Posts tagged “nature

Attack!

Owl's Attack - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/16ooth of a second on f/4 and ISO 2500

I have been trying to capture this image for a long time.  With the familiarity I’ve been lucky to establish with the Great Gray Owl pair in West Bragg Creek this year, they will often hunt near to where I am set up.  On the weekend, one of the owls flew towards me and made a couple of dives from the post he landed on a few yards away.  The stars aligned on one of these attacks and I froze him just before he disappeared into the knee-high grass.


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

 


The sun’s fire in the trees

Fire in the trees - 2014 © Christopher Martin

(Please click on the image if you would like to view a higher resolution version)

A hazy sky created deep, rich hues in the rising sun and the morning sky.  A beautiful scene to watch unfold as the day grew but it was a small silver lining to forest fires burning across the province right now responsible for the haze.  While we haven’t had forest fires around Bragg Creek and Kananaskis so far this summer, there are ten fires in Alberta currently.  Most are being held or are under control presently with only one reported as being out of control.  It is a testament to people involved in fighting these fires and a reminder of our place in this natural cycle that allows for rebirth.


Great Gray Owl on a morning hunt

Owl and grass - 2014 © Christopher Martin

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.

Morning perch - 2014 © Christopher Martin

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).

Owl's attack - 2014 © Christopher Martin

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Skimming over the grass - 2014 © Christopher Martin

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.

Out of the grass - 2014 © Christopher Martin

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Morning flight - 2014 © Christopher Martin

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An owl's take off - 2014 © Christopher Martin

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.

In the field - 2014 © Christopher Martin

By then the light was getting harsh and I was getting hungry.  When she flew out, I packed up and drove off.

Field flight - 2014 © Christopher Martin


Good Morning Deer

Good morning Deer - 2014 © Christopher Martin - 9360

While watching a Great Gray Owl hunting in the morning, this young White-tailed Deer entered the field and wandered around for the better part of an hour.  It saw me and the owl but was not particularly interested in either of us.  Preferring to devote its attention to finding the best grass shoots and dandelion stems.

White-tailed deer - 2014 © Christopher Martin - 9391

 

A little earlier, I came across another White-tail in a forested meadow.  This young stag was head down eating when I noticed him but then lifted his head and gave me a beautiful look before I left.

Antlers and grass - 2014 © Christopher Martin

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A stag in the woods - 2014 © Christopher Martin


Spirits in the Khutzeymateen

The Grizzly Bears (Ursus arctos) rule the Khutzeymateen Inlet without challenge.  In June, the boars roam the fields of sedge grass and the creeks that drain out of the mountains looking for females to court.  The males are the kings but the mothers are the not only the queens, they are the heart and spirit of this land.  With their cubs there is a tenderness and caring that is plain to see and wonderful to watch.

Bear spirits - © Christopher Martin

This mother and cub spent a couple of days along the beach near where we moored the sailboat and we were able to watch them for many hours.  Here, they both looked up when a noise behind us drew their attention.  A great mother raising a beautiful cub.


A K’tzim-a-deen cub at rest

Bobbi and I just returned from the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary where Dan and Sandy hosted us aboard the Sun Chaser sailboat and we spent many hours looking for, finding, photographing, discussing and dreaming about Grizzlies.  It was a magical experience and I have had little time to look at any images so far.

K'tzim-a-Deen Cub - 2014 © Christopher Martin

That said, this image of a cub resting on a rock is already a favorite of mine.  Mom brought this two-year old down to the beach in the bay where Dan enjoys anchoring several times.  They were both very relaxed about our presence, with the elder concerned only about Grizzly boars coming out of the forest edge.  Her back was often to our little raft scanning the tree line as she ate the sedge grass.  Meanwhile the cub, free from much – though not all – of this worry, watched us in-between explorations nearby, feasting on vegetation and mewling for milk.


An eagle’s easy snack

Eagle on the move in Cow Bay - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 24-105mm lens at 99mm: 1/100oth of a second on f/4 and ISO 400

We had a great afternoon in Prince Rupert today.  The marina in Cow Bay was busy with boats of many different stripes coming and going throughout the day.  Seals popped up amongst the boats looking for scraps from the fishermen – a quick snack between meals.  While several Bald Eagles flew by overhead looking for a similar handout.  One group cleaned and divided up several large Halibut on one of the tables on the dock.  This drew in the seals and one eagle.  The seals made out quite well and at the end, a chunk of fish was left beside the table for the eagle.

Those are my scraps! 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 24-105mm lens at 105mm: 1/250oth of a second on f/4 and ISO 1000

It swooped down from its piling, grabbed the fish and then flew off to eat.  I was watching from across the marina on a wharf.  When the eagle left the dock, it flew towards the wharf and flew right under me as it headed away.  A good start to the weekend.

Over - under - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 24-105mm lens at 70mm: 1/40oth of a second on f/4 and ISO 1000


Waiting for the loons…

Loon in repose - 2014 © Christopher Martin

The loons have been back for a few weeks, their distinctive calls echoing across many of the lakes and ponds around Bragg Creek and the neighbouring Kananaskis Country.  I have had a couple of nice morning and evening encounters with them and am now looking forward to photographing the chicks.

Female loon - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Bobbi and I are off to the Khutzeymateen to catch up with the bears that I met last fall.  They are up from their hibernation and the cubs will be out to play while the mothers stay wary of the boars who are looking to couple up.  It will be an exciting trip and I’m so happy Bobbi is able to join me this time around.  When we get back, I will be out looking for the loons and their babies.

Navigating late spring ice - 2014 © Christopher Martin

 

 


Turner Valley Hawk

Red-tailed in Turner Valley

A Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) launches over the fields near the town of Turner Valley in Alberta, Canada.


Owl Flight

Great Gray Owl on the hunt - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/3200 second at f/4 on ISO 1600

This owl caught sight of something from a branch above the grass and silently launched.  It glided past me and then dropped into the tall grass – flying away with a mouse in its beak shortly thereafter.


Spring with a Great Gray Owl

Great Gray Owl Launch - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/1600 second at f/4 on ISO 2500

I had not seen a Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa) since last fall and I was deeply missing them.  Usually by the end of April, there are two owls in West Bragg Creek that I start seeing regularly.  They are always there, just not for me with any consistency until spring.  So, it was with great happiness that one was waiting for me on the weekend when I was out early in the morning.

Owl portrait - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/1600 second at f/4 on ISO 2000

This owl hunted along the forest edge, gliding past me several times, for over an hour.  I had great opportunities to photograph her in flight and while perched.  These owls mesmerize me and I feel enormous gratitude that she chose to not fly away to one of the other productive hunting fields nearby.

 

Post launch - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/2000 second at f/4 on ISO 2000

At one point she flew deeper into the woods where I think her nest is.  I headed off but came back a half an hour later and she was out on the field.  She flew directly towards me and perched in a tree not far away before hunting along the grass a couple more times.  Then she flew silently back into the forest.   I will head back soon and am excited to spend some more time with this owl.

 


Full extension

A Red-tailed Hawk launches off a post on the prairie west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/2000 second at f/4 on ISO 800

When this Red-tailed hawk launched off the post I had been watching him on for a few minutes, I was really impressed by the power and balance displayed.   He flew closer and then went to the ground after circling back towards the fenceline.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t an attacking dive only an uninspired landing in the tall grass.

ed-tailed flight - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/2000 second at f/4 on ISO 800

 

 


Water skimming Tree Swallow

Water skimming Tree Swallow - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens + 1.4X extender: 1/2000 second at f/6.3 on ISO 1600

I was on the edge of the lake at Wild Rose a week ago watching the three loons who were diving in and swimming on the water.  A few different times a small flight of swallows deftly skimmed the water nearby while searching for low flying and water-walking insects to pick off.  These Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) are swift, acrobatic fliers so trying to catch a sharp image is a fun challenge.  This little one had just hit the water but missed the little creature and was just pulling up when I caught up to him.


Wild Rose Beaver

Beaver on the lake at Wild Rose - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens + 1.4X extender: 1/160 second at f/8 on ISO 1600

The beavers that live beside the lake at Wild Rose are back to their busy ways now that the water is ice-free.  The other night I watched one swimming along the shoreline and around its lodge.  It was a beautiful evening with warm sunshine and clear skies.

 


Snowy Owls on the prairie

Ground flight effect - 2014 © Christopher Martin
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.

A wing over the prairie - 2014 © Christopher Martin

We’ll have to see if next year is a good one for Snowies on the prairies east of Calgary.


Spring with Robins in Fernie

Perched amid the tangled branches - 2014 © Christopher Martin(click on the image to open a page with a higher resolution version)

Although Fernie is in the heart of the Rockies, it is deeper into spring than Calgary so the visit there over the Easter weekend was great.  Robins have always been a sure sign of spring for me and I found a few hunting in a field during the rain.  This one was particularly beautiful as it chirped away from its perch in a tree by the Elk River.

Over the shoulder - 2014 © Christopher Martin


Stand off with a squirrel

Deck squirrel stand off - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5D III + 300mm f/4 lens: 1/200 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800

This squirrel has been a resident in the trees behind our house for five years.  He’s feisty and acts like the backyard, our deck and everywhere else he travels is under his dominion.  In this encounter I had my feet up on the railing and he squared off staring at me.  It became pretty clear that he was impatiently waiting for me to put my feet down so he could pass.  I obliged, but snapped off a couple of frames before removing the barricade.  He chirped as he ran by and kept up the chatter as he climbed up a tree.  I thought a simple thank you would have sufficed!


Nesting owls near High River

Great Horned Owl - 2014 © Christopher Martin

A nest east of High River that I have watched for a few years is home to a new brood of Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) owlets again this spring.  I went on a backroad tour last weekend and when I saw the nest occupied I set up the long lens and watched the owl as it dozed.  I watched her shift her weight around a few times and hoped that there were nestlings who might want to peek out from under their feathery blanket.  It didn’t take too long for one and then two of these babies to have a look around.

2014 © Christopher Martin

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Owl and owlets - 2014 © Christopher Martin

On this latest visit, a fellow admirer told me that the nest has been used to raise owlets annually for over forty years.  I love that and it makes sense as the nest is in a great location with access to fields, shade, protection and seemingly all of the things that make for a good home.

Owl on guard - 2014 © Christopher Martin
A couple more photographs from the visit.

Fluffing up - 2014 © Christopher Martin

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A little peckish are we? - 2014 © Christopher Martin
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Aware of what's around - 2014 © Christopher Martin


A blizzard at Elbow Falls

Elbow Falls - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 24-105mm lens at 65mm: 2.5 seconds at f/16 on ISO 200

I went back to Elbow Falls for the third time in the last couple of weeks.  With the snowstorm that blew in on the weekend, I was drawn back to see another face to the area.  Heavy snowflakes had piled up in the trees and across the rocks with more falling rapidly when I was up there.  A slip on the ice was my payment for passage but I liked the scene I slid into.  The falling snow gave the trees a charcoal sketched look while the rocks and water in the river had texture and character that seemed to suit black and white processing.


Elbow Falls in winter’s clothing again

Elbow Falls in winter's clothing - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 17-40mm lens at 17mm: 1/3rd of a second at f/16 on ISO 200

With fresh snow on the ground, I went back up to Elbow Falls to see how the valley would look in a return to winter clothing.  I was there only a week ago and the change, beyond the cold, was significant.  I love snow-covered landscapes so I found this visit to Kananaskis to be a very beautiful one.  I think spring is coming soon but when winter is this pretty, I don’t mind a little delay.

Early morning blues - 2014 © Christopher MartinThe blues before dawn…
Canon 5DIII + 17-40mm lens at 26mm: 3.2 seconds at f/11 on ISO 200
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2014 © Christopher MartinFirst light in the mountains
Canon 5DIII + 17-40mm lens at 25mm: 1.3 seconds at f/11 on ISO 50
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2014 © Christopher MartinSunshine into the mist
Canon 5DIII + 17-40mm lens at 17mm: 1/8th of a second at f/16 on ISO 50

 


A Gila Woodpecker in Los Cabos

2013 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 70-200 lens and 1.4x extender at 280mm: 1/5000 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 800

When my wife and I went to Cabo San Lucas last December I was lucky to find this Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis) in a stand of cacti during a morning walk.  I had noticed the hole in this cactus and was looking on when this one flew in.  It poked its head out a couple of times before heading off again.  I carried on and saw it flying around a couple more times when I came back that way near the end of my stroll.


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


Just pecking away

Picoides villosus - 2014 © Christopher Martin

One of our resident woodpeckers was drumming away for a good part of the afternoon a few days ago.  Several Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers have wintered near our home this year.

2014 © Christopher Martin

The long bill of the Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) was put to good use by this fellow.  He used it to his advantage pecking away at the bark.  I’m not sure if it was idle practice or if, despite the cool temperatures, there were insects to be had.

2014 © Christopher Martin

With warmer temperatures coming back this weekend, I hope to see them out pecking again.


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