A little over a week ago, on June 13th, I spent a night out on the prairies near Nanton. I love the vast skies and many of the interesting things that fill them – above and below. I settled into my sleeping bag to watch the stars while I drifted off. That idea evaporated when I received an Aurora Red Alert indicating that there was a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights.
(If any images look a little grainy, please click on the picture to open a higher resolution version in a new window)
The image directly above was one of the first taken once I was set up. I used a long exposure of 30 seconds to stretch out the lights of a semi-trailer traveling north along Highway 2.
I played around there for a while before moving further east to reduce the golden glow on the undersides of the clouds resulting from High River’s lights.
I found a quiet field several miles away and the timing worked out as the spikes in the Aurora had just started to appear.
The Northern Lights were still glowing as dawn started to push into the sky and before 4 AM I was transitioning into sunrise landscapes.
The family of foxes I had the opportunity to photograph last week were an energetic bunch. Well, the kits were – I didn’t see the adults at any point during the couple of hours I watched them. Neighbours of the human type indicated that the adult pair raise a brood here every year.
However, the siblings all seemed to smoothly shift between play, tricks, sleep and just watching throughout the time I watched them. Just as you would expect for young foxes in training.
I was struck by their similarity to my own canines at home – particularly our one year old labradoodle (frenetic, smart and above all else playful) but still decidedly foxy!
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.
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.