I found this Merlin feasting from a fence top perch near High River last weekend. I watched him for a couple of minutes before a hauling truck passed by. At that point, the noise and proximity disturbed this fellow and he took flight. He shot upwards with a couple of fast wing beats and then surprised me with a hovering break to grab another bite. It was likely a readjustment of the load but it was neat to watch.
With the prey in the right place, he then banked away over the prairie and settled in the grass a couple hundred metres away to finish his meal.
I had the great pleasure of seeing a Great horned owl at an old barn east of High River. It is one that I have visited a couple of times over the past couple of years. This window, which faces north, is a favourite daytime perch. The heavy clouds only threatened rain and their midday dimming effect seemed to encourage the owl to make a couple of sorties over the surrounding fields during the time I spent there.
The owl flew along the fence line twice which afforded me a few great in-flight shooting opportunities. I left the barn with my friend perched in the deep shadow of the barn’s interior.
The perch on the hill I photographed the Aurora Borealis and lightning storm from a couple of weeks ago is now officially one of my favourite prairie viewpoints. On the weekend, I left my home in the dark and headed northeast towards the growing dawn. With a short drive I returned back to the same spot and found the view to be beautiful.
A heavy cloud stretched overhead towards the horizon with a break which allowed the first rays of pink sunlight to skip along the underside. The fast rising sun quickly changed the light from pink to gold as it pushed through less of the atmosphere.
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.