Wildlife

Snowies east of Langdon

Langdon Snowies - © Christopher Martin-0324

I drove east of Langdon in the evening a couple of days ago looking for owls.  At this time of the year the odds are decent to see Snowy owls perched on a silo or a fence line so I was looking for them as well as Short-eared owls that have been reported in that area recently.   It was about an hour before sundown when I found a Snowy owl perched a couple of hundred metres away along a fence line.

Langdon Snowies - © Christopher Martin-0380

This beautiful fellow flew between a few posts and was not interested in having me around so I headed west as the sun fell behind a tall bank of clouds standing over the Rocky Mountains.  I found the second, and final, Snowy of the afternoon on a small oil and gas installation built on a rise that was a bit of a hike from the road.

Langdon Snowies - © Christopher Martin-0571

She was perched on a storage tank and took only passing interest in me during my 15 minute walk towards her.  As I drew closer I took a few photographs and as color came into the sky with sunset, I took a bunch more :)!

Langdon Snowies - © Christopher Martin-0602

She kept tabs on me but had her focus on the surrounding fields.  I didn’t see anything of note but it was a different story for the owl.

 

Langdon Snowies - © Christopher Martin-0722

When she did launch she glided over to another small hill then dived into the field where it seemed she caught something.  It was too far for me to make out and when she flew again after a couple of minutes she went further away and I had no interest in chasing her any further.

Langdon Snowies - © Christopher Martin-0730


A Snowy owl against the evening sky

Langdon Snowies - © Christopher Martin-0591

Canon 5DIII camera + 500mm f/4 lens: 1/640 seconds at f/4 on ISO 3200

I spotted this Snowy owl perched on this oil and gas installation east of Langdon.  She was about a kilometre off the road so I parked, grabbed my gear and headed over.  She was scanning to the east while I approached from the west side.  As I walked she kept an eye on my, swivelling her neck to watch me infrequently.  From a hundred metres away, with colour brushing into the sky as the sun set, I stopped to compose this photograph.  I love these birds and I love sunsets – these seemed to be interesting juxtapositions to the storage tank she was perched on.

 

 


My favourite wildlife photographs from 2015

 

Bow Valley Grizzly Bear - © Christopher Martin-2372

The past year was an interesting one for my wildlife photography.  I stayed largely in Alberta for the year and the animals presented in this gallery are almost all from close to my home.  Reflecting on that, I’m reminded what an incredible place I live in. Owls were prominent throughout the year with Snowy, Great gray and Great horned owls all sharing time with me.  Black and Grizzly bears were less seen for me but what I had were memorable for me.  I continue to deeply appreciate the more common animals and enjoyed revisiting some of those images when I was putting together this set.  The gallery is made up of 40 images and can be visited by clicking this link or the link above.

Bragg Creek spring owl - © Christopher Martin-5762

Looking back over the year, I pushed myself to create more dynamic images with a goal to show more of the animal’s power, grace and general movement.  I wanted to bring more patience to my time in the field and that has paid off with longer encounters and more enjoyment of the beautiful places I am in while I wait for something to fly, walk or run past.  I have continued to learn more about the animals that I spend time with and that knowledge benefits me in many ways beyond photography. This year I began connecting on a spiritual level with many of the animals that I encounter.  That continues to be an amazing journey whose benefit to my photography is significant but is a distant second to feeling the awareness of these beautiful creatures.

Bull Elk Rutting - © Christopher Martin-1945

I’m excited for the encounters that will come in the new year, the connections I will seek to establish and the places these intentions will lead me to.  Thank you for following my imagery through the year – I am honoured by everyone who chooses to spend time looking at, and hopefully enjoying, my photographs.  Let’s see where things go in 2016…

Jasper Black Bear - © Christopher Martin Photography-9739


Blue sky, white owl

White owl, blue sky - © Christopher Martin-9212-2

The cold morning cleared out a few early clouds and the afternoon east of High River was bright under a deep blue sky.  I found a couple of Snowy owls across the day with this one’s flight after launching from a telephone pole standing out due to the sunlight catching the yellow eyes brilliantly.  A great day on the prairies with these beautiful animals.


New Year’s Eve Eagles

A New Year's Eve Eagle - © Christopher Martin-8610

A pair of Bald eagles were drawn to Redwood Meadows today.  My daughter and I spotted them flying overhead when we were on our way to grab an ice cream cone in Bragg Creek.  We stopped going there and again on the way back.  They were drawn by a deer that had died near the golf course.  Ravens were on the ground while the eagles bided their time above in the nearby trees.

A New Year's Eve Eagle - © Christopher Martin-8528

A New Year's Eve Eagle - © Christopher Martin-8554

A New Year's Eve Eagle - © Christopher Martin-8609

 

A New Year's Eve Eagle - © Christopher Martin-8568

A New Year's Eve Eagle - © Christopher Martin-8578


Merry Christmas!

I hope that everyone is enjoying a Merry Christmas with those they love.  We had an early start with Santa’s stockings for the kids starting the morning off right.  Coffee helped the adults wake up, and then catch up, with Kezia’s and Kian’s enthusiasm.  A lot of laughs, smiles and hugs – just what this daddy was looking for!

Great horned owl at Christmas - © Christopher Martin-6717

This Great horned owl was a patient subject when I was guiding a new friend and fellow photographer from Colorado around the prairies.  We toured the gravel backroads east of High River and this was the first of three owls (two Great horned and one Snowy) we spent some time with.  With the very light plumage, I think of it as a Christmas owl.  It must be the season!

With warmest regards from my family to yours,

Chris


Watching over the prairie

I found this Great horned owl (Bubo virginianus) perched on a long abandoned barn’s window sill.  It was a cold day and this spot was out of the wind and facing the sun, which did come out a little later.  Pretty smart place to doze the daylight hours away.

Great Horned Owl barn perch - © Christopher Martin-6822


A Snowy day on the Prairies

Snowy owl in the field - © Christopher Martin-5860
I have a deep admiration for Snowy owls.  The range they cover, their adaptability, their calm repose they show when resting and their beauty while in flight are just the tip of a long list.  This time of the year is exciting for me as it marks the return of these owls to the prairies.  I was aware of recent sightings near Frank Lake and decided to head down there on the weekend.  A beautiful sunrise greeted me shortly after I arrived and then I set about touring the backroads in search of these wonderful birds.

Snowy owl in the field - © Christopher Martin-4705

After an hour I found this owl perched on the fence dividing up the prairie.  She watched me stop and get out of my car with some interest and then spent much of the next four hours ignoring me!  I packed on as much glass as I had (a 500mm with a 1.4x extender) and crossed onto the field.  She was a couple of hundred meters from the road so I took an indirect line to get closer and tried to make sure I didn’t make her anxious or uncomfortable.  After 15 minutes I was about 30 metres away and she head her eyes closed more than open.  The photograph above was one of the moments when she looked my way.  Over the next hour and a half, the wind blew, she made two separate short flights low over the fields returning to a nearby fence post, I got chilled and she seemed to catch up on a fair bit of sleep.  I loved sharing time there and when she finally flew off across the road and out of sight, I thought that was the end.

Snowy owl in the field - © Christopher Martin-5836

I was wrong.  I returned to my car, packed things up again, and drove west back towards Frank Lake.  About two kilometres down the road, there she was standing in a field of sticks close to the road.  These dried out stalks made an interesting environment to photograph the owl in and I set up in the ditch so I was low to the ground.  Looking at the time stamp on the image files, we stayed there for more than two hours, however it did not seem anywhere near that long.  She started to become a bit restless for a few minutes before she flew.  Preening feathers and looking around in all directions until she finally leaped back into the air.

Snowy owl in the field - © Christopher Martin-5865

I followed her to her intended destination which was a pair of grain silos just across the road.  She alighted next to the open cover of one of the silos and I had a perfect spot to watch her leaning against my car.

Snowy owl in the field - © Christopher Martin-5919

The picture above was not the owl landing on the silo.  There must have been mice in the silo because during the 20 minutes she perched on that lip she spent a fair bit of time looking down into hole.  Staring intently mostly but a couple of times she spread her wings out and I thought she might dive in there.  When she flew off, she followed the roofline down and disappeared from my view.  I think she was chasing a mouse but I’m not sure if she caught it or not.

Snowy owl in the field - © Christopher Martin-6013

After a few seconds, the owl flew back into sight when it banked around the silos and crossed the road again.  I followed her once again until she disappeared over the low rise.  Again, I thought that was the end of this extended visit.

Snowy owl in the field - © Christopher Martin-6025

Again, I was wrong.  She landed a little further down the road, I followed and we spent another hour watching one another.  Well, me watching her and her paying much more attention to everything else.

Snowy owl in the field - © Christopher Martin-6048

The weather was changing fast with the wind carrying the clouds further east and leaving blue sky and sunshine behind.  I think both the owl and I enjoyed that.  I had bundled up so the chill was gone – the Snowy had no such challenges.

Snowy owl in the field - © Christopher Martin-6079

Snowy owl in the field - © Christopher Martin-6161

The encounter did truly end when she either grew tired of my company or was ready for a meal off of the prairie.  A pretty fantastic experience for me.

Snowy owl in the field - © Christopher Martin-6292

Snowy owl in the field - © Christopher Martin-6293


Reconnecting with the Snowy owls

Snowy owl in the field - © Christopher Martin-5476

I drove to High River yesterday and spent the morning touring the gravel roads looking for wildlife on the prairies.  My hope was to find a Snowy owl as they have begun returning there.  An hour after sunrise, east of Frank Lake, I spied a beautiful owl perched on a fence line and I spent the next four hours watching it sit, fly, hunt and then sit.  A lot of watching while she dozed or scanned the surroundings but it was time I enjoyed completely.  I wanted to share this photograph of the bird from the early afternoon when she landed in a field and was surrounded by sticks left behind after the last harvest.  I am excited to share more from the day and will soon.


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.


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