Posts tagged “alberta

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

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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

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Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2539

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Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2491

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Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2505

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Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2383

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Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2529

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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.


Snowy owl on the hunt in Irricana

 

Spring Snowy Owls - © Christopher Martin-1653-2

This Snowy owl’s dive into the grass directly below was a great moment to watch.  The bird’s intense focus when it started tracking the prey from the perch on the fence through to the awesome descent to attack were welcome rewards given the time invested.  I found this Snowy on this fence post a little after 9 am and quickly set up my camera and lens across the field from her.  For the next 2 1/2 hours, she shuffled, scratched, preened, and dozed.  She seemed to have little interest in me, the field mice or in flying for most of that time.  She kept watch of everything going on around her but her talons may have been nailed to the wood!  I was hadn’t expected to wait that long but with her relaxed manner, I hoped when she did fly it would be in the direction she faced when I first stopped.  That direction was facing towards me and in the end she did do that.  I thought if she flew that way, I would have a few in flight opportunities but this dive was short in both time and distance.  I was happy to have captured a couple of frames before she disappeared into the grass.

Spring Snowy Owls - © Christopher Martin-1654-2

I waited for about 10 minutes for her to climb out of the tall grass and when she did it was heading away from me.  Given the time on the ground, I would wager that she did catch the prey and spent the time out of sight enjoying the meal.


Irricana Dawn

Irricana farm before sunrise - © Christopher Martin-0755-2
I returned to Irricana recently to look for Snowy owls.  I left early and arrived well before night had given much ground to day.  Having criss-crossed the backroads west of the town, I have a decent feel for the farmland in the area and took the opportunity to photograph a couple of locations while the clouds were glowing pink ahead of the sunrise.

Prairie abstract - © Christopher Martin-0787
A lost wallet and a flat tire, both noticed about an hour after the last of these photographs was taken, made me feel like I earned these images a bit more than usual.  The wallet had fallen out of my pocket unnoticed when I was at the farmstead above.  A fair bit of time spent retracing my stops before finding it undisturbed in the middle of the gravel road.  When I picked up the wallet, I noticed the flat rear tire.  Along the way to Irricana, I apparently drove over a hardware store as Phil’s Auto in Irricana (very friendly people – thank you for the coffee!) later showed me the 3 inch long screw that had lodged into the tire.  The wallet was recovered before I found the first owl and by the time of my appointment at 3 pm, I was happy to have had several good encounters with 5 different Snowies.  I will share those soon.  These prairie landscape images from a beautiful morning heralded what became one of the more interesting days I have had out on the prairies.

Irricana sunrise - © Christopher Martin-0799-2


Coyotes on the Albertan prairie

Coyote scout - © Christopher Martin-0668

I found this pair of Coyotes while driving the backroads west of the Springbank airport last weekend.  The male was laying down and enjoying the sun when they came into view.  The female, seen in the image below, had been trotting around nearby and only stopped when she saw me.  She stared at me for a few seconds but with the headwind and the sun in her eyes she took a long blink before turning away and taking up a sitting position a bit further from me.

Coyote blink - © Christopher Martin-0661

The male rose up and crossed warily along a low ridge parallel to me before heading back towards the female.  They both looked healthy and I believe the patches on the female’s side are her winter coat shaking out rather than mange or some other irritation.  I hope they are planning to den in that area – I’d love to watch their pups this spring.

Coyote scout - © Christopher Martin-0676


Clutching at grass

Irricana Snowy Owls - © Christopher Martin-1864

One of the Snowy owls that I photographed recently made a dive while I was watching.  She came up without a mouse but had a clutch of grass instead.  I’m sure it wasn’t her preference but it was a bit unusual to see one of these raptors flying around with a talon full of grass.  She gave a couple of good looks around as she looked for another target during the same sortie but had no luck on this flight.

Snowy's stare - © Christopher Martin-1863

Prairie flight - © Christopher Martin-1859

 


Snowy owls aloft in the blue sky

Overhead, underview - © Christopher Martin-2425
A sky free of clouds and a polarizer filter allowed for rich blue sky backgrounds for the flight shots I was able to take from morning through to noon last weekend.  South of Irricana, along Highway 567, there were five owls that I saw.  I was able to have eight separate encounters with these owls as I drove between their respective territories.
Snowy owl mid-flight - © Christopher Martin-1519
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Full extension - © Christopher Martin-1517
It was pretty cold, -20°C, so waiting for each of the launches was a bit numbing.  But I like the set of images and the fingers did warm up later in the day.
Shadow wing - © Christopher Martin-2469
With the mild winter, that day excepted, that we have enjoyed so far, I have no idea how long the Snowy owl population will stay before they head north to their breeding grounds.  While they are here, it is great fun to be able to spend some time watching and photographing these most beautiful of birds.
Wings up, landing gear down - © Christopher Martin-1509

A Snowy owl’s elusive smile

A Snowy cry - © Christopher Martin-1524

This Snowy owl had been chirping at some ravens nearby when it was perched on a telephone pole and they were flying above.  Eventually one came too close which prompted the owl’s leap into the air.  She looped around the pole once before settling on another one further from the mischief makers.  While banking in the turn photographed above she cried out again.  This time proved an excellent opportunity to photograph her “smile”.


A Snowy Owl’s flight over the prairies

Irricana Snowy Owls - © Christopher Martin-1458

On the weekend I followed reports of Snowy owls northeast of Calgary near Irricana.  I left home early and arrived in the area just after sunrise.  I was lucky enough to spy the first Snowie of the day perched on a fence post glowing in the soft light.

Irricana Snowy Owl - © Christopher Martin-1415

The pure white owls were until quite recently thought to always be males.  That has been disproved leaving it hard to determine the gender from casual observation.  I will allow for the old convention though and refer to this one as a he.  The other four birds I photographed that morning were banded to varying degrees and I will refer to them as ladies in a future post.  It took only a few minutes before he launched and scouted low over the field for breakfast.  This was repeated a couple of times with each sortie ending with a return to the fence line.

Irricana Snowy Owls - © Christopher Martin-1457

On the last flight that I photographed of this owl, he flew away from the fence and landed in the middle of the field on a pipeline valve which allowed for an interesting backlit shot as he flared his wings to land.

Irricana Snowy Owls - © Christopher Martin-1474


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