Posts tagged “raptors

An evening in the forest

Bragg Creek spring owl - © Christopher Martin-5762

The owls have been spoiling me over the past couple of weeks so please forgive yet another Great gray post with images from these most wonderful birds!

Bragg Creek spring owl - © Christopher Martin-5794

I found this owl hunting deeper in the forest and then worked the fence line on either side of the gravel road I was on in West Bragg.  After a mouse there, it moved out of the shadows and into the late day sunlight filtering through the forest.  These photographs cover that time where he flew between trees and dove into a couple of grassy spots.  All the effort yielded two more field mice and some great opportunities for me.  After another hour passed, he flew towards a field as the sun dipped behind the hills across the valley and I headed home.

Bragg Creek spring owl - © Christopher Martin-6120

Bragg Creek spring owl - © Christopher Martin-6125

Bragg Creek spring owl - © Christopher Martin-6145
Great gray owl in spring flight - © Christopher Martin-6243

 


Snowy owls aloft in the blue sky

Overhead, underview - © Christopher Martin-2425
A sky free of clouds and a polarizer filter allowed for rich blue sky backgrounds for the flight shots I was able to take from morning through to noon last weekend.  South of Irricana, along Highway 567, there were five owls that I saw.  I was able to have eight separate encounters with these owls as I drove between their respective territories.
Snowy owl mid-flight - © Christopher Martin-1519
Full extension - © Christopher Martin-1517
It was pretty cold, -20°C, so waiting for each of the launches was a bit numbing.  But I like the set of images and the fingers did warm up later in the day.
Shadow wing - © Christopher Martin-2469
With the mild winter, that day excepted, that we have enjoyed so far, I have no idea how long the Snowy owl population will stay before they head north to their breeding grounds.  While they are here, it is great fun to be able to spend some time watching and photographing these most beautiful of birds.
Wings up, landing gear down - © Christopher Martin-1509

Rough-legged hawks and the advancing spring

 

Rough-legged hawk in spring flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Through the winter, Rough-legged Hawks, as with the adult above and the juvenile below, keep watch over the Prairies.  These hawks are equipped for the cold temperatures and many choose to skip the migration and over winter here.  As the weather warms, their cousins, the Red-tailed, Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s and Broad-winged Hawks are starting to return.

Pre-flight perch - 2013 © Christopher Martin

One of the great joys of spring for me is the return of these hawks to the fields and grasslands.  However with a few great encounters with the Rough-legged hawks shown here, I’m not in any particular rush.

Hawk flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Rough-legged perched - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The robins have been coming home for the last couple of weeks and a flight of about thirty Dark-eyed Juncos swarmed our backyard a couple of days ago.  So, spring seems close at hand.  I’m looking forward to more time with all the different hawks that spend their summers raising chicks here.

A quick peek - 2013 © Christopher Martin


Eagles along the Grand Valley Road

Soaring - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Our family went for a drive along the Grand Valley Road northwest of Cochrane a few days ago in search of raptors of any description.  This road is nice drive that is rarely busy and can often yield sightings of owls, hawks or eagles.  In a hilly farmland area we noticed a number of ravens circling around a stand of trees in a field a couple of hundred metres off the road.  When we pulled over to see what the focus of their attention was two coyotes bolted out from under a large cedar and sprinted across the open into the thicker forest on the far side of the field.  Looking back to the spot where they started running we could see a carcass that had been mostly picked clean of what, judging by one of the horns that was sticking up, appeared to be a bison.  As it was on farm land it seems likely there were bison being raised here but there were no other farm animals within sight to confirm that theory.  With coyotes, ravens, magpies and probably a number of other predators drawn to this unfortunate beast, its herd was likely as far away from this spot as the fences would allow.  So, we were watching the ravens which were squawking and pestering the smaller birds picking at the  scraps when Bobbi noticed a Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) approaching from down the valley.

Scouting - 2013 © Christopher Martin

We already had the long lenses out so we were able to photograph the bird as it flew overhead towards the other birds.  Two ravens also saw the eagle inbound and flew up to harass this new attendee.  The three looped around the trees for a minute before the eagle landed in one of the high branches and the black birds returned to ground.

Dogfight - 2013 © Christopher Martin

During this chase, the overcast skies took on a more threatening tone and soon a soft snowfall turned into a blizzard.  I thought the Golden eagle would wait out the height of the storm from the perch so I kept looking around to see if the coyotes, or anything else, came back.

Blizzard flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Out of the sheets of snow a Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) swooped in and took up a spot on a tree near to the Golden.  This had turned out to be a great encounter and when a couple more Bald eagles flew in and around over the next half an hour, it continued to get better and better.  The snow did finally ease up and there were opportunities for nice flight images.

Adult bald eagle in flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The lighter skies appeared to spur one of the Bald eagles to say goodbye to a raven it had been sharing a tree with across the field and glide over to the bison skeleton.

Into the air - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Along the forest's edge - 2013 © Christopher Martin

This eagle brought a good amount of conviction to its scavenging intent and it chased off all of the passerine that had been crowding on the ground.

Scattering the scavengers - 2013 © Christopher Martin

When we moved on, this eagle was alone on the ground having successfully landed and taken ownership of what remained.

On guard - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The Golden eagle had disappeared and two Bald eagles were perched where they could keep an eye on the bones.  The collection of black birds were scattered in singles and small groups around the scene though none strayed close to the eagle holding dominion on the ground.  The last wildlife we saw as we drove away were the coyotes trotting along the hill towards the farm-house keeping their distance while still keeping an eye on the bison.


Rough-legged Hawks – they are everywhere…

… And that is a great thing.  Everywhere may be an exaggeration but if you drive along the range roads west of Calgary or hike along the edges of the fields around the Springbank and Bragg Creek areas, you are very likely to spy one of these beautiful birds perched on a treetop or telephone pole.  If you are lucky, or have the time to wait, you can see them gliding over grassy areas searching for the small creatures that they prefer to dine on.  In my wildlife searches this winter, I have enjoyed seeing many of these hawks.

Rough-legged in flight - © Christopher Martin-0101

Above and below a Rough-legged is on the hunt in West Bragg Creek.

Rough-legged into the air - © Christopher Martin-0103

(please click on any image if you want to open a new page with a higher resolution version)

Try again - © Christopher Martin-0078

Below, a couple of hawks working the fields around the Springbank Airport came close enough and stayed around long enough for me to photograph.

A backlit angel - © Christopher Martin-9906

Watching from the fencepost - © Christopher Martin-9959

Viewpoint - © Christopher Martin-0628

Looking down - © Christopher Martin-1559


Great Gray Owl flights and perches in Bragg Creek

I had a great morning earlier this week watching this female Great Gray Owl.  She flew to several perches as she moved from the forest into the open meadows nearby.

She was watching for quite a while at each stop.   She seemed pretty relaxed, without any great urgency to hunt.

Down the field, the sun was reaching into the trees.  The light that got through was really beautiful.

I’m hoping to hang out again over the weekend.  We’ll see if she is thinking the same thing.


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