Birds

House Sparrows in Canmore

Canmore House Sparrows - © Christopher Martin-8941

The Summit Cafe is a favourite place for Bobbi and I to have breakfast when we are in Canmore.  I was there last weekend, sitting on their patio outside.  The sun was out, the snow had melted and it had more of a spring feel than anything else.  These House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) contributed to that with their chittering and occasional outburst of song.  There were about 15 that darted between the roof of a nearby building, a deck railing and a shrubbery that was more stick than bush given the time of year.

Canmore House Sparrows - © Christopher Martin-8981

Canmore House Sparrows - © Christopher Martin-8970

Canmore House Sparrows - © Christopher Martin-8984

Canmore House Sparrows - © Christopher Martin-9034

Canmore House Sparrows - © Christopher Martin-9010


Red-tailed flights in Turner Valley

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3798

On my return from the two separate visits with Great Horned Owls near High River, I drove past Okotoks, through Black Diamond and Turner Valley and then back to Bragg Creek.  I counted more than twenty five hawks before I reached Priddis.  Along the way, I stopped a couple of times that were in interesting locations.

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3755

 

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3733

One Red-tailed hawk was hunting from a wooden gate and fence dividing a farm from the highway.  This hawk dove once while I was set up – it was great to observe an attack from close range thanks to a long telephoto lens.  It returned to the post empty-taloned but then launched out over the field and grabbed a mouse when it neared the far side.  Too far for a decent photograph but great to watch.

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3786

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3787

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3797

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3799

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3801


Working for peanuts

Stellar Jay - © Christopher Martin-4472

Not me, the Stellar Jays on the deck of my aunt and uncle’s house in Nelson.

 Backlit Jay - © Christopher Martin-4336

There are a pair of these beautiful birds that live near the house and they call for peanuts a few times throughout the day.  These cries are rewarded and the opportunity to photograph them was not one I passed on.  At my home we have several blue jays that favour our backyard so it was fun to look at these birds closely and compare and contrast with “ours”.

Phone perch - © Christopher Martin-4398

I grew up in the Kootenays but moved away almost twenty years ago.  Luckily Marnie and John have kept their house there and we try to get out to visit them at least once every summer.  I missed last year and sadly this year was only a one night stay.  However, it was great to see them, to meet their resident jays and to enjoy one of my favourite places in the world.

Prize winner - © Christopher Martin-4484


Red-naped Sapsucker in Bragg Creek

 

Red-naped Sapsucker - 2014 © Christopher Martin

It always exciting when I come across a new creature for the first time.  On the weekend, while photographing two beautiful owls, I had my first encounter with a Red-naped Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus nuchalis).  I’m used to seeing Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers frequently around Bragg Creek but the distinctive red patches sent me looking through my bird book to identify this new (to me) species.  We are on the northwest edge of their summer range but they are apparently quite conspicuous so I must have missed them previously.

Scratch - 2014 © Christopher Martin

(Please click on any image if you would like to view a higher resolution version in a new window)

When one of the owls flew to a fence post near a stand of trees, it disturbed this small woodpecker.  The little bird started chittering away and ended up flying out of the tree above the owl and landing on a post in front of me.  He settled down and took a minute to scratch the feathers on his nape before heading across the meadow.  It didn’t bother the owl in the least but I really enjoyed the short visit.

Red-naped Sapsucker - 2014 © Christopher Martin

 


Full extension

A Red-tailed Hawk launches off a post on the prairie west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/2000 second at f/4 on ISO 800

When this Red-tailed hawk launched off the post I had been watching him on for a few minutes, I was really impressed by the power and balance displayed.   He flew closer and then went to the ground after circling back towards the fenceline.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t an attacking dive only an uninspired landing in the tall grass.

ed-tailed flight - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/2000 second at f/4 on ISO 800

 

 


Relaxing in the sunshine

Canada Goose on Wild Rose Lake - 2014 © Christopher Martin

A Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) surveys the lake from a one-legged position on the water of Wild Rose in Bragg Creek, Alberta, Canada.  Before taking up this spot, I watched it walk out on the patch of dirt towards the water – it looked like it was checking out its own reflection when it got to the lake’s slightly abstract mirror.

Canada Goose reflected - 2014 © Christopher Martin

 


Water skimming Tree Swallow

Water skimming Tree Swallow - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens + 1.4X extender: 1/2000 second at f/6.3 on ISO 1600

I was on the edge of the lake at Wild Rose a week ago watching the three loons who were diving in and swimming on the water.  A few different times a small flight of swallows deftly skimmed the water nearby while searching for low flying and water-walking insects to pick off.  These Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) are swift, acrobatic fliers so trying to catch a sharp image is a fun challenge.  This little one had just hit the water but missed the little creature and was just pulling up when I caught up to him.


Canada Geese in Flight

Canada goose in flight - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DII and 300mm lens + 1.4X extender: 1/1250 second at f/5.6 on ISO 1250

Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) are busy looking for good nesting spots in the Elk Valley and I enjoyed watching them flying along the river when I was in Fernie during Easter.  In urban areas, they border on being a nuisance in many people’s mind, I don’t see them that way.

In the mist - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 300mm lens: 1/1000 second at f/5.6 on ISO 3200

Particularly when they are in flight in a wilderness setting, I find them to be a wonderful animal to watch.  The variation in the weather on the morning I spent photographing along the Elk River didn’t hurt the imagery at all.

Up high - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DII and 300mm lens + 1.4X extender: 1/4000 second at f/6.3 on ISO 500

Air traffic - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DII and 300mm lens + 1.4X extender: 1/4000 second at f/6.3 on ISO 500

There was fog and light rain in the morning which burned off early leaving sharp light and blue skies.  The forest along the river provided a beautiful backdrop as well.  I had fun with all of it.

Forest flight - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DII and 300mm lens + 1.4X extender: 1/1600 second at f/5.6 on ISO 1250

2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DII and 300mm lens + 1.4X extender: 1/1250 second at f/5.6 on ISO 1250


Spring with Robins in Fernie

Perched amid the tangled branches - 2014 © Christopher Martin(click on the image to open a page with a higher resolution version)

Although Fernie is in the heart of the Rockies, it is deeper into spring than Calgary so the visit there over the Easter weekend was great.  Robins have always been a sure sign of spring for me and I found a few hunting in a field during the rain.  This one was particularly beautiful as it chirped away from its perch in a tree by the Elk River.

Over the shoulder - 2014 © Christopher Martin


Elk River Heron

Elk River Heron flight - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm f/4 lens: 1/1600 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800

The Elk River runs through a southeastern region of British Columbia’s Kootenay region.  Where the river spills out of the mountains into the Elk Valley, it widens and attracts an abundance of fish which in turn draws eagles, osprey and herons.  On our recent trip to Fernie I enjoyed several walks along the river and was able to watch all of these birds on separate encounters.  On the first evening my nephew Austin and I were out for a walk and watched a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) flying low along the river and land at a shallow stretch.

Elk River Heron - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm f/4 lens: 1/1600 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800

There was enough light that it worked out well to photograph him flying by and landing.

 Along the banks - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm f/4 lens: 1/1600 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800

He landed nearby but spooked when we walked a bit closer so we headed home.  It was the right call not only for the bird but the rain increased from the drizzle to a downpour which we were happy to miss.

Heron landing - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm f/4 lens: 1/2500 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800

Thanks Austin – it was fun to be out birding with you!

Elk River Heron - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm f/4 lens: 1/2000 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800


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