On my return from the two separate visits with Great Horned Owls near High River, I drove past Okotoks, through Black Diamond and Turner Valley and then back to Bragg Creek. I counted more than twenty five hawks before I reached Priddis. Along the way, I stopped a couple of times that were in interesting locations.
One Red-tailed hawk was hunting from a wooden gate and fence dividing a farm from the highway. This hawk dove once while I was set up – it was great to observe an attack from close range thanks to a long telephoto lens. It returned to the post empty-taloned but then launched out over the field and grabbed a mouse when it neared the far side. Too far for a decent photograph but great to watch.
October 4, 2014 | Categories: Birds, Hawks, Nature, Wildlife | Tags: alberta, bird in flight, Buteo jamaicensis, Canada, flight, flying, Hawks, nature photography, Red-tailed hawk, Turner Valley, wildlife photography | 8 Comments
While we were in Osoyoos we spent one evening at the lake. As the sun was setting two ospreys circled above the water on the hunt for the last fish of the day. I followed one of them that came fairly close to our beach and shot when it crossed in front of the sun.
I was able to spend another morning with the Great Gray Owl in Bragg Creek that I have had the good fortune to watch several times (links: #1 and #2) this summer. She was waiting patiently on a fence post when I spotted her.
She almost seemed to wait while I quickly set up my long lens on its tripod before hunting in the deep grass. Over the next half hour she made several dives and had no trouble catching unlucky field creatures (by my count she was batting .333 on the day).
She would stay in the grass for up to a minute after each lunge so I had the opportunity to focus on the launches back into the air a couple of times.
Once the sunlight reached the field, the morning warmed up quickly and the owl’s pace slowed. On one of the last dives before I left, the owl had been on the far side of the field and then glided across. En route, it dropped down almost disappearing. When it popped its head back up, there was a great moment where the yellow eyes peered out of carpet of green.
By then the light was getting harsh and I was getting hungry. When she flew out, I packed up and drove off.
Canon 5DIII and 300mm lens: 1/1250 second at f/4 on ISO 2000
I left the sun to climb over the horizon on its own this morning and slept in. The days start early in the summer so when I left my house at 6am, we were well into daylight. I drove into Bragg Creek looking for wildlife and almost immediately found an owl. She was perched on a fence post and looked a little sleepy.
Canon 5DIII and 300mm lens: 1/1000 second at f/4 on ISO 2000
I stayed back a good distance and watched her lazily swivel her head a few times but she largely just hunched up and gazed out over the field. After 15 minutes or so she perked up a bit seeming to pick out something in the tall grass. She launched (as seen in the first image) then dipped but did not dive into the grass. Carrying on, she crossed the field and found a higher vantage point in a large evergreen tree in the field near the forest’s edge.
Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/2000 second at f/4 on ISO 4000
Some noises in the trees, unheard by me, drew her attention for the better part of a half an hour. Her head turned away from me and the field, I waited for her to either head towards the trees or redirect her attention to hunting in the grass. Lucky for me, she chose the latter and I was able to photograph a few nice flight shots when she flew from the first tree to another.
Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/2000 second at f/4 on ISO 1250
The second perch was a higher spot and she only stayed there for a couple of minutes before picking out a target. When she flew, it was a masterful attack. She glided down, hovered for a couple of beats above the area of her attention and then dove headfirst into the green.
Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/1250 second at f/4 on ISO 3200
After a few seconds, she climbed out of the grass with a field mouse clutched in her beak. She stayed on the far side of the field and disappeared with her breakfast into the trees.
Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/2000 second at f/4 on ISO 2500
Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) are busy looking for good nesting spots in the Elk Valley and I enjoyed watching them flying along the river when I was in Fernie during Easter. In urban areas, they border on being a nuisance in many people’s mind, I don’t see them that way.
Particularly when they are in flight in a wilderness setting, I find them to be a wonderful animal to watch. The variation in the weather on the morning I spent photographing along the Elk River didn’t hurt the imagery at all.
There was fog and light rain in the morning which burned off early leaving sharp light and blue skies. The forest along the river provided a beautiful backdrop as well. I had fun with all of it.
With Red-tailed Hawks back in our area, I’m still enjoying the novelty of their return. I went out on the weekend and found a few more who I had the opportunity to photograph in flight. The snow stole a couple of shots by throwing the auto focus off but it added character that more than made up for those.
I went out several times to photograph Snowy Owls this year but found them to be fewer in number and more elusive. The ones I did find were less interested in me than the ones I found last year (here, here and here) so there were no long or close encounters. I love watching them and it was a thrill just to see the ones I did find. I photographed this one on February 22nd and was the last one I saw this winter.
We’ll have to see if next year is a good one for Snowies on the prairies east of Calgary.
We’re in Fernie with family for the Easter weekend. We escaped Calgary’s heavy snowfall but the Elk Valley was socked in today with heavy leaden clouds. Rain, snow and sleet took turns falling through the day which provided a great background with some of the birds I came across. This raven was a favorite with the red roof providing great color to a potentially weary scene.
There are large gatherings of swans on the prairie around Frank Lake right now. This area is on the migration path and I really enjoy getting to see these birds when they pass through. This Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus) was sharing a small flat of ice apart from a small group. I watched them, and they watched me for a few minutes.
Then they took their running launch to get into the sky. Heading into a steady headwind, they seemed to gain altitude very quickly once they were airborne.
When I was waiting for my new owl friends to provide a beautiful through-the-window moment, my tripod and I were set up out the open on the snow-covered field that surrounds the barn. I was not expecting any other wildlife to swing by given my foreign presence but this Prairie Falcon (Falco mexicanus) must have taken pity on me.
More likely, it was scanning the ground for dinner and the sun’s low altitude in the evening kept it from looking in my direction until it was pretty close. I was happy to see this hunter though as the light was beautiful and the bird even more so.
It was a very pleasant surprise when I ran across another one of these beautiful birds (maybe the same one) when I returned to that same area a couple of days later. Well we didn’t really run into each other – I was driving and the bird was flying around a grain silo. It circled around me twice which gave me a moment to get out of my car and track it a bit easier.