Romans 8:23-24
God does take care of His Creation in amazing ways, and the same can be said of us, and even more so.