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

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


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