A Great gray owl morning in Bragg Creek


A Bragg Creek Owl - © Christopher Martin-3652

The fields and forests west of Bragg Creek have been owl havens for me in the spring and summer for several years.  The autumn and winter encounters have been much less numerous but I added one more on the weekend.  A couple of warm days had melted most of the snow in this meadow but on the morning I was out it was cold.

A Bragg Creek Owl - © Christopher Martin-3647

I had spotted this Great gray owl perched on a weathered fence post as I drove along the road.  I pulled over, hopped out and crossed the fence to get the rising sun behind me and onto his front.

A Bragg Creek Owl - © Christopher Martin-3789

The day warmed up several degrees in the sunlight while I hung out with this beautiful raptor.  I stayed there for a little over an hour and he made a couple of flights to alternate posts along the fence line.  His focus on hunting seemed to take second place to warming up in the sunshine.

A Bragg Creek Owl - © Christopher Martin-3952

When I left he was staring intently at a spot in the long grass – I waited for another 20 minutes hoping an attack dive would come.  His patience beat mine and I left with a few good flight photos, a smile and a thank you to this beautiful owl.

A Bragg Creek Owl - © Christopher Martin-3957


A squirrel’s attack on prayer flags

Prayer flag squirrel - © Christopher Martin-1379

Creatures in our forest are readying for winter right now.  This squirrel, one of our long-time neighbours, was out collecting warm material to line her home with when she found one of our strings of Buddhist Lung ta prayer flags (Tibetan:རླུང་རྟ་; Mandarin Chinese:風馬 – Feng ma; meaning “Wind horse”).  I found her while she was well into separating one of the flags.  I really can’t take much issue with this resourceful little creature so I think we will have to buy some more flags to replace these.

Prayer Flag Squirrel - © Christopher Martin-1375

A new gallery of Brown Pelican images

Brown Pelican on a Cabo beach - © Christopher Martin-

I really like Brown Pelicans (their scientific name is Pelecanus occidentalis).  They can be acrobatic in flight but generally look very cool while gliding in the sky or low over waves.  They are inquisitive, excellent hunters and socially engaging.  They are also active early in the morning and late in the evening which allows for some great lighting opportunities when photographing them.

I have put together a gallery of a few of my favourite Brown Pelican images here (or click the image above).  In the gallery, please click on any picture to see a full size image.  Most of these images are from Los Cabos in Mexico with a couple of flight pictures from Laguna Beach, California.

Rutting Elk in the Bow Valley

Bull Elk Rutting in Banff National Park - © Christopher Martin-1946

A small herd of bull elk were gathered near Moose Meadows on the Bow Valley Parkway when I was there on the weekend.  The frost bleached the grass and the cold air made the breath visible.

Bull Elk Rutting - © Christopher Martin-1945

These were mature adults with massive antlers and they were putting them to use.  The rut is on and these elk were challenging each other repeatedly.

Bull Elk Rutting - © Christopher Martin-1896

They would be eating grass and then stare at another one.  Soon after, they would stalk slowly towards each other and lock antlers. Once entwined, a push and a pull fight would take place.  Unlike Bighorn sheep battles where they smash into each other, these were shoving matches.

Bull Elk Rutting - © Christopher Martin-1929

It was a cold morning which made for a particularly appealing scene to watch these giants battle.  The elk below was noticeably larger than the others and only one bull challenged him in the half hour that I watched.  That contest seemed like more of a measuring stick for the smaller one as it was short and there was no real challenge.

Bull Elk Rutting - © Christopher Martin-2063

He wandered off after a while heading for the trees and leaving the others to graze and continue the odd skirmish.

Bull Elk Rutting - © Christopher Martin-2087

An autumn Grizzly in the Banff National Park

Bow Valley Grizzly Bear - © Christopher Martin-2378

On the weekend, I found a Grizzly bear traversing along the edge of the Bow Valley Parkway near the southeast entrance.  The bear, a female with the tag #148 (I think), I could see where she had been digging up roots but when I saw her she was already on the move.

Bow Valley Grizzly Bear - © Christopher Martin-2372

She crossed the road between a couple of parked cars and then disappeared into the trees.  I played a hunch and drove a kilometre down the road and waited hoping she might continue in that direction.  A little while later, she came down the road and scrambled up onto this rock shelf above the road.

Bow Valley Grizzly Bear #148 - © Christopher Martin-2323

That offered a great view of this beautiful creature and I was able to create some solid imagery when she paused to decide on her next route.

Bow Valley Grizzly Bear - © Christopher Martin-2308

Leaving the rocks, she crossed a grassy meadow and then walked through the open forest for a few hundred metres.  I loved watching her walk through the trees – at this time of the year her coat blends in with the autumn foliage.

Bow Valley Grizzly Bear - © Christopher Martin-2405

She then crossed the road again and shuffled down the hillside.  Out of sight again and this time she did not return.  I saw a video of her fishing earlier this summer so maybe she went down to the river for that!

Bow Valley Grizzly Bear - © Christopher Martin-2445

A White Wagtail in Shangri-La’s Potatso National Park

White wagtail in Yunnan - © Christopher Martin-9534

When I was in Shangri-La last month, I spent one day touring the Pudacuo National Park (also called Potatso; in Chinese it is 普达措国家公园).  Not enough time by any stretch of my imagination but I enjoyed the time I had.  In the morning I walked along the shoreline of Shudu lake and early on came across this White wagtail (Motacilla alba alboides) hunting for insects.

White wagtail in Yunnan - © Christopher Martin-9525


From this partly submerged perch, he flew down and skimmed the water’s surface.  Each dive appeared to be successful and after a few minutes the bird flew into the trees and disappeared.

White wagtail in Yunnan - © Christopher Martin-9517

Autumn Whiskey Jack

Autumn Whiskey Jack - © Christopher Martin-1363-2
I love Gray Jays, also called Whiskey Jacks, and found a pair foraging for stray sides on a path in Kananaskis on the weekend.  You will almost never see a lone jay, they are always found in a pair – I like that.  Here, I caught this little one in mid-flight as it flew off a branch to the ground.

An in-flight snack

A Merlin's inflight meal - © Christopher Martin-5597

I found this Merlin feasting from a fence top perch near High River last weekend.  I watched him for a couple of minutes before a hauling truck passed by.  At that point, the noise and proximity disturbed this fellow and he took flight.  He shot upwards with a couple of fast wing beats and then surprised me with a hovering break to grab another bite.  It was likely a readjustment of the load but it was neat to watch.

A Merlin's dinner - © Christopher Martin-5572

A Merlin's inflight meal - © Christopher Martin-5595

With the prey in the right place, he then banked away over the prairie and settled in the grass a couple hundred metres away to finish his meal.

A Merlin's inflight meal - © Christopher Martin-5610-3

A bold young moose

Moose calf in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-4834

This calf and his mother were in the Bragg Creek Provincial Park, grazing on the edge of the forest near the road.  With momma close by, the calf was bolder than I expected.  He stared at me from a few paces in the trees before crossing the road and walking very close to my car.

Moose calf in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-4751

Moose calf in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-4825

Moose calf in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-4846

Once he had checked me out, then he skipped back again and joined in snacking on the greenery.

Moose calf in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-4786

On old friend around a weathered barn

Great horned owl - © Christopher Martin-5454
I had the great pleasure of seeing a Great horned owl at an old barn east of High River.  It is one that I have visited a couple of times over the past couple of years.  This window, which faces north, is a favourite daytime perch.  The heavy clouds only threatened rain and their midday dimming effect seemed to encourage the owl to make a couple of sorties over the surrounding fields during the time I spent there.

Great horned owl - © Christopher Martin-5403

Great horned owl - © Christopher Martin-5402

The owl flew along the fence line twice which afforded me a few great in-flight shooting opportunities.  I left the barn with my friend perched in the deep shadow of the barn’s interior.

Great horned owl - © Christopher Martin-5414

Great horned owl - © Christopher Martin-5443

Great horned owl - © Christopher Martin-5445

Great horned owl - © Christopher Martin-5344

Great horned owl - © Christopher Martin-5347

Young rams at play… and practice

Waterton Sheep Pre-rut - © Christopher Martin-3480

On one of our morning drives, Kian and I came across a few Bighorn rams on the Akamina Parkway near Cameron Lake in the Waterton National Park.  These were adolescents, not the adult males which will battle for the attention of the ewes in the fall.  Nonetheless, a couple of them were practicing their rutting between grazing on the roadside vegetation.

Waterton Sheep Pre-rut - © Christopher Martin-3481

Waterton Sheep Pre-rut - © Christopher Martin-3507

When the big boys crash their horns together it can echo across a valley.  These battles didn’t carry that kind of power but it was great action with no lack of enthusiasm.  We were able to watch three battles and my son and I both loved watching, and hearing, the collisions.

Waterton Sheep Pre-rut - © Christopher Martin-3530

I do wonder if concussions are a problem as they are with human contact sports.

Waterton Sheep Pre-rut - © Christopher Martin-3544

In the world Raven made

A conspiracy of ravens - © Christopher Martin-4170

The many are the one
Fly over the world you have made
Share your vision with those who will see
Fly where you will and we will know you are
In time we will understand more of what is
And we will change as you change
We will fly in our way as you fly in yours
You are and we will be


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