Posts tagged “alberta

A Banff National Park Wapiti

Banff Elk - © Christopher Martin-2701

I met this handsome fellow, a bull Elk, in a meadow near Lake Minnewanka.  He was grazing along with a few other males earlier in the month, shortly before the snow began to fly in the park.

Banff Elk - © Christopher Martin-2721

A Great gray owl morning in Bragg Creek


A Bragg Creek Owl - © Christopher Martin-3652

The fields and forests west of Bragg Creek have been owl havens for me in the spring and summer for several years.  The autumn and winter encounters have been much less numerous but I added one more on the weekend.  A couple of warm days had melted most of the snow in this meadow but on the morning I was out it was cold.

A Bragg Creek Owl - © Christopher Martin-3647

I had spotted this Great gray owl perched on a weathered fence post as I drove along the road.  I pulled over, hopped out and crossed the fence to get the rising sun behind me and onto his front.

A Bragg Creek Owl - © Christopher Martin-3789

The day warmed up several degrees in the sunlight while I hung out with this beautiful raptor.  I stayed there for a little over an hour and he made a couple of flights to alternate posts along the fence line.  His focus on hunting seemed to take second place to warming up in the sunshine.

A Bragg Creek Owl - © Christopher Martin-3952

When I left he was staring intently at a spot in the long grass – I waited for another 20 minutes hoping an attack dive would come.  His patience beat mine and I left with a few good flight photos, a smile and a thank you to this beautiful owl.

A Bragg Creek Owl - © Christopher Martin-3957


A glimpse of winter at Boom Creek

Boom Creek dressed for winter - © Christopher Martin-2829

I went for a hike along the trail to Boom Lake on the weekend and felt like I walked into a preview of winter.  The lake is near the aptly named Storm Mountain on the western edge of Banff National Park and the area was already blanketed in 1-1.5′ (30-45cm) of snow.  With the sun shining, I was happy to walk along the trail for a couple of kilometres as it was an area new to me.  From the trailhead a bridge crosses over Boom Creek almost immediately.  I slipped under the bridge on my way out and set up the photograph above which I felt illustrated the wintry feel.  This image is also the December image on my just completed 2016 landscape calendar so it was a worthwhile hike on a couple of fronts!

Dawn at Two Jack Lake in the Banff National Park

Two Jack Sunrise in Banff - © Christopher Martin-2600

With the cooler days that have come with November, we have had some snow fall up in the mountains.  I went up to Two Jack Lake for sunrise on Friday to see how things would look with a bit of snow in the picture.  Facing Mount Rundle and her reflection in the water there was just the odd skiff of snow along the shoreline.  The color deepened in the sky for a few minutes before it started to color the clouds clinging to the mountain.

Two Jack Sunrise in Banff - © Christopher Martin-2610

Two Jack Sunrise in Banff - © Christopher Martin-2607-2

When I first arrived, the sun was still a while away from lighting up the clouds.  The darker scene, below, allowed for a longer exposure and more stretch to the clouds and water.

Two Jack Sunrise in Banff - © Christopher Martin-2585

I love this time of year when snow starts to build up and the scenic opportunities shift to one dominated by the white blanket that settles unevenly across the land.  Winter in the Banff National Park is probably my favourite time of the year there.  It is exciting to be on the edge of it.

Two Jack Sunrise in Banff - © Christopher Martin-2648



Vermilion Lakes Sunrise in the Banff National Park

Vermilion Lakes Sunrise in the Banff National Park - © Christopher Martin-1817

When I set up my gear on the shore of the first of the Vermilion Lakes, it was cold and dark.  I wanted to be there early to catch Jupiter and Venus in the eastern sky before it brightened too much.  The pair, with Mars less visible to the left, were directly above Mount Rundle’s peak when I arrived.

Vermilion Lakes Sunrise in the Banff National Park - © Christopher Martin-1698

As the horizon brightened the stars faded while color started to creep into the clouds.  The lake was frozen with a thin cover of ice which gave abstract reflections of the sky and the silhouettes across the water.

Vermilion Lakes Sunrise in the Banff National Park - © Christopher Martin-1733

(Please click on any image to see a higher resolution version)

Vermilion Lakes Sunrise in the Banff National Park - © Christopher Martin-1772

Early sunshine brought a cloud to life as it stretched and broke up over Mount Rundle.  Before long, bright pink strands hung above the Bow Valley.  It was a beautiful morning and I loved watching it build from darkness into light.

Vermilion Lakes Sunrise in the Banff National Park - © Christopher Martin-1801

Vermilion Lakes Sunrise in the Banff National Park - © Christopher Martin-1808

The pink softened quickly and pastels held the sky until the sun blew away the soft hues of the early morning.

Vermilion Lakes Sunrise in the Banff National Park - © Christopher Martin-1831





Rutting Elk in the Bow Valley

Bull Elk Rutting in Banff National Park - © Christopher Martin-1946

A small herd of bull elk were gathered near Moose Meadows on the Bow Valley Parkway when I was there on the weekend.  The frost bleached the grass and the cold air made the breath visible.

Bull Elk Rutting - © Christopher Martin-1945

These were mature adults with massive antlers and they were putting them to use.  The rut is on and these elk were challenging each other repeatedly.

Bull Elk Rutting - © Christopher Martin-1896

They would be eating grass and then stare at another one.  Soon after, they would stalk slowly towards each other and lock antlers. Once entwined, a push and a pull fight would take place.  Unlike Bighorn sheep battles where they smash into each other, these were shoving matches.

Bull Elk Rutting - © Christopher Martin-1929

It was a cold morning which made for a particularly appealing scene to watch these giants battle.  The elk below was noticeably larger than the others and only one bull challenged him in the half hour that I watched.  That contest seemed like more of a measuring stick for the smaller one as it was short and there was no real challenge.

Bull Elk Rutting - © Christopher Martin-2063

He wandered off after a while heading for the trees and leaving the others to graze and continue the odd skirmish.

Bull Elk Rutting - © Christopher Martin-2087

An autumn Grizzly in the Banff National Park

Bow Valley Grizzly Bear - © Christopher Martin-2378

On the weekend, I found a Grizzly bear traversing along the edge of the Bow Valley Parkway near the southeast entrance.  The bear, a female with the tag #148 (I think), I could see where she had been digging up roots but when I saw her she was already on the move.

Bow Valley Grizzly Bear - © Christopher Martin-2372

She crossed the road between a couple of parked cars and then disappeared into the trees.  I played a hunch and drove a kilometre down the road and waited hoping she might continue in that direction.  A little while later, she came down the road and scrambled up onto this rock shelf above the road.

Bow Valley Grizzly Bear #148 - © Christopher Martin-2323

That offered a great view of this beautiful creature and I was able to create some solid imagery when she paused to decide on her next route.

Bow Valley Grizzly Bear - © Christopher Martin-2308

Leaving the rocks, she crossed a grassy meadow and then walked through the open forest for a few hundred metres.  I loved watching her walk through the trees – at this time of the year her coat blends in with the autumn foliage.

Bow Valley Grizzly Bear - © Christopher Martin-2405

She then crossed the road again and shuffled down the hillside.  Out of sight again and this time she did not return.  I saw a video of her fishing earlier this summer so maybe she went down to the river for that!

Bow Valley Grizzly Bear - © Christopher Martin-2445

Sarrail Falls – a waterfall in the woods

Sarrail Falls in Kananaskis - © Christopher Martin-0634

The Sarrail Falls that spill across several terraces before emptying into the Upper Kananaskis Lake is a beautiful stretch of water surrounded by heavy forest in the steep hillside of Mount Sarrail’s lower slopes.  The path to this waterfall starts at the lake’s eastern parking lot and is set just above the shoreline.  It is a comfortable trail that is about 1-1.15 km to this feature but carries on around the entire lake.  I had planned to complete the loop but spent almost two hours watching, photographing, enjoying and studying the waterfall instead.

Sarrail Falls in Kananaskis - © Christopher Martin-0727

The 2013 flood hit this creek heavily destroying the bridge as well as sending tree trunks and boulders cascading down.  These are still found perched, lodged or lying nearby all along the water’s path.  I found a beauty in these that added to the overall scene and suggested to me the cycles of birth, growth and death as well as of constant change.  Along with the varying crescendos of the water’s orchestra, I found myself enjoying some deep thoughts and the time to chew on them – a luxurious gift to allow oneself!

Sarrail Falls in Kananaskis - © Christopher Martin-0665

At the end, with the morning moving quickly towards noon, I chose the short walk back and the lunch I had waiting for me.

An in-flight snack

A Merlin's inflight meal - © Christopher Martin-5597

I found this Merlin feasting from a fence top perch near High River last weekend.  I watched him for a couple of minutes before a hauling truck passed by.  At that point, the noise and proximity disturbed this fellow and he took flight.  He shot upwards with a couple of fast wing beats and then surprised me with a hovering break to grab another bite.  It was likely a readjustment of the load but it was neat to watch.

A Merlin's dinner - © Christopher Martin-5572

A Merlin's inflight meal - © Christopher Martin-5595

With the prey in the right place, he then banked away over the prairie and settled in the grass a couple hundred metres away to finish his meal.

A Merlin's inflight meal - © Christopher Martin-5610-3

A bold young moose

Moose calf in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-4834

This calf and his mother were in the Bragg Creek Provincial Park, grazing on the edge of the forest near the road.  With momma close by, the calf was bolder than I expected.  He stared at me from a few paces in the trees before crossing the road and walking very close to my car.

Moose calf in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-4751

Moose calf in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-4825

Moose calf in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-4846

Once he had checked me out, then he skipped back again and joined in snacking on the greenery.

Moose calf in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-4786

On old friend around a weathered barn

Great horned owl - © Christopher Martin-5454
I had the great pleasure of seeing a Great horned owl at an old barn east of High River.  It is one that I have visited a couple of times over the past couple of years.  This window, which faces north, is a favourite daytime perch.  The heavy clouds only threatened rain and their midday dimming effect seemed to encourage the owl to make a couple of sorties over the surrounding fields during the time I spent there.

Great horned owl - © Christopher Martin-5403

Great horned owl - © Christopher Martin-5402

The owl flew along the fence line twice which afforded me a few great in-flight shooting opportunities.  I left the barn with my friend perched in the deep shadow of the barn’s interior.

Great horned owl - © Christopher Martin-5414

Great horned owl - © Christopher Martin-5443

Great horned owl - © Christopher Martin-5445

Great horned owl - © Christopher Martin-5344

Great horned owl - © Christopher Martin-5347

Young rams at play… and practice

Waterton Sheep Pre-rut - © Christopher Martin-3480

On one of our morning drives, Kian and I came across a few Bighorn rams on the Akamina Parkway near Cameron Lake in the Waterton National Park.  These were adolescents, not the adult males which will battle for the attention of the ewes in the fall.  Nonetheless, a couple of them were practicing their rutting between grazing on the roadside vegetation.

Waterton Sheep Pre-rut - © Christopher Martin-3481

Waterton Sheep Pre-rut - © Christopher Martin-3507

When the big boys crash their horns together it can echo across a valley.  These battles didn’t carry that kind of power but it was great action with no lack of enthusiasm.  We were able to watch three battles and my son and I both loved watching, and hearing, the collisions.

Waterton Sheep Pre-rut - © Christopher Martin-3530

I do wonder if concussions are a problem as they are with human contact sports.

Waterton Sheep Pre-rut - © Christopher Martin-3544


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