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Evening on the hunt

Bragg Creek Great Gray Owl - © Christopher Martin-4561

After hunting in the forest for a while, the owl flew to the edge of the tree line and operated from the fenceposts there.  He snagged two field mice within a couple of minutes, consuming one in the grass and one on a post.  He then flew deep into the woods.  Possibly to share with its mate or to continue hunting in another area.

Bragg Creek Great Gray Owl - © Christopher Martin-4603

Bragg Creek Great Gray Owl - © Christopher Martin-4618

Bragg Creek Great Gray Owl - © Christopher Martin-4619

Bragg Creek Great Gray Owl - © Christopher Martin-4667

Forest Flight

Bragg Creek Great Gray Owl - © Christopher Martin-4314

I had an incredible weekend all centred around wildlife in Bragg Creek.  There was a heron, some geese, a couple of beavers, a coyote, a moose and even a crane that I had the opportunity to watch for varying amounts of time.  But the owl encounters were what made the mornings and evenings so special for me.  It started a couple of days earlier with my first Great gray owl time this spring where I photographed one hunting at night.  Then I was able to find two other adults hunting, each in a separate location.

Bragg Creek Great Gray Owl - © Christopher Martin-4354

Of the three owl pairs that I have photographed for the past six years, all are represented in their respective regular haunts.  There was a male Great gray owl killed in an apparent collision with a vehicle in that area a couple of weeks ago so I suspect that one of these couples is without its mate.  That loss had brought great sadness so it was uplifting to see the others hunting and doing what they all should be doing.  I suspect the lone female will not raise chicks this year but it could have been an owl passing through the area that was struck so maybe all three pairs will have broods.  I have never scouted out any of the nests as I need to learn much more before I feel comfortable getting close and knowing I will not adversely impact the chicks.  So, I may never be able to confirm which, if any, of these pairs lost their partner.

Bragg Creek Great Gray Owl - © Christopher Martin-4319

… back to the uplifting part – I’m really excited about the photographs from the weekend as the owls were unperturbed by my presence and stayed visible for long periods of time while successfully hunting in the forest and the fields.  It was a lot of unbroken time where I was able to be a part of their environment.  So lucky for me!  I will post a few entries of the individual encounters and start today with the Friday evening where one of the owls was hunting in a small opening in the forest.  I watched as he flew between fence posts and perches on stubby trees.  His attacks into the tall grass were hidden from my view but I had great chances to capture his flight.

Bragg Creek Great Gray Owl - © Christopher Martin-4361

Bragg Creek Great Gray Owl - © Christopher Martin-4320

 

Northern Lights in Bragg Creek

Aurora over Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-4180

After the Great gray owl and I parted ways it was very dark which helped me to notice a slight glow to the north.  I drove to a field where I could get a better view of the sky and found the Aurora Borealis was just starting to brighten off the horizon.  The lights rippled and stretched above valley for more than an hour.

Aurora over Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-4153

As they began to wane, I went to nearby Wild Rose Lake and was able to catch the Aurora’s reflection in the water.  As well as its glow mixing with the city light from Calgary.  This was an unexpected, but gratefully welcomed, surprise and end to an already great night photographing out in the country.

Aurora over Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-4262

Aurora over Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-4201

 

Aurora over Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-4220

 

Night Flight

Night owl - © Christopher Martin-4069-4

I found an owl hunting after dusk had settled over Bragg Creek.  It was getting dark quickly and I had go back to my car  for a flash at one point.  I started to photograph this Great Gray around a stand of trees on the edge of a field.  After a while she moved out onto the yellow grass and then went to perch on a fencepost.

Night owl - © Christopher Martin-3923

Retrieving the light, I mounted it in the hotshoe and it didn’t take long to relocate her.  We then spent an hour together as she hunted on either side of the fence line while I watched from 40′ away.  She was very comfortable with me there and flew to a post closer to me on a couple of occasions.  It was challenging to shoot the owl in flight but a lot of fun.

Night owl - © Christopher Martin-4059

At one point we traveled along the fence with her stopping every 100′ until I caught up.  When we had returned to the edge of the trees, the owl flew back out towards the field.  It was a very powerful encounter for me.

Night owl - © Christopher Martin-4049

 

Spring Robins

Spring Robin - © Christopher Martin-3454

Robins are heralds of spring where I live.  Our weather can be 20°C in the middle of winter or have a snowstorm in July so we have a lot of fits and starts between each season.  I know that winter has mostly retreated when the robins return to our backyard.  This one showed up with its partner about a week ago and I photographed him having a drink in the pond over the weekend.  It was a mild winter but I’m still very glad to be enjoying spring now.

Spring Robin - © Christopher Martin-3448-2

A blood moon missed

 

A sliver of the Blood Moon - © Christopher Martin-3456

This third of four blood moons in the current tetrad of lunar eclipses occurred before dawn on April 4th in southern Alberta.  I walked along the Elbow River to a spot I had scouted the evening before and set up my camera as the Earth’s shadow was about a 1/4 across the moon.  With the magnification of a telephoto lens, I noticed haze that softened the definition on the moon’s surface.  Thin clouds were obscuring the event and I hoped they would pass before the moon was completely in shadow.  I snapped this photograph about a half hour before totality and within a few minutes the clouds thickened and the eclipse was gone.  It was a beautiful morning nonetheless and the clouds foretold the snow that has blanketed the area over the last 24 hours.  I had much better luck with the weather during the last blood moon.  We’ll see what the September one has in store.

A hot Snowy owl on the prairie

Hot snowy owl - © Christopher Martin-1721

The early spring this year may see the Snowy owls leave their wintering grounds around Southern Alberta soon.  When I was in Irricana photographing this owl, it was 16°C and she was panting to stay cool.  I’m not concerned about their health in this heat as their nesting sites in the north get into, and above, these temperatures in the summer.  However, I don’t know when it, or something else, will prompt them to leave as they always do.

Hot snowy owl - © Christopher Martin-1697

 

Hot snowy owl - © Christopher Martin-1702

The Northern Lights over Southern Alberta

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2319
The Aurora Borealis has been very strong for a few nights in a row, reaching southern Alberta regularly which comes after what has seemed like a very long absence.  Perhaps it has just been me that was absent for shows since last year but being out for this one on the night of March 18-19.  When I went out at 11pm, there was a dull green bow low in the sky towards Calgary.  After a while, the arch began to glow brighter and stretch higher.  Columns then started to separate from the green band and the arch itself dissolved.  For the next couple of hours the lights shifted their shapes, colors and intensity.

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2522

– Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2382-2

 –

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2572

I was out on the berm that sits between Redwood Meadows and the Elbow River.  The height of the berm, the rocky shoreline and the snow remnants allowed for a variety of perspectives.  The three and half hours that the Northern Lights performed allowed me the time to explore these.  It was an amazing night.

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2549

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2539

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2491

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2505

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2383

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2529

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2472

Aurora over the Elbow River

 

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2500-3

Canon 5DIII – 24mm lens: 6 seconds on f/1.8 at ISO 3200

In the middle of the active Aurora that reached southern Alberta the lights were reflecting brightly over the waters of the Elbow River in Redwood Meadows.

Saint Patrick’s Aurora

Saint Patrick's Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2473
Canon 5DIII – 24mm lens: 2.5 seconds on f/1.8 at ISO 6400

The night after St. Patrick’s Day brought out the Aurora Borealis over southern Alberta.  Along the Elbow River, west of Calgary, the bands of color rippled in the sky and on the surface of the water for several hours.  I met two photographers, Stacey and Clif, out on the berm.  They had come out to Redwood Meadows in search of the Northern Lights.  The show took a little while to start so it was nice to chat while we waited.  When the lights did start to dance it was beautiful.  I will share more images from the night soon as the colours and mood changed throughout the night and allowed for great variety.

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