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.
I returned to Irricana recently to look for Snowy owls. I left early and arrived well before night had given much ground to day. Having criss-crossed the backroads west of the town, I have a decent feel for the farmland in the area and took the opportunity to photograph a couple of locations while the clouds were glowing pink ahead of the sunrise.
A lost wallet and a flat tire, both noticed about an hour after the last of these photographs was taken, made me feel like I earned these images a bit more than usual. The wallet had fallen out of my pocket unnoticed when I was at the farmstead above. A fair bit of time spent retracing my stops before finding it undisturbed in the middle of the gravel road. When I picked up the wallet, I noticed the flat rear tire. Along the way to Irricana, I apparently drove over a hardware store as Phil’s Auto in Irricana (very friendly people – thank you for the coffee!) later showed me the 3 inch long screw that had lodged into the tire. The wallet was recovered before I found the first owl and by the time of my appointment at 3 pm, I was happy to have had several good encounters with 5 different Snowies. I will share those soon. These prairie landscape images from a beautiful morning heralded what became one of the more interesting days I have had out on the prairies.
I found this pair of Coyotes while driving the backroads west of the Springbank airport last weekend. The male was laying down and enjoying the sun when they came into view. The female, seen in the image below, had been trotting around nearby and only stopped when she saw me. She stared at me for a few seconds but with the headwind and the sun in her eyes she took a long blink before turning away and taking up a sitting position a bit further from me.
The male rose up and crossed warily along a low ridge parallel to me before heading back towards the female. They both looked healthy and I believe the patches on the female’s side are her winter coat shaking out rather than mange or some other irritation. I hope they are planning to den in that area – I’d love to watch their pups this spring.
An early morning east of Calgary near Strathmore looking for Snowy owls came up with only one shy one isolated in a field. This allowed time to see the prairie landscape. And, as it has turned out, one of the last days before the warm weather of the past couple of weeks came and melted all of the snow. While I’m not missing the bitter cold, I did enjoy the icy air and snow-covered fields when I was out then.
This strange cloud and a few stragglers lit up brilliantly ahead of the rising sun. I was driving east towards Calgary and stopped for a few minutes to watch what looked more like a stack of cotton candy than a regular cloud. Mind you, whenever I think a cloud is just a normal one, watching it morph unpredictably as it crosses the sky reminds they are magical creations.
In between the absurdly early snowstorm in September and the first winter cold snap that started last week, we had a great autumn here in the Foothills between Calgary and Banff. I spent a fair bit of time on the prairies and enjoyed some good encounters with their wild residents. The Great Horned Owl above was from a stand of trees west of High River during a great day where I had two separate encounters (one and two) with these beautiful owls. The one below is closer to home being a few miles south of Cochrane.
A beaver in the lake at Wild Rose, west of Bragg Creek, let me watch him swim on an overcast day where the ripples were soft and provided some nice opportunities. On another visit a pair of muskrat preened on the lake’s shoreline before returning to the water.
White-tailed deer are regularly seen in the fields as they stock up for winter. It was cool to see the young stag in the second image that was stag traversing the blackened earth in a much less recovered section of the Sawback prescribed burn that was done in 1993.
Another White-tail on the prairies stood on alert in a field south of Cochrane where I watched two stags rutting.