This morning I found a coyote skittering along the ditch on Highway 8 in between Bragg Creek and Springbank. At first, I thought it was an older pup but then I realized it was an adult in its sleek summer coat. I often photograph coyotes in the cooler months when they have their heavier jackets on so I’ll forgive myself the initial error. I believe this one was a female and she was absolutely beautiful. I was worried when I spotted her as she seemed to be trying to cross the road amid pretty steady traffic. Watching her, it became apparent that she and a couple of ravens were attracted to some bits of roadkill on the highway.
It was a relief when she slipped under the fence towards a field with an open stand of broken and weathered trees. She turned her attention towards hunting for field mice and that’s where the fun really began.
Turns out she is an accomplished hunter and I was delighted to watch her successfully catch two mice on three jumps. Of those leaps, I was in good position for two of them and am happy with the action caught.
The image above is the start of the first leap. The image at the top of this post was the next image as she was fully airborne.
The whole sequence from target acquisition to landing is efficient and I admired the focus, power and dexterity she showed. The three leaps all occurred within a short 2-3 minute stretch. On either side, she favoured me with a few inquisitive looks.
After a total of fifteen minutes she crossed a gravel back road and disappeared into the heavy scrub brush on the other side.
Frank Lake, just east of High River, is a great refuge for birds during migrations. It also serves as a summer home and breeding ground for many shorebirds and waterfowl. The sandy flats, rocky outcrops, tall reedy marshes and open water appeal to a wide range of birds and provides nice habitat to raise their chicks in.
The American avocet (Recurvirostra americana) is a beautiful shorebird that summers in Frank Lake. This is the northern end of their summer range – I’m glad they choose to come this far. I have photographed them at the lake a few times before where they have been feeding in the muddy shallows and beaches. On a trip there a couple of weeks ago, I was looking for some in flight images. When I had walked down to the shore, all the birds were active. I don’t think it was because of me or any raptors that had rustled everyone up. It seemed like it was a sunny afternoon, lot’s of chicks were hungry and all of the birds were flying, swimming and running around. It was a great scene with pelicans, stilts, geese, gulls and ducks all milling about.
And avocets! I found two small groups of them along the shoreline. One was a group of adults that generally left one another alone to forage for the tiny insects they favour. The other was a pair with their brood of four chicks.
From the adult group, I was able to track a few fliers. The family was a great bonus as I had not seen avocet babies before and I enjoyed watching them following their parents around.
At one point when I photographed a family of foxes in May, there was a ragged piece of cloth which served for a long-running tug-of-war at one point in the evening.
These three kits were the main players and they alternated between 1 on 1 and 1 on 2 battles.
For a while, a fourth looked interested in joining but they didn’t join in for very long.
Coyotes are a resourceful predators that roam all across Alberta – and much of North America for that matter. I often find them hunting for rodents on the prairies or padding along the forest’s edge when I’m up in the mountains. They are beautiful animals and I wanted to share a gallery pulled together from many encounters over the past couple of years. Please click on Coyote Portfolio or the image above to visit the gallery.
The Black bear that I photographed doing a bit of a dance while rubbing against a small tree continued on its path through the trees for a while before crossing the highway. It was early in the morning so no traffic interrupted him as he sauntered down the middle of the road for a couple of hundred metres.
Crossing a thin tree line, he grazed on spring flowers amid the tall grass while heading parallel to the road.
A while after that, he wandered close to the Athabasca River and grazed near the shoreline and even laid down for a short nap on a grassy spot.
A few minutes later, he moved into the trees and finding a new scratching post to rub against for a little while.
The fox pups, properly called kits, were playful and energetic when I spent an evening watching them. In the moments between, and even during, the hectic activity, they flashed some beautiful looks. I was really happy to be able to freeze a few of these.
The sun fell under the clouds late in the evening and provided a warm, buttery light to end the day. That was special for a guy with a camera!
The family of foxes I had the opportunity to photograph last week were an energetic bunch. Well, the kits were – I didn’t see the adults at any point during the couple of hours I watched them. Neighbours of the human type indicated that the adult pair raise a brood here every year.
However, the siblings all seemed to smoothly shift between play, tricks, sleep and just watching throughout the time I watched them. Just as you would expect for young foxes in training.
I was struck by their similarity to my own canines at home – particularly our one year old labradoodle (frenetic, smart and above all else playful) but still decidedly foxy!
When we stayed at the Emerald Lake Lodge in May, our cabin’s deck overlooked the path and the lake beyond. While sitting outside to enjoy the view, I noticed this little fellow coming down the path.
He looked surprised when I stood up and circled back to have a quick look around.
I said good morning and he carried on with his plans.
I did happen across him the next day as well, this time near a path in the forest but I missed a decent photograph as he darted in and out of the foliage faster than I could find and focus.