They might be formidable hunters who sometimes wreath their nests with the bodies of their victims, but now and again, snowy owls can also serve up a good dose of nature zen... 

This mesmerising footage was captured by New York residents Gary Cranfield and Betsy B. Waterman, who spotted the snowy owl during a recent trip to Lake Ontario. 

"Betsy and I had seen this snowy owl perched on a post," Cranfield explained on Facebook. "We watched for a while and tried to get some pictures, but it was too far away. We left to warm up and when we came back the owl was gone."

The pair had given up on a second encounter with the alabaster animal when they crossed paths with it once again en route to their car.

"We found it, amazingly riding on this loose ice bobbing in the waves," recalled Cranfield. "We took pictures for probably 30 minutes. It was very windy and wavy and the pictures just didn't show what was really happening. I finally thought to take a video, which turned out to be the right thing to do."

It's likely the bird was just using the ice as a resting spot, but it's also possible that the bobbing floe provided camouflage for hunting. Unlike most of their kin, snowy owls are happy to hunt during the day, and these opportunistic predators have been known to occasionally nab passing waterfowl while using an icy backdrop for cover. The bird's position may also have rendered it undetectable to rabbits or any other small mammals scurrying long the banks.

When it comes to snowy-owl sightings in the New York area, 2017 shaped up to be a bumper year, and scientists suspect that a growing population of lemmings – a snowy-owl favourite – may have something to do with the influx of these Arctic avian visitors. With abundant prey in their northern habitat, more juvenile owls manage to travel south to feed and find territory during the winter months. Whether or not this year will also see a so-called  "irruption" remains to be seen, but local wildlife officials are urging photographers to observe any snowy owls from a respectful distance. 

Some commenters speculated that the owl in the Lake Ontario clip was sick, injured or stuck, but according to Cranfield, it flew away without any trouble. "As it was getting darker, the owl took off and moved to a much calmer spot on the ice," he clarified. 



Top header image: Lonnie Janzen/Flickr