Wildlife

In the world Raven made

A conspiracy of ravens - © Christopher Martin-4170

Raven
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


Summer residents at Frank Lake

Singing from the grasstops - © Christopher Martin-6632

Frank Lake is just east of High River in southern Alberta and is a great location for birding throughout the year.  In the summer, ibis, herons, avocets, blackbirds, ducks, pelicans and a menagerie of other avians congregate there for their summer residence.

A Black-crowned night heron stalks along a fencepost.

Black-crowned night heron at Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-7854

On a recent visit, I enjoyed watching and photographing a number of these birds.  The Black-crowned night heron above was of particular interest to me as it stalked along this fence above a stream where it emptied into the lake.

A shorebird at Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-6819Summer among the reeds in Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-6593
Flight over Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-7036

White pelicans at Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-7668

Avocet reflected in Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-7175

Ibis at Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-6637


A Coyote’s breakfast leaps

Leaping Coyote - © Christopher Martin-9854-3

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.

Leaping Coyote - © Christopher Martin-9737

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.

Fencline Coyote - © Christopher Martin-9766

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.

Leaping Coyote - © Christopher Martin-9853

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.

Leaping Coyote - © Christopher Martin-9860

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.

Forest Coyote - © Christopher Martin-9773

Leaping Coyote - © Christopher Martin-9883

After a total of fifteen minutes she crossed a gravel back road and disappeared into the heavy scrub brush on the other side.

Gravel road Coyote - © Christopher Martin-9898


American avocets at Frank Lake

Avocets at Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-7726

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.

Avocets at Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-7528

Avocets at Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-7727

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.

Avocets at Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-7485

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.

Avocets at Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-7316

Avocets at Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-7282

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.

Avocets at Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-7561

Avocets at Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-7694


Fox kits playing tug-of-war

Fox kit tug-of-war - © Christopher Martin-1579

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.

Fox kit tug-of-war - © Christopher Martin-1568

These three kits were the main players and they alternated between 1 on 1 and 1 on 2 battles.

Fox kit tug-of-war - © Christopher Martin-1467

For a while, a fourth looked interested in joining but they didn’t join in for very long.

Fox kit tug-of-war - © Christopher Martin-1451


Birding before dawn

Black-legged stilt in Nanton - © Christopher Martin-4044
While waiting for sunrise when I was out on the prairie I stopped at a small roadside slough where there were a variety of shorebirds milling about.  One Avocet and two Black-necked stilts were curious about my nighttime activities and stayed close by.
Avocet in Nanton - © Christopher Martin-4036It was too dark for the camera to expose the birds as they moved around so I used a flash set on low power to illuminate the Avocet swimming a few yards off the shoreline.  The stilt found that quite intriguing and circled me on land and in the air a couple of times before I carried on towards the eastern glow.
Black-legged stilt in Nanton - © Christopher Martin-4074
Black-legged stilt in Nanton - © Christopher Martin-4053

A new wildlife portfolio: Coyotes!

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.

Spray Valley Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada


Same bear, similar itch, different tree

Jasper Black Bear - © Christopher Martin Photography-9725

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.

Jasper Black Bear - © Christopher Martin Photography-9380

Crossing a thin tree line, he grazed on spring flowers amid the tall grass while heading parallel to the road.

Jasper Black Bear - © Christopher Martin Photography-9360

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.

Jasper Black Bear - © Christopher Martin Photography-9587

A few minutes later, he moved into the trees and finding a new scratching post to rub against for a little while.

Jasper Black Bear - © Christopher Martin Photography-9728

Jasper Black Bear - © Christopher Martin Photography-9726-2

Jasper Black Bear - © Christopher Martin Photography-9733-2

Jasper Black Bear - © Christopher Martin Photography-9739


Fox faces

Fox kits on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-1390

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.

Fox kits on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-0875

Fox kits on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-0775

Fox kits on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-0950

Fox kits on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-0883

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fox kits on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-1334

 

Fox kits on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-1394

Fox kits on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-1736


Fox kits at play on the prairies

Fox kits on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-1233

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.

Fox kits on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-1035

Fox kits on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-1029

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.

Fox kits on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-1231

Fox kits on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-1092

Fox kits on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-1047

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!

Fox kits on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-0847

Fox kits on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-0850

Fox kits on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-0851


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