When I was in Shangri-La last month, I spent one day touring the Pudacuo National Park (also called Potatso; in Chinese it is 普达措国家公园). Not enough time by any stretch of my imagination but I enjoyed the time I had. In the morning I walked along the shoreline of Shudu lake and early on came across this White wagtail (Motacilla alba alboides) hunting for insects.
From this partly submerged perch, he flew down and skimmed the water’s surface. Each dive appeared to be successful and after a few minutes the bird flew into the trees and disappeared.
The Sarrail Falls that spill across several terraces before emptying into the Upper Kananaskis Lake is a beautiful stretch of water surrounded by heavy forest in the steep hillside of Mount Sarrail’s lower slopes. The path to this waterfall starts at the lake’s eastern parking lot and is set just above the shoreline. It is a comfortable trail that is about 1-1.15 km to this feature but carries on around the entire lake. I had planned to complete the loop but spent almost two hours watching, photographing, enjoying and studying the waterfall instead.
The 2013 flood hit this creek heavily destroying the bridge as well as sending tree trunks and boulders cascading down. These are still found perched, lodged or lying nearby all along the water’s path. I found a beauty in these that added to the overall scene and suggested to me the cycles of birth, growth and death as well as of constant change. Along with the varying crescendos of the water’s orchestra, I found myself enjoying some deep thoughts and the time to chew on them – a luxurious gift to allow oneself!
At the end, with the morning moving quickly towards noon, I chose the short walk back and the lunch I had waiting for me.
Coyotes are a resourceful predators that roam all across Alberta – and much of North America for that matter. I often find them hunting for rodents on the prairies or padding along the forest’s edge when I’m up in the mountains. They are beautiful animals and I wanted to share a gallery pulled together from many encounters over the past couple of years. Please click on Coyote Portfolio or the image above to visit the gallery.
I have wanted to photograph Red fox kits for a long time and with a friendly tip from a fellow photographer (thank you Mike!), was able to find this beautiful family last Wednesday evening. The photograph above is of two of the five, or possibly six, young foxes as they watched a couple of their siblings playing off to the right. The sun slid in and out of the clouds early on and fought through some haze along the way so it was a great evening for lighting. On this particularly bright moment, I liked the contrast of the dreamy, abstract look of the field with the alert stares and sharp backlit outline of the foxes.
I have been wanting to upload more portfolios of wild animals as the two I have had up for a while (Grizzlies and Great blue herons) seem lonely. Towards that goal, I have uploaded a Bald eagle gallery this afternoon. These are images from trips to the Khutzeymateen Provincial Park, Brackendale during the winter salmon migration and closer to home on the prairies. These images are from the last couple of years. If you are interested in having a look, please click on the eagle picture above or this link. I hope you enjoy.
On a walk a couple of weeks ago I came across a Great gray owl nest in Bragg Creek. I had noticed an owl perched high up in a tree and while watching it, I heard its very soft hooting, about 10 seconds apart – almost like a slow, steady beat which was not a vocalization I was familiar with. A bit of motion higher up in another tree about 50′ away drew my attention and I could see two owlets in a large nest. The activity was the larger one spreading, and flapping, its wings. The vocalization seemed like a steady reassurance to the owlets that mom was close by.
I’m always a bit anxious when I find a nest as I don’t want to stress the chicks or, in a very much worst case scenario, cause the parents to abandon them. This nest was very high up and the mature owl did not appear to be agitated so I took a few photographs and then carried on my way. The sight lines to the nest were not great but I planned to come back in a couple of weeks to see how the little ones were doing.
Earlier this week, I returned to the path and walked back towards the nest. Rounding a corner, another flutter of activity caught my eye. This time, it was not at the nest as I had been expecting but about 30′ off of the ground in a tree neighbouring the nest’s holder. It took me a second before I realized it was one of the chicks perched on a branch flapping its wings for balance. I looked around and soon spied one of the parents perched in an aspen watching intently. It seemed the owlet had left the nest at some very recent point, and was making its way to the forest floor. That’s being a bit kind – as I watched for the next couple of minutes it somersaulted, tumbled, grabbed and slid its way down the branches in a series of 3 to 6′ drops until it half flew, half crashed to the ground. I had my longest lens on a tripod and was set up to watch this even from my spot about 150′ away. The birds hadn’t noticed me as all of their attention was presumably consumed by this flight of the still mostly flightless owlet.
The little owl righted itself and peered around to get its bearings. I moved up the path a little ways which gave me a good line to the bird and we stared at one another for a few seconds. Mother dropped down to a fallen tree and the little one jump/flew over to it. The two of them moved off to the side towards a bit of an opening in the trees.
I lost sight of them and was picking up my tripod to see if a spot a little further up the trail might afford a better view when I looked up and saw the second owlet (the first picture in this story and the one below). About 20′ away, perched about 12′ off the ground and staring at me. I retreated to the edge of the trail, set up again and was able to photograph this beautiful creature.
All the while I could hear the other owlet flitting about and crashing around in the underbrush. I circled away from the smaller owl in front of me and found a great spot a good distance from that owl with a nice view of the first one I had seen fall out of the tree. It had now managed to fly up to a bent branch about 8′ off the ground. Its mom was perched 5′ directly above that on another aspen. I closed to about 80′ away and watched them for several minutes. The highlight was when the father swooped in and fed the owlet a mouse. The actually handoff (beak off?) happened just out of sight from my position so I didn’t photograph it but it was so cool to see. The father flew off back towards the nearby fields and the mother found a new perch a little higher up. I left the chick in its spot watching me languidly as it digested supper.
I checked on the second owl, which was noticeably smaller than the other, and it was still in the same spot. The sun had dropped and was tracing an outline of the bird’s profile which I found to be appealing.
One of the parents had flown to a perch nearby and was watching this owlet. My ears picked up the soft, steady hooting once more and I thought that was the right time to leave the family to themselves. I had no interest in delaying this one’s supper as I expected the next mouse caught would be hers (or his).
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.