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Great Gray Owl on a morning hunt

Owl and grass - 2014 © Christopher Martin

I was able to spend another morning with the Great Gray Owl in Bragg Creek that I have had the good fortune to watch several times (links: #1 and #2) this summer.  She was waiting patiently on a fence post when I spotted her.

Morning perch - 2014 © Christopher Martin

She almost seemed to wait while I quickly set up my long lens on its tripod before hunting in the deep grass.  Over the next half hour she made several dives and had no trouble catching unlucky field creatures (by my count she was batting .333 on the day).

Owl's attack - 2014 © Christopher Martin

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Skimming over the grass - 2014 © Christopher Martin

She would stay in the grass for up to a minute after each lunge so I had the opportunity to focus on the launches back into the air a couple of times.

Out of the grass - 2014 © Christopher Martin

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Morning flight - 2014 © Christopher Martin

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An owl's take off - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Once the sunlight reached the field, the morning warmed up quickly and the owl’s pace slowed.  On one of the last dives before I left, the owl had been on the far side of the field and then glided across.  En route, it dropped down almost disappearing.  When it popped its head back up, there was a great moment where the yellow eyes peered out of carpet of green.

In the field - 2014 © Christopher Martin

By then the light was getting harsh and I was getting hungry.  When she flew out, I packed up and drove off.

Field flight - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Good Morning Deer

Good morning Deer - 2014 © Christopher Martin - 9360

While watching a Great Gray Owl hunting in the morning, this young White-tailed Deer entered the field and wandered around for the better part of an hour.  It saw me and the owl but was not particularly interested in either of us.  Preferring to devote its attention to finding the best grass shoots and dandelion stems.

White-tailed deer - 2014 © Christopher Martin - 9391

 

A little earlier, I came across another White-tail in a forested meadow.  This young stag was head down eating when I noticed him but then lifted his head and gave me a beautiful look before I left.

Antlers and grass - 2014 © Christopher Martin

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A stag in the woods - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Eagle along the Cowboy Trail

On to the perch - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/5oooth of a second on f/4 and ISO 1600

A Bald Eagle spent a couple of mornings in and around a field east of Bragg Creek where the prairie starts.

2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/5oooth of a second on f/4 and ISO 1600

He landed in the grass in one general spot a few times on the two days that I stopped to watch so I suspect there was a carcass that was an easy meal.

Scouring the field - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/25ooth of a second on f/4 and ISO 800

The only distraction came from a pair of ravens that pestered the eagle in the air and on the field.  They proved to not be a significant deterrent as the eagle muscled them out away.

Bird jousting - 2014 © Christopher Martin

 Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/5oooth of a second on f/4 and ISO 800

A morning of fog and mist in the Khutzeymateen

Morning in the Khutzeymateen - 2014 © Christopher Martin

One evening we watched a crab boat come down the Khutzeymateen Inlet and weigh anchor for the night.  The next day there were some opportunities to photograph the vessel shrouded in mist.  Against the massive trees of the rainforest and the steep valley walls, it looked almost like a toy.

(As always, please click on any image to open a higher resolution version on its own page)

Fog and mist - 2014 © Christopher Martin

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A morning full of weather - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Mornings in the Khutzeymateen often find the coastline wrapped in blankets of fog while low flying clouds cling to the steep hills of the rainforest and the snow-covered peaks.  The Grizzly Bears are the obvious draw but the landscape of this northern part of the Great Bear Rainforest is hauntingly beautiful.

Morning in the mountains of the Khutzeymateen Inlet - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Later in the day much of the fog burned off and when we sailed by the boat I was able to have a closer look.

Crabbing in the Khutzeymateen - 2014 © Christopher Martin

 

 

Wildlife Portraits

A stern taskmaster - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/125oth of a second on f/5.6 and ISO 1600

A prospective client asked for a selection of wild animal portraits recently.  I put together a gallery and really enjoyed revisiting a number of encounters from the past couple of years.  It was great to see these personalities again.  If you would like to have a look at these furry, bristled and feathered faces, please click the image above or this link.

 

A Banff Grizzly on the move

A summer's walk - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 300mm lens: 1/1600 second at f/4 on ISO 2000

I spent one morning in Banff on the weekend and came across a male Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) along the Bow Valley Parkway.  He spent some time in one roadside meadow chewing on a everything green he could see.

Stepping across the line - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DII and 70-200mm lens at 122mm: 1/250 second at f/4 on ISO 800

Before long, he crossed the road and then headed into the trees leaving a group of vehicles and their occupants behind.  I hoped he was heading towards a larger meadow about a mile east and drove there to wait and see.

2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 70-200mm lens at 149mm: 1/1000 second at f/4 on ISO 2000

Apparently the dandelions and lush vegetation were calling him and after not too long a wait he strode out of the forest and continued chowing down.  He stayed there for more than an hour, disappearing briefly a couple of times before finally heading deeper into the shadows.

Meadow lunch - 2014 © Christopher Martin

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

Although winter felt slow to leave, the greenery now seems abundant and makes me hopeful this bear and the other animals in the park will enjoy a long summer feast.

In the garden patch - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/1600 second at f/4 on ISO 1000

Hunting for breakfast

 A morning flight - © Christopher Martin-8614

Canon 5DIII and 300mm lens: 1/1250 second at f/4 on ISO 2000

I left the sun to climb over the horizon on its own this morning and slept in.  The days start early in the summer so when I left my house at 6am, we were well into daylight.  I drove into Bragg Creek looking for wildlife and almost immediately found an owl.  She was perched on a fence post and looked a little sleepy.

Sleep owl - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 300mm lens: 1/1000 second at f/4 on ISO 2000

I stayed back a good distance and watched her lazily swivel her head a few times but she largely just hunched up and gazed out over the field.  After 15 minutes or so she perked up a bit seeming to pick out something in the tall grass.  She launched (as seen in the first image) then dipped but did not dive into the grass.  Carrying on, she crossed the field and found a higher vantage point in a large evergreen tree in the field near the forest’s edge.

Evergreen perch - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/2000 second at f/4 on ISO 4000

Some noises in the trees, unheard by me, drew her attention for the better part of a half an hour.  Her head turned away from me and the field, I waited for her to either head towards the trees or redirect her attention to hunting in the grass.  Lucky for me, she chose the latter and I was able to photograph a few nice flight shots when she flew from the first tree to another.

Green flight - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/2000 second at f/4 on ISO 1250

The second perch was a higher spot and she only stayed there for a couple of minutes before picking out a target.  When she flew, it was a masterful attack.  She glided down, hovered for a couple of beats above the area of her attention and  then dove headfirst into the green.

Dive attack - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/1250 second at f/4 on ISO 3200

After a few seconds, she climbed out of the grass with a field mouse clutched in her beak.  She stayed on the far side of the field and disappeared with her breakfast into the trees.

Breakfast of champions - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/2000 second at f/4 on ISO 2500

Side Sedging Grizzly

 

Side sedging Grizzly - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 200-400mm f/4 IS EXT at 526mm: 1/320oth of a second on f/5.6 and ISO 2500

A Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) mows down sedge grass grown tall in the estuary of the Khutzeymateen Inlet.  This boar was pretty nonchalant when we came upon him as we rounded one of the river channels that divides up the grassland at low tide.  He was sauntering along and sat down across from us to settle down for a snack.  When he turned his head sideways to chew away, it created an unusual look at this handsome fellow and his impressive chompers.

Spirits in the Khutzeymateen

The Grizzly Bears (Ursus arctos) rule the Khutzeymateen Inlet without challenge.  In June, the boars roam the fields of sedge grass and the creeks that drain out of the mountains looking for females to court.  The males are the kings but the mothers are the not only the queens, they are the heart and spirit of this land.  With their cubs there is a tenderness and caring that is plain to see and wonderful to watch.

Bear spirits - © Christopher Martin

This mother and cub spent a couple of days along the beach near where we moored the sailboat and we were able to watch them for many hours.  Here, they both looked up when a noise behind us drew their attention.  A great mother raising a beautiful cub.

A K’tzim-a-deen cub at rest

Bobbi and I just returned from the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary where Dan and Sandy hosted us aboard the Sun Chaser sailboat and we spent many hours looking for, finding, photographing, discussing and dreaming about Grizzlies.  It was a magical experience and I have had little time to look at any images so far.

K'tzim-a-Deen Cub - 2014 © Christopher Martin

That said, this image of a cub resting on a rock is already a favorite of mine.  Mom brought this two-year old down to the beach in the bay where Dan enjoys anchoring several times.  They were both very relaxed about our presence, with the elder concerned only about Grizzly boars coming out of the forest edge.  Her back was often to our little raft scanning the tree line as she ate the sedge grass.  Meanwhile the cub, free from much – though not all – of this worry, watched us in-between explorations nearby, feasting on vegetation and mewling for milk.

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