Posts tagged “prairie

Aurora over the prairie

Aurora Borealis over Nanton  - © Christopher Martin-3907

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.

Aurora Borealis over Nanton  - © Christopher Martin-3745

(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.

Aurora Borealis over Nanton  - © Christopher Martin-3923

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.

Aurora Borealis over Nanton  - © Christopher Martin-3900

I found a quiet field several miles away and the timing worked out as the spikes in the Aurora had just started to appear.

Aurora Borealis over Nanton  - © Christopher Martin-3910

The Northern Lights were still glowing as dawn started to push into the sky and before 4 AM I was transitioning into sunrise landscapes.

Aurora Borealis over Nanton  - © Christopher Martin-3953


Fox kits at play on the prairies

Fox kits on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-1233

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.

Fox kits on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-1035

Fox kits on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-1029

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.

Fox kits on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-1231

Fox kits on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-1092

Fox kits on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-1047

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!

Fox kits on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-0847

Fox kits on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-0850

Fox kits on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-0851


Fox watching

Fox kits in Nanton - © Christopher Martin-1319

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.


A hot Snowy owl on the prairie

Hot snowy owl - © Christopher Martin-1721

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.

Hot snowy owl - © Christopher Martin-1697

 

Hot snowy owl - © Christopher Martin-1702


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.


Irricana Dawn

Irricana farm before sunrise - © Christopher Martin-0755-2
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.

Prairie abstract - © Christopher Martin-0787
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.

Irricana sunrise - © Christopher Martin-0799-2


Coyotes on the Albertan prairie

Coyote scout - © Christopher Martin-0668

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.

Coyote blink - © Christopher Martin-0661

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.

Coyote scout - © Christopher Martin-0676


Clutching at grass

Irricana Snowy Owls - © Christopher Martin-1864

One of the Snowy owls that I photographed recently made a dive while I was watching.  She came up without a mouse but had a clutch of grass instead.  I’m sure it wasn’t her preference but it was a bit unusual to see one of these raptors flying around with a talon full of grass.  She gave a couple of good looks around as she looked for another target during the same sortie but had no luck on this flight.

Snowy's stare - © Christopher Martin-1863

Prairie flight - © Christopher Martin-1859

 


A Snowy Owl’s flight over the prairies

Irricana Snowy Owls - © Christopher Martin-1458

On the weekend I followed reports of Snowy owls northeast of Calgary near Irricana.  I left home early and arrived in the area just after sunrise.  I was lucky enough to spy the first Snowie of the day perched on a fence post glowing in the soft light.

Irricana Snowy Owl - © Christopher Martin-1415

The pure white owls were until quite recently thought to always be males.  That has been disproved leaving it hard to determine the gender from casual observation.  I will allow for the old convention though and refer to this one as a he.  The other four birds I photographed that morning were banded to varying degrees and I will refer to them as ladies in a future post.  It took only a few minutes before he launched and scouted low over the field for breakfast.  This was repeated a couple of times with each sortie ending with a return to the fence line.

Irricana Snowy Owls - © Christopher Martin-1457

On the last flight that I photographed of this owl, he flew away from the fence and landed in the middle of the field on a pipeline valve which allowed for an interesting backlit shot as he flared his wings to land.

Irricana Snowy Owls - © Christopher Martin-1474


Prairie landscapes

Prairie ghost light - © Christopher Martin-0264

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.

Lonely Snowy Owl - © Christopher Martin-9963

Broke down - © Christopher Martin-0344

Backlight on the prairie - © Christopher Martin-9940


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