Posts tagged “birds

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
-
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-
Snowy jump - © Christopher Martin-2467
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 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


Osprey along the Sea of Cortez

Los Cabos Osprey - © Christopher Martin-7440

There are two ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) who are residents at the Hacienda del Mar resort in Los Cabos.  Ospreys are another favourite animal that I am fortunate to be able to photograph quite often at home.  It is a bit surreal to see them living in a warm, southern climate as I think of them (myopically) as being a bird of the lakes in and near the Rocky mountains where I usually see them.

Los Cabos Osprey - © Christopher Martin-5933

 

If any images appear grainy or pixelated, please click on the image to open a higher resolution version.

 

Los Cabos Osprey - © Christopher Martin-7437

Los Cabos Osprey - © Christopher Martin-7441-2

They own the palm trees that line the pools and sun decks which overlook the beach using them as viewing towers to find fish near the shore in the Sea of Cortez.

Los Cabos Osprey - © Christopher Martin-6159
Los Cabos Osprey - © Christopher Martin-6132
Several times during our stay in Los Cabos, I had great opportunities to watch these beautiful birds fly to and from the tree tops and glide over the beach and rocks nearby.

Los Cabos Osprey - © Christopher Martin-7790

Los Cabos Osprey - © Christopher Martin-6119

Los Cabos Osprey - © Christopher Martin-6120

Los Cabos Osprey - © Christopher Martin-6121


House Sparrows in Canmore

Canmore House Sparrows - © Christopher Martin-8941

The Summit Cafe is a favourite place for Bobbi and I to have breakfast when we are in Canmore.  I was there last weekend, sitting on their patio outside.  The sun was out, the snow had melted and it had more of a spring feel than anything else.  These House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) contributed to that with their chittering and occasional outburst of song.  There were about 15 that darted between the roof of a nearby building, a deck railing and a shrubbery that was more stick than bush given the time of year.

Canmore House Sparrows - © Christopher Martin-8981

Canmore House Sparrows - © Christopher Martin-8970

Canmore House Sparrows - © Christopher Martin-8984

Canmore House Sparrows - © Christopher Martin-9034

Canmore House Sparrows - © Christopher Martin-9010


Working for peanuts

Stellar Jay - © Christopher Martin-4472

Not me, the Stellar Jays on the deck of my aunt and uncle’s house in Nelson.

 Backlit Jay - © Christopher Martin-4336

There are a pair of these beautiful birds that live near the house and they call for peanuts a few times throughout the day.  These cries are rewarded and the opportunity to photograph them was not one I passed on.  At my home we have several blue jays that favour our backyard so it was fun to look at these birds closely and compare and contrast with “ours”.

Phone perch - © Christopher Martin-4398

I grew up in the Kootenays but moved away almost twenty years ago.  Luckily Marnie and John have kept their house there and we try to get out to visit them at least once every summer.  I missed last year and sadly this year was only a one night stay.  However, it was great to see them, to meet their resident jays and to enjoy one of my favourite places in the world.

Prize winner - © Christopher Martin-4484


Red-naped Sapsucker in Bragg Creek

 

Red-naped Sapsucker - 2014 © Christopher Martin

It always exciting when I come across a new creature for the first time.  On the weekend, while photographing two beautiful owls, I had my first encounter with a Red-naped Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus nuchalis).  I’m used to seeing Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers frequently around Bragg Creek but the distinctive red patches sent me looking through my bird book to identify this new (to me) species.  We are on the northwest edge of their summer range but they are apparently quite conspicuous so I must have missed them previously.

Scratch - 2014 © Christopher Martin

(Please click on any image if you would like to view a higher resolution version in a new window)

When one of the owls flew to a fence post near a stand of trees, it disturbed this small woodpecker.  The little bird started chittering away and ended up flying out of the tree above the owl and landing on a post in front of me.  He settled down and took a minute to scratch the feathers on his nape before heading across the meadow.  It didn’t bother the owl in the least but I really enjoyed the short visit.

Red-naped Sapsucker - 2014 © Christopher Martin

 


Elk River Heron

Elk River Heron flight - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm f/4 lens: 1/1600 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800

The Elk River runs through a southeastern region of British Columbia’s Kootenay region.  Where the river spills out of the mountains into the Elk Valley, it widens and attracts an abundance of fish which in turn draws eagles, osprey and herons.  On our recent trip to Fernie I enjoyed several walks along the river and was able to watch all of these birds on separate encounters.  On the first evening my nephew Austin and I were out for a walk and watched a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) flying low along the river and land at a shallow stretch.

Elk River Heron - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm f/4 lens: 1/1600 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800

There was enough light that it worked out well to photograph him flying by and landing.

 Along the banks - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm f/4 lens: 1/1600 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800

He landed nearby but spooked when we walked a bit closer so we headed home.  It was the right call not only for the bird but the rain increased from the drizzle to a downpour which we were happy to miss.

Heron landing - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm f/4 lens: 1/2500 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800

Thanks Austin – it was fun to be out birding with you!

Elk River Heron - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm f/4 lens: 1/2000 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800


Elbow Falls Dipper

American Dipper - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm lens: 1/640 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

I went up to Elbow Falls last weekend for the sunrise but I stayed for the American Dippers (Cinclus mexicanus).

Winter Dipper - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DII + 70-200mm lens: 1/1000 of a second at f/8 on ISO 1000

I love watching these aquatically adept birds stalking, diving and swimming in the middle of the rapids.  On the last visit to the waterfall, there were three Dippers flitting about moving between the bottom of the waterfall and the rocks at the top.

Patience - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm lens: 1/640 of a second at f/4 on ISO 4000

An uphill battle - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm lens: 1/1000 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

Splashing around - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm lens: 1/1250 of a second at f/4 on ISO 2500

They chased each other down river a couple of times but spent most of their time fishing alone.  On a quiet morning in Kananaskis, it was nice to spend my time watching them.

Dipper Portraiture - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm lens: 1/640 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

Let's have a look - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm lens: 1/640 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600


Night Herons in Arizona

Out of the shadows - 2014 © Christopher Martin
-

Among the tangles - 2014 © Christopher Martin

When we were in Sedona a couple of weeks ago, I drove to the Page Springs Sanctuary in search of birds to photograph.  Arizona is the winter home to many species that summer in Canada and I enjoyed seeing a pair of Black-crowned Night Herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) during my visit to the river near the springs.

Heron's yawn - 2014 © Christopher Martin
It was mid-morning and they were not active.  They were perched over the river deep in the tangled branches of the huge trees.  This yawn was the most action that I saw while I watched them.  Didn’t bother me, they were great to see resting in this quiet forest.

Perched in shadow - 2014 © Christopher Martin
-

A red eye in the trees - 2014 © Christopher Martin


An abandoned barn for owls

Reserved observation - 2014 © Christopher Martin

I went out on the prairie a couple of times on the weekend.  I was looking for owls.  On the “hope to see” list were Great Horned, Snowy and Short-eared.  I went to the back roads around Frank Lake.  I encountered a couple of Snowies but it was too dark to photograph them.  I returned to both locations in better light a couple of times but unsurprisingly they had both moved on.  Nice to know they were around though.  Short-eared proved elusive and I did not see any ears, short or otherwise.

Barn sentinel - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4X extender: 1/640 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 1600

I did find a great old barn set off in a remote spot with a couple of grain silos on the first evening.  That scene was great on its own but the Great Horned Owl I saw perched in a window.  The window frame was weathered with peeling red paint so character was not in short supply.  The owl was shy once I stopped my car and it hopped inside the barn to perch on a beam.   I set up a ways back from a west-facing window at the other end of the barn in the hopes that the owl might fly through it as dusk approached and it went out to start hunting.

Framed - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4X extender: 1/320 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 3200

A chilly wait through the golden light had no results and when the owl did head out, it flew through the eastern window.  While I waited, a long lens and high ISO allowed for a couple of nice shadow dominated images.  I left the owl the first night with it perched on a fencepost near the barn.  When I returned home and looked at the images, I was surprised to see a second owl buried in the shadows inside the barn.  It had been invisible to my eyes but had just barely resolved on the highest ISO images.

I returned two days later before dawn and saw the pair of owls working out of the same eastern window.  I set up on the same western window and could see them through main entrance as the sun rose.  Their activity wound down as the day wrestled with the night and soon they were perched on the same beams as before.

In shadows - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens: 1/80 of a second at f/4 on ISO 2000

This time, I took a wide path around the side of the barn and was able to photograph each owl on their respective beams through the eastern window (per the image at the top of this post and directly below).

In the barn - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4 extender: 1/100 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 3200

I returned to my original spot and as I came around the barn saw that one of the owls had flown up to the top of a silo.  It was perched there scanning the fields.  I guess it wanted one last snack before its nap.

Up on a grain silo - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4 extender: 1/1000 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 1600

It stayed up there for ten minutes and then flew along the fence-line, dropped on a fence post for a minute and then glided over the patchwork of snow and grass to a mound of earth a few hundred meters away.

Fence flight - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens: 1/1600 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

I waited a while longer to see if the owl would come back or its mate would head out.  Neither happened and I packed up as the owl inside the barn dropped off to sleep.

I’ll head back to see about that window again in a couple of weeks.  Maybe they’ll give me an opportunity then.  It was great to see these beautiful birds either way.  They have amazing faces and I really enjoyed studying them for a couple of hours.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,961 other followers