The early spring this year may see the Snowy owls leave their wintering grounds around Southern Alberta soon. When I was in Irricana photographing this owl, it was 16°C and she was panting to stay cool. I’m not concerned about their health in this heat as their nesting sites in the north get into, and above, these temperatures in the summer. However, I don’t know when it, or something else, will prompt them to leave as they always do.
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.
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.
March 17, 2015 | Categories: Owls, Wildlife | Tags: alberta, birds in flight, Bubo scandiacus, Canada, dive, flying, hunting, Irricana, nature photography, owls, prairie, raptor, snowy owls, wildlife | 3 Comments
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.
February 27, 2015 | Categories: Alberta, Nature, Owls, Turtle, Wildlife | Tags: alberta, BIF, birds, blue sky, Bubo scandiacus, Canada, flight, flying, nature, owls, raptors, Snowy owl, wildlife | 4 Comments
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”.
February 25, 2015 | Categories: Owls, Wildlife, Winter | Tags: alberta, BIF, bird in flight, Bubo scandiacus, Canada, flying, Irricana, nature photography, owl, smile, Snowy owl, wildlife photography | 6 Comments
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.
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.
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.
February 24, 2015 | Categories: Birds, Nature, Owls, Wildlife, Winter | Tags: alberta, bird in flight, birds, Bubo scandiacus, Canada, flying, owl, prairie, snow, Snowy owl, wildlife, winter | 2 Comments
From my family to yours, we hope the new year sees you realize what you want, need and wish for. May you enjoy the journey throughout the year and beyond. Thank you for visiting my website and I hope you have enjoyed the photographs over the past year. I am looking forward to sharing more in 2015.
After watching a Barn owl hunt across the long grass marsh flats at Boundary Bay through dusk in mid-March, I was packing up when I saw a Snowy owl perched on a log. It was about 100 yards away but the white oval shape stood out distinctively against the blues and blacks of evening.
I worked my way along the levee towards the bird and it just stared at me as I stopped about 50 feet away. We stared at one another for a minute and then the owl whipped its head around and cocked it towards some sound or motion I was oblivious to. It didn’t attack and went back to looking around for a while. A few minutes later, it launched onto another large piece of driftwood which was closer to the ground.
From there, the snowy stalked along the wood and ended up jumping into the grass at one point. It stayed in the grass for a little bit but I didn’t see whether it was successful in catching something or not.
The bay was dark by this time and I left the owl as it flew to another perch nearby. I had a few great encounters in Boundary Bay – I’m already excited to go back soon.
With visions of the Boundary Bay owls still streaming past my mind’s eye, I went out for a drive on the Prairies this weekend. I have been working on my Snowy owl imagery pretty steady this winter and have found a few images to be elusive to create. For this trip east of Calgary, I was hoping to get some interactions showing a little personality as well as head on flight images. It turned out to be a great afternoon for both.
I went east on highway 22X and roamed a few of the range roads north of Carseland. I found a hawk followed by an eagle in the first couple of miles. I left the Bald eagle on its perch in a barren tree and zigzagged back towards the highway.
Well short of the main road, I found this Snowy owl perched on a fencepost a few hundred yards into the field. I waited for 15 minutes and then the bird launched and flew in front of me along the fenceline and crossed the gravel. I picked it up on a telephone pole nearby and that was its field base for the afternoon.
Over the next couple of hours, the owl dove off the beam several times and earned a few snacks along the grass and snow. At launch and during its return flights to the perch, it gave me some wonderful opportunities as it would keep an eye on me now and then.
During the long breaks between sorties, the owl sat largely motionless except for the full circles carved in the air by its head. There were a few great moments with interesting yawns,
and humorous facial expressions.
One of the tours detoured to a long abandoned windmill which made for a great scene. The blue sky and white bird can make even a worn out relic look great! Well, that particular structure has a lot of good character on its own but I think you know what I mean.
So we had a good rhythm for quite a while and when I finally packed up it was in the middle of a glide back to the same perch. I would have loved to stay until the evening light but the hands were cold and the bird had been a very accommodating host so no reason to wear out the welcome.
March 23, 2013 | Categories: Animals, Owls, Wildlife | Tags: alberta, animal, BIF, bird, Bubo scandiacus, flight, flying, nature photography, Prairies, Snowy owl, wildlife photography, winter | 27 Comments
The past weekend involved a lot of Snowy owls so it was fantastic. On Friday, I made a solo run east of Calgary and roamed the country roads between Langdon and Strathmore eager to find the white owls which enthrall me. I found one perched on a fence post warming under bright sunshine along and had several minutes to enjoy watching her before a tanker truck roared by and the sound spooked her off the roost.
I say her because females Snowies often have dark banding – often but not always as adolescents of both genders have heavy banding as well. It used to be thought that males were usually white with little or no banding and the females were as described. There are convincing arguments for and against however I found this link persuasive. It has helped me to realize that I would need an expert’s opinion before I would state any Snowy owls gender in absolute terms. So, please allow me the license to use he and she with these owls so that I can avoid referring to individuals as “it” which seems to drop them into object status rather than that of a living creature.
The owl took flight across Highway 901 and flew out over the fields. I watched it glide low and out of sight behind the rolling hills to the southwest. I zigzagged along the roads in the same general direction and found her on a telephone pole scanning the landscape. I pulled alongside slowly, set up my camera through the window and got comfortable. Fast forward half an hour and she seemed to lock onto something out in the grasses. When she did launch it was under a cloudy sky which makes for an interesting contrast of white on white (as in the image above). I love watching the Snowy owls fly and then glide low. She dove down in the middle of farmland and settled for several minutes on what seemed to be a successful kill. She was a long ways out so I headed off along the crisscross of back roads.
About a quarter of an hour later I found another owl in a different field. I pulled off, set up and waited to see if this owl would fly in my direction. After five minutes it flew parallel to the road I was on and then swooped up to another telephone pole. This owl was actively hunting and moved around a lot over the next hour.
The highlight was when it perched on a fence post near the road where I was parked and we looked at each other for over a minute before it went over to a higher perch on another pole. The evening was coming in slowly and I left the owl once it had flown up to a very tall transmission line tower where it was glowing in the sun against a dark cloud background.
As the light failed, I retraced my steps back towards the highway but had a visit with one last owl, this one a male (maybe). The soft pastels to the east and the glow from the west on the white feathers were beautiful and I photographed him until the darkness overwhelmed my camera’s sensor.
And then, on Sunday, my wife and I took the kids and one of their cousins to Drumheller to visit the Royal Terrell Dinosaur Museum. This allowed us to search for owls on our drive there and we were not disappointed with the weather or with what we found along the way. The blue sky was a change from Friday’s mixed weather and always provides a great background for white birds.
We saw several owls and all but one lingered on their perches for 5-15 minutes before alighting or us moving on. This allowed the kids the opportunity to watch them and appreciate a magical part of nature. They had a great time with my son surprising me the first time that we drove away from one bird, saying that we should stay and watch a little longer. Normally, having grown up with his dad always stopping to photograph wildlife during walks, hikes, rides, drives, etc., he is often anxious to get going again – not this time. I think the Snowy owls cast the same spell on the children that I have been under for almost two years now.