Posts tagged “animals

Prairie storm

So far, spring has come in fits and starts.  Over the weekend we had a day long snowstorm on Saturday and then it was warm enough to wear shorts outside on Sunday!  Crazy stuff but not too far from normal in April on the prairies.

Prairie - 2014 © Christopher Martin

My son and I were out for the day and I photographed these horses when we were in Springbank, west of Calgary.  I appreciated their ignorance of sleet falling and the cold winds.


2013 Favourite Wildlife Photographs

The tail-end of lunch - 2013 © Christopher Martin
“The Tail-End of Lunch” from the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Provincial Park
Canon 5DIII + 500mm lens:  1/1250 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1250

Last year was a good year for wildlife.  I had some really great encounters with animals in Brackendale, Cabo San Lucas and the Khutzeymateen on British Columbia’s west coast.  Closer to home, I enjoyed a lot of time on the Prairies and in the mountains photographing .  These hikes and drives were rewarded with nice images of birds, bears and a moose that made it into this collection.

If you are interested in the list of 32 selected photographs, please CLICK THIS LINK to open the gallery’s webpage.  Continue reading below if you want to know a bit more about my goals in 2013 and how they are evolving for the new year.

"Wapiti Water Shake" in the Banff National Park
“Wapiti Water Shake” in the Banff National Park
Canon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens: 1/640 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

Water launch - 2013 © Christopher Martin
“Black Water Launch” from the Khutzeymateen Inlet on northern British Columbia’s west coast
Canon 5DIII + 500mm lens: 1/1600 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

When reviewing my wildlife images from 2012 last January, I said my goals for 2013 would be the same.  At that time, I said my goals were to improve my approaches to wildlife (to minimize disruption and increase the chance to observe natural behaviour), improve my technique (better sharpness and quicker response to animal movement) and create images that tell a more complete story about the animals (more engaging and interesting).  I did work on those throughout the year and I can see improvements in my imagery as a result.

A Bald Eagle's winter flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin
“Winter Flight” along the Squamish River in Brackendale in British Columbia
Canon 5DIII + 300mm f/4 lens: 1/1600 of a second at f/4 on ISO 800

Increasingly I am also trying to bring more artistry into my wildlife compositions.  Overall, I have been happy with the results of that effort.  I’m excited about this new year.  Drawing more creativity and beauty into the photographs I make is the path I will stay on for now.  With our children growing up and more willing to occasionally head out early and stay late, I am really looking forward to enjoying more and more of these encounters with my wife and our son and daughter.  That is the most important goal for me in 2014.

Shadow Pelican - 2013 © Christopher Martin“Shadow Pelican” before dawn in Los Cabos, Mexico
Canon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens: 1/8000 of a second at f/4 on ISO 3200


Playing on the beach

The chase is on - 2013 © Christopher Martin

From the deck of the sailboat that was home in the Khutzeymateen we spotted a mother and cub padding through the deep sedge grass during low tide.  With the full moon, the change between high and low tides was over seven metres.  The salmon that have spawned up the creeks, are little more than heartbeats when they float back down to the river mouth.  When the water is high they often get caught in the sedge grass and are easy pickings for the clever bears who are in the know.

Playing around - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The cub played unaware we were watching for several minutes.  When he did notice, he stared us down before trotting back to momma.

On guard - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The mother stayed in the grass until the cub came up and growled and pawed at her.

2013 © Christopher Martin

After a while the cub turned his attention back to his mom.  He trotted over and growled and pawed at her.  He conned her into coming down to the beach and they ran around chasing each other.

2013 © Christopher Martin

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2013 © Christopher Martin

It was a really special finish to a great first day in the Khutzeymateen.  And more great moments were to come in the next two days I spent in the Khutzeymateen.

2013 © Christopher Martin


A grizzly bear grazing and running in Kananaskis

One gorgeous blonde grizzly bear - © Christopher Martin-0061-2

Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens: 1/2000th of a second at f/4.0 on ISO 1600

Note: For this first image, I removed the wireless transmitter in the bear’s left ear which you will see in the subsequent images.  I don’t normally remove tags and such but this bear was so beautiful I had to share an image where the distracting antenna was erased.

On the weekend I drove along Highway 40 into Kananaskis Country where I had planned to head up to the Highwood Pass to see about the bighorn sheep that herd up there at this time of the year.  That did not happen as #40 is closed past the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park junction due to damage from the flood.  I was turning around at the gate to head down into the provincial park when I noticed a grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) shuffling through the grass just off the road.

Heading downhill - 2013 © Christopher Martin-9975

Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens: 1/2000th of a second at f/4.0 on ISO 800

This was one of the most beautiful grizzlies that I have ever seen.  A young brown bear that I would guess is three or four years old, with a lovely blonde coat and an energetic bounce in her step.  I believe the bear was a female although I could not confirm gender conclusively.  I was reminded of a pair of blonde cubs I photographed in the fall of 2011 about five miles away from here.  However, I cannot say whether this was one of these two bears as neither were tagged then and I did not find any references online to her tag number.

Bear lick - © Christopher Martin-0082

Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens: 1/1250th of a second at f/4.0 on ISO 1600

She was busying herself digging up rocks and snacking on what was found underneath.  Amid the tall grass, I did not get a clean look at what she was eating but I assume it was mostly insects.  She appeared to have little interest in the wildflowers surrounding her, as I only saw her stop to lick a few of the blossoms, but I loved having these colours to frame her with!

Run Bear Run - 2013 © Christopher Martin-0115

Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens: 1/1600th of a second at f/4.0 on ISO 1600

After about 15 minutes watching her from the far side of the road (being able to stay far away but photograph closeup is one of the nice benefits of long lenses), she started moving uphill and I thought she would head off shortly.  As it came to pass, that was hastened along only a few minutes later.  I had been the only person watching the bear at first but within 10 minutes there were a couple of other cars that had stopped too.  I was happy to see everyone stay in their vehicles and give the bear space.  We all watched for a while, then a couple more cars showed up so I pulled away from the gate, crossed the road, drove about 200m past the bear and stopped to have a last look.  Shortly afterwards, a conservation officer pulled up.  I was curious to see how he would approach this situation so I waited for a bit.  He stayed in his truck for a few minutes and then decided that was enough bear watching.  He stepped out with a shotgun in hand and fired a couple of bear banger shells while yelling at the bear to get going.  Startled by the loud noise – it did.

Galloping Grizzly - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens: 1/1600th of a second at f/4.0 on ISO 1600

Banff National Park’s officers handle bears a bit different from what I have seen, and in a manner that I prefer, in that they usually do not interfere with bears unless people are being stupid or the bears show an interest in the people watching.  In my opinion, neither was true at that time.  However, this officer probably knows this bear by sight and he is there almost every day so I have to trust that he made the call as he deemed appropriate.  I would have liked to seen him take a little more time to let the bear continue, and potentially finish, grazing but keeping a bear from becoming habituated to humans is a thin tightrope to walk on.  It is easy for those watching to think they could do better.

A little high stepping - 2013 © Christopher Martin-0127

Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens: 1/1600th of a second at f/4.0 on ISO 1600

Nonetheless, with the first loud noise, the bear sprinted halfway up the hill before slowing down and glancing back at the officer.

Glancing back - 2013 © Christopher Martin-0133

Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens: 1/1250th of a second at f/4.0 on ISO 1600

With the second shot, she galloped further up and kept on towards the edge of the forest.  I  thought of the running fox that I photographed last month as I watched the bear run – though spurred on by different antagonists, they both can move very fast.  Seeing how much of the meadow it covered when it was sprinting, I was reminded just how quick, deceptively quick, these massive animals can move.   With the bear moving into the woods, I headed onwards.

Back to the woods - 2013 © Christopher Martin-0138

Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens: 1/1000th of a second at f/4.0 on ISO 1600


#83 – a cow in a field

#83 - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens: 1/000 of a second at f/4 on ISO 800

The evening light was soft and warm last night.  I loved the colour in the coats of this small herd in Springbank.  #83 was particularly interested and turned out to be particularly photogenic.


Kootenay Black Bears

Stare down - 2013 © Christopher Martin

We went to Radium on the weekend in search of bears.  The dandelions are in bloom in the roadside fields along Highway 93 in the Kootenay National Park that runs west from the British Columbia – Alberta border.  These flowers represent one of the first key crops that the bears can graze on.

Roadside bear - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The narrow valley that winds down to the Kootenay River is beautiful with dense forest, mountain streams and a couple of small lakes.  The last 15 kilometers of the highway hides the yellow patches around corners and draws bears consistently at this time of the year.  During our visit we came upon a few individual bears munching away.  Most drivers stayed in their vehicles and were generally respectful of the bears.  A few exceptions, but on this trip at least, not the worst behaviour that I’ve seen.

Black bear down - 2013 © Christopher Martin

With the bears not threatened, it was fun to watch them snack away, able to concentrate on eating rather than worrying about people.  This black bear settled right down which I took as an indication that he was relaxed.

Chowing down - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Later on, in another field, I saw him scrunch up his nose at one point.  We left and when we drove by later the bear had also moved on.  I’m not sure if the wrinkled nose was a sign of discomfort with the people and cars or he simply wanted to get back into the woods.

Chewing or growling - 2013 © Christopher Martin

I loved the confidence shown by this bear as it strode across the road to a new field.  I worry about the traffic but the drivers on this day were patient and no one rushed the crossing.  Hope to see more and more of that level of awareness.

Bear Crossing - 2013 © Christopher Martin

 

I would have liked to have seen a momma with a couple of cubs.  Maybe they found secluded dandelion patches to enjoy in private.  The bear below took a minute to stare up the hill under the heavy rain.  I did not hear or see anything that would have warranted an alert stare but the bear obviously did.

A regal animal - 2013 © Christopher Martin

 

It was great to see these bears. I hope to get out there again before the flowers turn to seed and these animals disappear back into the woods.

One look back before returning to the forest - 2013 © Christopher Martin


Owl flights in Bragg Creek

Evening launch - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII camera with Canon 500mm F/4 IS lens: 1/1250 second at f/4 on ISO 2500

Kezia and I drove out to see the owl the other night.  This visit was a real treat.  The Great Gray Owl was very relaxed and flew towards us in two short glides separated with twenty minutes of perching on a fencepost.

A golden flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII camera with Canon 500mm F/4 IS lens: 1/1250 second at f/4 on ISO 2500

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Fence launch - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII camera with Canon 500mm F/4 IS lens: 1/640 second at f/4 on ISO 4000

Kezia was delighted watching the owl’s swooping flight and she whispered to the owl urging her to keep flying.  As it got darker the owl got more active so Kezia got to watch it flying every couple of minutes.  It moved into the forest, came back and then crossed the road, perched nearby and then we left for home.

Forest flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII camera with Canon 500mm F/4 IS lens: 1/640 second at f/4 on ISO 4000

It was a great evening to be out, especially with Kezia and I having so much fun.

Night watchmen - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII camera with Canon 500mm F/4 IS lens: 1/320 second at f/4 on ISO 5000


Moose in Bragg Creek (now snow-free)

Mother Nature flipped a switch a week ago and now we are free of snow and the temperatures are t-shirt appropriate.  The moose probably aren’t excited about the warmer weather but I’m sure they are enjoying snacking on the new greenery.  Looking at the photographs of this young bull moose afterwards, it struck me that it has been about nine months since I have had snow-free backgrounds of moose.

A little shy - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Regarding the moose,  expect that they will start retreating for the cooler forest just after dawn pretty soon.  I think it is finally safe to say we are now coming out of the mild, but very long, winter here.

 


Great Gray Owl in Water Valley

Owl scout - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Water Valley is a lushly forested area broken up with farm fields, hills and streams.  Any one of these can attract owls so it is little surprise that many are seen in the locales between Cremona and Cochrane.  I drove along Horse Creek Road and the Grand Valley Road a few days ago to enjoy the countryside as well as see what wildlife I might find.  Near Cremona I found a Gray watching the grass in the front yard of a ranch from one of the fence posts.

On maze of old fencing - 2013 © Christopher Martin

By that time it was early evening so I set up my gear on the shoulder of the road and waited to see if the owl might start hunting.  It looked at me languidly a few times and I thought that might be the all there was to this sighting when it flew into the trees.  I was wrong.  It stayed in the woods for a few minutes and then came back to the fence again.

Onto the fields - 2013 © Christopher Martin

A minute later, it flew to a new post about 30′ from where I was sitting.

Flying postal - 2013 © Christopher Martin

From that point the owl started hunting and remained less than 100′ away for the next hour.  It proved to be adept at attacks into the long grass and grabbed five mice over that period.  The strikes onto the field creatures were impossible to photograph as the talons and head of the owl would disappear completely into a screen of pale yellow.

Attack! - 2013 © Christopher Martin

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On prey - 2013 © Christopher Martin

That was only a very minor disappointment, being able to watch this master hunter at work was very enjoyable.

Great Gray Owl flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin

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Flying along the fence line - 2013 © Christopher Martin

I had great opportunities to photograph the owl flying before night took hold.  In the image below it was quite dark so I needed a longer exposure to gather enough light.

Dusk flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Just as I decided to pack up and head home, a car came down the road and I snapped this last image with the help of the headlights.

Good night dear owl - 2013 © Christopher Martin


Rough-legged hawks and the advancing spring

 

Rough-legged hawk in spring flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Through the winter, Rough-legged Hawks, as with the adult above and the juvenile below, keep watch over the Prairies.  These hawks are equipped for the cold temperatures and many choose to skip the migration and over winter here.  As the weather warms, their cousins, the Red-tailed, Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s and Broad-winged Hawks are starting to return.

Pre-flight perch - 2013 © Christopher Martin

One of the great joys of spring for me is the return of these hawks to the fields and grasslands.  However with a few great encounters with the Rough-legged hawks shown here, I’m not in any particular rush.

Hawk flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin

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Rough-legged perched - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The robins have been coming home for the last couple of weeks and a flight of about thirty Dark-eyed Juncos swarmed our backyard a couple of days ago.  So, spring seems close at hand.  I’m looking forward to more time with all the different hawks that spend their summers raising chicks here.

A quick peek - 2013 © Christopher Martin


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