Posts tagged “nature photography

Summer residents at Frank Lake

Singing from the grasstops - © Christopher Martin-6632

Frank Lake is just east of High River in southern Alberta and is a great location for birding throughout the year.  In the summer, ibis, herons, avocets, blackbirds, ducks, pelicans and a menagerie of other avians congregate there for their summer residence.

A Black-crowned night heron stalks along a fencepost.

Black-crowned night heron at Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-7854

On a recent visit, I enjoyed watching and photographing a number of these birds.  The Black-crowned night heron above was of particular interest to me as it stalked along this fence above a stream where it emptied into the lake.

A shorebird at Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-6819Summer among the reeds in Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-6593
Flight over Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-7036

White pelicans at Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-7668

Avocet reflected in Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-7175

Ibis at Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-6637

A truly lone wolf

Highway 93 Wolf - © Christopher Martin-9050

I left Jasper early in the morning heading south along the Highway 93, enjoying the empty road given the time of day.  I had hopes of finding a bear or two along the forest’s edge during my drive through the park (and did sight a very handsome fellow a little later).  I had gone about ten kilometres out of town and then felt compelled to retrace my path, thinking I would drive back to last bridge before town and then head south again.  Turning back, I went a couple of kilometres and then saw an animal quite a distance straight ahead.

Highway 93 Wolf - © Christopher Martin-8963
I pulled off to the shoulder and levelled my long lens quickly.  I was happy to have a composition with the wolf in the middle of the road with the surrounding landscape visible.  I watched the wolf trot steadily down the middle and shoulders of the highway for several minutes.

Highway 93 Wolf - © Christopher Martin-8978
She had a route in mind and stayed on it.  She paused near an opening to the river, and I had thought she might go down to the water.  That wasn’t her path as she carried along the road, passing me on the other side and stopping to give me a stare before moving on.  At close range I noticed her tracking collar and it seemed like she had been freshly shaved around the neck so I wonder if she had been fitted with a new collar and was now catching back up with her pack.

Highway 93 Wolf - © Christopher Martin-9010
Highway 93 Wolf - © Christopher Martin-9007
Highway 93 Wolf - © Christopher Martin-9038

Wolves are one of my unicorn animals.  That is to say that I don’t see them anywhere near as often as I would like.  So it is very special when I do get to spend time with one.  Especially one as pretty as this wolf!

Highway 93 Wolf - © Christopher Martin-9054

A backscratching bear’s dance

Backscratching bear dancer - © Christopher Martin-9297

I visited Jasper National Park for a couple of days over the Victoria Day long weekend.  The park has a different feel (both are great – just different) from Banff and I always look forward to spending time there.   I plan to share a few stories of time I spent with some of the magnificent wildlife there but will start with a really fun moment.

Black bear shuffle and stare - © Christopher Martin-9121

This black bear was grazing in the ground cover of a stretch of open forest when I found him.  I watched him scratch, sniff and chew on shrubs, flowers and roots for several minutes and then he sauntered over to this small tree.

Backscratching bear dancer - © Christopher Martin-9279

Rearing up on his hind legs, he seemed really happy to rub his back up and down against the spiky needles.  I’m not sure how much scratching he felt with his thick coat so maybe it was more for the scent or to shake off some insects.  No matter the reason, it was cool to see a bear dancing for his own reasons.

Backscratching bear dancer - © Christopher Martin-9286

Backscratching bear dancer - © Christopher Martin-9287

Backscratching bear dancer - © Christopher Martin-9300





First owl flights in May

Great gray in May - © Christopher Martin-7873

Owls don’t care about what day it is, but, on some level I guess I do.  I went out this morning when the sun was shining and the day was quickly warming up.  I was happy that the first day of May picked up where April left off as I was able to continue spending time with owls.  This owl was hunting around a farm field and a horse meadow in Bragg Creek.

Great grays in May - © Christopher Martin-7874

This Great gray owl was landing on some strategically placed posts in the middle of the field and successfully grabbed a couple of mice over a short span.  I haven’t watched owls hunt on this field before but I will be back as it appears to be a very productive spot for this owl.

Great grays in May - © Christopher Martin-7881

Great grays in May - © Christopher Martin-7917

Great grays in May - © Christopher Martin-7939

Great grays in May - © Christopher Martin-7951

An owl and a weathered tractor

Great gray owl in the trees - © Christopher Martin-7538

I have loved photographing one old, weathered tractor for years.  It sits in a field that is home to horses now and I think it has been enjoying its retirement there for many years before I ever found it.

For the first time, I met the gentleman who owns this tractor, the horses and the land this past weekend.  We had a pleasant conversation while we enjoyed watching this Great gray owl hunting along his fence line.  Peter was very familiar with this owl and it was great to learn some new things about it.

Great gray owl in the trees - © Christopher Martin-7434

Shortly after he left, the owl flew off the fence line and into a stand of trees near the tractor.  I set up for a dive I hoped would come but was very happy when the next flight was not into the grass but over to the steering wheel on this much admired, at least to me, tractor.

Great gray owl on a tractor - © Christopher Martin-7448

From this perch, the owl’s glowing eyes scanned the surrounding grass.

Scouting from the steering wheel - © Christopher Martin-7534

After a few minutes it hunched down, signalling that it may fly.  It paused for a couple of seconds and then launched.

Great gray owl in the trees - © Christopher Martin-7539

This bird is an excellent hunter so it was no surprise that the strike was successful.  As they like to do, after the pounce the owl looked around to check his surroundings as they are vulnerable when down on the ground.  It stared at me to check that I hadn’t made any moves or movements that signalled a change in my intent.

Great gray owl on the field - © Christopher Martin-7550

It swallowed the mouse on the ground and then flew back to the same perch on the tractor.

What's up? - © Christopher Martin-7630

It idled on the wheel for a couple of minutes, preoccupied for a moment with something it noticed in the sky above, before heading into the trees.  These were the trees where I had gone into when I was photographing him on the tractor so I had a front row seat to the forest hunt and three different perches before he flew uphill and out of sight.

Great gray in the trees - © Christopher Martin-7712

Great gray in the trees - © Christopher Martin-7769

Great gray in the trees - © Christopher Martin-7800

Snowy owl on the hunt in Irricana


Spring Snowy Owls - © Christopher Martin-1653-2

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.

Spring Snowy Owls - © Christopher Martin-1654-2

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.

A Snowy owl’s elusive smile

A Snowy cry - © Christopher Martin-1524

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”.

Red-tailed flights in Turner Valley

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3798

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.

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3755


Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3733

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.

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3786

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3787

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3797

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3799

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3801

A Tiger Owl on the Prairies


Autumn Tiger Owl - © Christopher Martin-2733

I drove to the High River area on the weekend to look for owls.  It was still dark when I found a Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) perched to the side of a small pond east of Frank Lake.

Autumn Tiger Owl - © Christopher Martin-2438

I set up on the side of the road and spent almost two hours watching him from across the water.  The morning slowly got brighter but with heavy gray clouds diffusing the sunlight, it stayed dark for most of the first hour.  The owl alternated between short naps and moments of intent staring at any stray sound or motion.  These last were both mostly imperceptible to me but kept my attention, and the long lens, focused on him.

Autumn Great Horned Owl flight - © Christopher Martin-2735

Owl over water - © Christopher Martin-2738

Just before 9 am, he stretched wings vertically and launched into the air.  After a couple of quick strokes, he glided over the pond and landed in a bare limbed tree.

Autumn Tiger Owl - © Christopher Martin-2809


Autumn Tiger Owl - © Christopher Martin-2751

The skeletal branches did not suit for long and he crossed to another tree edging the pond.  This tree was heavy with autumn tinged leaves and provided a third distinct setting for me to photograph this beautiful tiger owl in.

Autumn Tiger Owl - © Christopher Martin-2969

Autumn Tiger Owl - © Christopher Martin-2859

After a few more minutes, he walked down the branch and settled closer to the trunk and more out of sight.  I packed up and while I was putting my tripod away, I watched him fly out and glide over the field behind the pond.

Autumn Tiger Owl - © Christopher Martin-2834

Wildrose Beaver

Beaver in Wild Rose - © Christopher Martin-8715

The beavers that maintain the ponds in Wild Rose, west of Bragg Creek, are busy eating and storing saplings and branches they have harvested.  This one was enjoying a meal while floating in the water on a crisp morning this weekend.


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