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.
I was roaming the gravel roads east of south of Cochrane on the weekend. As dusk started to fall, I found a small herd of white-tailed deer in the middle of a field. There were two bucks standing apart from four does. The smaller male was prancing about a bit so I put on my longest lens and waited to see if anything would happen. We are still in the middle of the rut so I was hoping they might do some antler jousting.
And, as it turned out, they did. They clashed a couple of times with antlers cracking while they tangled head to head. The battle was short, frenetic and I felt very lucky to watch this moment play out.
After this skirmish the smaller one darted away and they stood apart for a minute before moving up a fold in the hillside back towards the seemingly unimpressed does.
A Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) brought in the day with me last week. A short while after leaving there, I visited a stand of trees that line a gravel road south of Frank Lake. There is a nest for a pair of these owls which has been used for decades. I photographed the nest last spring and wanted to drive by to have a look. The chicks would have fledged in June and the nest was empty of any residents.
I found this tiger owl a couple of hundred metres away perched about 3 metres off the ground. It was quite alert considering its nocturnal nature and moved to three separate locations in grove over the half an hour that I watched the bird.
Canon 5DIII and 24mm lens: 1/25th of a second on f/11 and ISO 800
The early morning sky was beautiful this morning. I stopped for a while to watch the clouds move from the pinks and purples to the reds and oranges and then into the yellow and golds. This bull was not impressed by any of that – he was calling from his solo field to the cows in the field across the road. He stared at me at one point and that worked for me.
With the nightly storms, I have had a couple of opportunities to get out and photograph the lightning. These are the remaining shots from the first night that I went out and had great forks of lightning stretch out in the clouds near my home. The storm’s strikes would come in waves and resulted in several nice images.
I wanted to put a person into the scene and I graciously accepted the invitation to do so :)
Driving home last night, another storm thundered over the foothills and the prairie around Bragg Creek. Lightning was flashing regularly so I set up and shot a few frames before the rain hit. A herd of cows must have thought I was the delivery guy as they all wandered over.