I drove east of Langdon in the evening a couple of days ago looking for owls. At this time of the year the odds are decent to see Snowy owls perched on a silo or a fence line so I was looking for them as well as Short-eared owls that have been reported in that area recently. It was about an hour before sundown when I found a Snowy owl perched a couple of hundred metres away along a fence line.
This beautiful fellow flew between a few posts and was not interested in having me around so I headed west as the sun fell behind a tall bank of clouds standing over the Rocky Mountains. I found the second, and final, Snowy of the afternoon on a small oil and gas installation built on a rise that was a bit of a hike from the road.
She was perched on a storage tank and took only passing interest in me during my 15 minute walk towards her. As I drew closer I took a few photographs and as color came into the sky with sunset, I took a bunch more :)!
She kept tabs on me but had her focus on the surrounding fields. I didn’t see anything of note but it was a different story for the owl.
When she did launch she glided over to another small hill then dived into the field where it seemed she caught something. It was too far for me to make out and when she flew again after a couple of minutes she went further away and I had no interest in chasing her any further.
The past year was an interesting one for my wildlife photography. I stayed largely in Alberta for the year and the animals presented in this gallery are almost all from close to my home. Reflecting on that, I’m reminded what an incredible place I live in. Owls were prominent throughout the year with Snowy, Great gray and Great horned owls all sharing time with me. Black and Grizzly bears were less seen for me but what I had were memorable for me. I continue to deeply appreciate the more common animals and enjoyed revisiting some of those images when I was putting together this set. The gallery is made up of 40 images and can be visited by clicking this link or the link above.
Looking back over the year, I pushed myself to create more dynamic images with a goal to show more of the animal’s power, grace and general movement. I wanted to bring more patience to my time in the field and that has paid off with longer encounters and more enjoyment of the beautiful places I am in while I wait for something to fly, walk or run past. I have continued to learn more about the animals that I spend time with and that knowledge benefits me in many ways beyond photography. This year I began connecting on a spiritual level with many of the animals that I encounter. That continues to be an amazing journey whose benefit to my photography is significant but is a distant second to feeling the awareness of these beautiful creatures.
I’m excited for the encounters that will come in the new year, the connections I will seek to establish and the places these intentions will lead me to. Thank you for following my imagery through the year – I am honoured by everyone who chooses to spend time looking at, and hopefully enjoying, my photographs. Let’s see where things go in 2016…
A pair of Bald eagles were drawn to Redwood Meadows today. My daughter and I spotted them flying overhead when we were on our way to grab an ice cream cone in Bragg Creek. We stopped going there and again on the way back. They were drawn by a deer that had died near the golf course. Ravens were on the ground while the eagles bided their time above in the nearby trees.
I really like Brown Pelicans (their scientific name is Pelecanus occidentalis). They can be acrobatic in flight but generally look very cool while gliding in the sky or low over waves. They are inquisitive, excellent hunters and socially engaging. They are also active early in the morning and late in the evening which allows for some great lighting opportunities when photographing them.
I have put together a gallery of a few of my favourite Brown Pelican images here (or click the image above). In the gallery, please click on any picture to see a full size image. Most of these images are from Los Cabos in Mexico with a couple of flight pictures from Laguna Beach, California.
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.
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.
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.
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.
He wandered off after a while heading for the trees and leaving the others to graze and continue the odd skirmish.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Once he had checked me out, then he skipped back again and joined in snacking on the greenery.
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.
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.
I do wonder if concussions are a problem as they are with human contact sports.
The many are the one
Fly over the world you have made
Share your vision with those who will see
Fly where you will and we will know you are
In time we will understand more of what is
And we will change as you change
We will fly in our way as you fly in yours
You are and we will be
Frank Lake is just east of High River in southern Alberta and is a great location for birding throughout the year. In the summer, ibis, herons, avocets, blackbirds, ducks, pelicans and a menagerie of other avians congregate there for their summer residence.
On a recent visit, I enjoyed watching and photographing a number of these birds. The Black-crowned night heron above was of particular interest to me as it stalked along this fence above a stream where it emptied into the lake.
This morning I found a coyote skittering along the ditch on Highway 8 in between Bragg Creek and Springbank. At first, I thought it was an older pup but then I realized it was an adult in its sleek summer coat. I often photograph coyotes in the cooler months when they have their heavier jackets on so I’ll forgive myself the initial error. I believe this one was a female and she was absolutely beautiful. I was worried when I spotted her as she seemed to be trying to cross the road amid pretty steady traffic. Watching her, it became apparent that she and a couple of ravens were attracted to some bits of roadkill on the highway.
It was a relief when she slipped under the fence towards a field with an open stand of broken and weathered trees. She turned her attention towards hunting for field mice and that’s where the fun really began.
Turns out she is an accomplished hunter and I was delighted to watch her successfully catch two mice on three jumps. Of those leaps, I was in good position for two of them and am happy with the action caught.
The image above is the start of the first leap. The image at the top of this post was the next image as she was fully airborne.
The whole sequence from target acquisition to landing is efficient and I admired the focus, power and dexterity she showed. The three leaps all occurred within a short 2-3 minute stretch. On either side, she favoured me with a few inquisitive looks.
After a total of fifteen minutes she crossed a gravel back road and disappeared into the heavy scrub brush on the other side.