I drove to the High River area on the weekend to look for owls. It was still dark when I found a Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) perched to the side of a small pond east of Frank Lake.
I set up on the side of the road and spent almost two hours watching him from across the water. The morning slowly got brighter but with heavy gray clouds diffusing the sunlight, it stayed dark for most of the first hour. The owl alternated between short naps and moments of intent staring at any stray sound or motion. These last were both mostly imperceptible to me but kept my attention, and the long lens, focused on him.
Just before 9 am, he stretched wings vertically and launched into the air. After a couple of quick strokes, he glided over the pond and landed in a bare limbed tree.
The skeletal branches did not suit for long and he crossed to another tree edging the pond. This tree was heavy with autumn tinged leaves and provided a third distinct setting for me to photograph this beautiful tiger owl in.
After a few more minutes, he walked down the branch and settled closer to the trunk and more out of sight. I packed up and while I was putting my tripod away, I watched him fly out and glide over the field behind the pond.
I found this Great Horned Owl near a nest that I watched earlier this year. The adult pair successfully fledged two owlets by early June and haven’t seen any of the owls in the area over the past few visits. On the weekend, I spied this beautiful bird deep in a stand of trees. It seemed to be relaxing on this branch – probably just winding down from a busy night and early morning hunting before going for a sleep. It was great to see one member of this family again.
To start the long weekend, I went looking for the Great Gray Owl pair who have been very active over a field of tall, green grass for much of the summer. I had a relatively short visit with one of the owls on this encounter. The bird stayed across the field for most of the hour I watched him. He did fly across, land nearby and stay for a few minutes at one point. However I got there a little bit later than usual so the morning hunt was winding down.
There was one particularly good dive that I pulled a nice sequence from. I love the wing positions in these shots and the intention in the focused stare.
It was good to see the owl again after being away for a couple of weeks. When he headed back towards the forest edge and their nest, I headed back to my home too.
I have been trying to capture this image for a long time. With the familiarity I’ve been lucky to establish with the Great Gray Owl pair in West Bragg Creek this year, they will often hunt near to where I am set up. On the weekend, one of the owls flew towards me and made a couple of dives from the post he landed on a few yards away. The stars aligned on one of these attacks and I froze him just before he disappeared into the knee-high grass.
(Please click on the image if you would like to view a higher resolution version)
A pretty simple image from an early morning this weekend. I watched the pair hunting over the field in West Bragg Creek for three hours and enjoyed many great opportunities. This was one of my favourites on the day.
This owl caught sight of something from a branch above the grass and silently launched. It glided past me and then dropped into the tall grass – flying away with a mouse in its beak shortly thereafter.
I had not seen a Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa) since last fall and I was deeply missing them. Usually by the end of April, there are two owls in West Bragg Creek that I start seeing regularly. They are always there, just not for me with any consistency until spring. So, it was with great happiness that one was waiting for me on the weekend when I was out early in the morning.
This owl hunted along the forest edge, gliding past me several times, for over an hour. I had great opportunities to photograph her in flight and while perched. These owls mesmerize me and I feel enormous gratitude that she chose to not fly away to one of the other productive hunting fields nearby.
At one point she flew deeper into the woods where I think her nest is. I headed off but came back a half an hour later and she was out on the field. She flew directly towards me and perched in a tree not far away before hunting along the grass a couple more times. Then she flew silently back into the forest. I will head back soon and am excited to spend some more time with this owl.