Posts tagged “wildlife photography

Attack!

Owl's Attack - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/16ooth of a second on f/4 and ISO 2500

I have been trying to capture this image for a long time.  With the familiarity I’ve been lucky to establish with the Great Gray Owl pair in West Bragg Creek this year, they will often hunt near to where I am set up.  On the weekend, one of the owls flew towards me and made a couple of dives from the post he landed on a few yards away.  The stars aligned on one of these attacks and I froze him just before he disappeared into the knee-high grass.


Red-naped Sapsucker in Bragg Creek

 

Red-naped Sapsucker - 2014 © Christopher Martin

It always exciting when I come across a new creature for the first time.  On the weekend, while photographing two beautiful owls, I had my first encounter with a Red-naped Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus nuchalis).  I’m used to seeing Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers frequently around Bragg Creek but the distinctive red patches sent me looking through my bird book to identify this new (to me) species.  We are on the northwest edge of their summer range but they are apparently quite conspicuous so I must have missed them previously.

Scratch - 2014 © Christopher Martin

(Please click on any image if you would like to view a higher resolution version in a new window)

When one of the owls flew to a fence post near a stand of trees, it disturbed this small woodpecker.  The little bird started chittering away and ended up flying out of the tree above the owl and landing on a post in front of me.  He settled down and took a minute to scratch the feathers on his nape before heading across the meadow.  It didn’t bother the owl in the least but I really enjoyed the short visit.

Red-naped Sapsucker - 2014 © Christopher Martin

 


Great Gray Owl on a morning hunt

Owl and grass - 2014 © Christopher Martin

I was able to spend another morning with the Great Gray Owl in Bragg Creek that I have had the good fortune to watch several times (links: #1 and #2) this summer.  She was waiting patiently on a fence post when I spotted her.

Morning perch - 2014 © Christopher Martin

She almost seemed to wait while I quickly set up my long lens on its tripod before hunting in the deep grass.  Over the next half hour she made several dives and had no trouble catching unlucky field creatures (by my count she was batting .333 on the day).

Owl's attack - 2014 © Christopher Martin

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Skimming over the grass - 2014 © Christopher Martin

She would stay in the grass for up to a minute after each lunge so I had the opportunity to focus on the launches back into the air a couple of times.

Out of the grass - 2014 © Christopher Martin

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Morning flight - 2014 © Christopher Martin

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An owl's take off - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Once the sunlight reached the field, the morning warmed up quickly and the owl’s pace slowed.  On one of the last dives before I left, the owl had been on the far side of the field and then glided across.  En route, it dropped down almost disappearing.  When it popped its head back up, there was a great moment where the yellow eyes peered out of carpet of green.

In the field - 2014 © Christopher Martin

By then the light was getting harsh and I was getting hungry.  When she flew out, I packed up and drove off.

Field flight - 2014 © Christopher Martin


Eagle along the Cowboy Trail

On to the perch - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/5oooth of a second on f/4 and ISO 1600

A Bald Eagle spent a couple of mornings in and around a field east of Bragg Creek where the prairie starts.

2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/5oooth of a second on f/4 and ISO 1600

He landed in the grass in one general spot a few times on the two days that I stopped to watch so I suspect there was a carcass that was an easy meal.

Scouring the field - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/25ooth of a second on f/4 and ISO 800

The only distraction came from a pair of ravens that pestered the eagle in the air and on the field.  They proved to not be a significant deterrent as the eagle muscled them out away.

Bird jousting - 2014 © Christopher Martin

 Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/5oooth of a second on f/4 and ISO 800


A Banff Grizzly on the move

A summer's walk - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 300mm lens: 1/1600 second at f/4 on ISO 2000

I spent one morning in Banff on the weekend and came across a male Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) along the Bow Valley Parkway.  He spent some time in one roadside meadow chewing on a everything green he could see.

Stepping across the line - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DII and 70-200mm lens at 122mm: 1/250 second at f/4 on ISO 800

Before long, he crossed the road and then headed into the trees leaving a group of vehicles and their occupants behind.  I hoped he was heading towards a larger meadow about a mile east and drove there to wait and see.

2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 70-200mm lens at 149mm: 1/1000 second at f/4 on ISO 2000

Apparently the dandelions and lush vegetation were calling him and after not too long a wait he strode out of the forest and continued chowing down.  He stayed there for more than an hour, disappearing briefly a couple of times before finally heading deeper into the shadows.

Meadow lunch - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/500 second at f/4 on ISO 1600

Although winter felt slow to leave, the greenery now seems abundant and makes me hopeful this bear and the other animals in the park will enjoy a long summer feast.

In the garden patch - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/1600 second at f/4 on ISO 1000


Hunting for breakfast

 A morning flight - © Christopher Martin-8614

Canon 5DIII and 300mm lens: 1/1250 second at f/4 on ISO 2000

I left the sun to climb over the horizon on its own this morning and slept in.  The days start early in the summer so when I left my house at 6am, we were well into daylight.  I drove into Bragg Creek looking for wildlife and almost immediately found an owl.  She was perched on a fence post and looked a little sleepy.

Sleep owl - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 300mm lens: 1/1000 second at f/4 on ISO 2000

I stayed back a good distance and watched her lazily swivel her head a few times but she largely just hunched up and gazed out over the field.  After 15 minutes or so she perked up a bit seeming to pick out something in the tall grass.  She launched (as seen in the first image) then dipped but did not dive into the grass.  Carrying on, she crossed the field and found a higher vantage point in a large evergreen tree in the field near the forest’s edge.

Evergreen perch - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/2000 second at f/4 on ISO 4000

Some noises in the trees, unheard by me, drew her attention for the better part of a half an hour.  Her head turned away from me and the field, I waited for her to either head towards the trees or redirect her attention to hunting in the grass.  Lucky for me, she chose the latter and I was able to photograph a few nice flight shots when she flew from the first tree to another.

Green flight - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/2000 second at f/4 on ISO 1250

The second perch was a higher spot and she only stayed there for a couple of minutes before picking out a target.  When she flew, it was a masterful attack.  She glided down, hovered for a couple of beats above the area of her attention and  then dove headfirst into the green.

Dive attack - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/1250 second at f/4 on ISO 3200

After a few seconds, she climbed out of the grass with a field mouse clutched in her beak.  She stayed on the far side of the field and disappeared with her breakfast into the trees.

Breakfast of champions - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/2000 second at f/4 on ISO 2500


Spirits in the Khutzeymateen

The Grizzly Bears (Ursus arctos) rule the Khutzeymateen Inlet without challenge.  In June, the boars roam the fields of sedge grass and the creeks that drain out of the mountains looking for females to court.  The males are the kings but the mothers are the not only the queens, they are the heart and spirit of this land.  With their cubs there is a tenderness and caring that is plain to see and wonderful to watch.

Bear spirits - © Christopher Martin

This mother and cub spent a couple of days along the beach near where we moored the sailboat and we were able to watch them for many hours.  Here, they both looked up when a noise behind us drew their attention.  A great mother raising a beautiful cub.


Owl Flight

Great Gray Owl on the hunt - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/3200 second at f/4 on ISO 1600

This owl caught sight of something from a branch above the grass and silently launched.  It glided past me and then dropped into the tall grass – flying away with a mouse in its beak shortly thereafter.


Swainson’s Hawk in Springbank

Swainson's launch - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Driving with the kids along Lower Springbank Road, I was hoping there would be some hawks hunting along the freshly tilled fields out that way.  On the second or third field my son spied a light morph Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni) standing on a fence post.

Field hunting - 2014 © Christopher Martin

We watched it make a few short flights over the soil before heading continuing on.  Spring is a great time for driving, and photographing, on the prairies.

Swainson's Hawk extended - 2014 © Christopher Martin


Spring with a Great Gray Owl

Great Gray Owl Launch - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/1600 second at f/4 on ISO 2500

I had not seen a Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa) since last fall and I was deeply missing them.  Usually by the end of April, there are two owls in West Bragg Creek that I start seeing regularly.  They are always there, just not for me with any consistency until spring.  So, it was with great happiness that one was waiting for me on the weekend when I was out early in the morning.

Owl portrait - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/1600 second at f/4 on ISO 2000

This owl hunted along the forest edge, gliding past me several times, for over an hour.  I had great opportunities to photograph her in flight and while perched.  These owls mesmerize me and I feel enormous gratitude that she chose to not fly away to one of the other productive hunting fields nearby.

 

Post launch - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/2000 second at f/4 on ISO 2000

At one point she flew deeper into the woods where I think her nest is.  I headed off but came back a half an hour later and she was out on the field.  She flew directly towards me and perched in a tree not far away before hunting along the grass a couple more times.  Then she flew silently back into the forest.   I will head back soon and am excited to spend some more time with this owl.

 


Canada Geese in Flight

Canada goose in flight - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DII and 300mm lens + 1.4X extender: 1/1250 second at f/5.6 on ISO 1250

Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) are busy looking for good nesting spots in the Elk Valley and I enjoyed watching them flying along the river when I was in Fernie during Easter.  In urban areas, they border on being a nuisance in many people’s mind, I don’t see them that way.

In the mist - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 300mm lens: 1/1000 second at f/5.6 on ISO 3200

Particularly when they are in flight in a wilderness setting, I find them to be a wonderful animal to watch.  The variation in the weather on the morning I spent photographing along the Elk River didn’t hurt the imagery at all.

Up high - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DII and 300mm lens + 1.4X extender: 1/4000 second at f/6.3 on ISO 500

Air traffic - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DII and 300mm lens + 1.4X extender: 1/4000 second at f/6.3 on ISO 500

There was fog and light rain in the morning which burned off early leaving sharp light and blue skies.  The forest along the river provided a beautiful backdrop as well.  I had fun with all of it.

Forest flight - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DII and 300mm lens + 1.4X extender: 1/1600 second at f/5.6 on ISO 1250

2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DII and 300mm lens + 1.4X extender: 1/1250 second at f/5.6 on ISO 1250


Red-tailed Hawks in flight

Above and below - 2014 © Christopher Martin

With Red-tailed Hawks back in our area, I’m still enjoying the novelty of their return.  I went out on the weekend and found a few more who I had the opportunity to photograph in flight.  The snow stole a couple of shots by throwing the auto focus off but it added character that more than made up for those.

Fence launch - 2014 © Christopher Martin-

Field flight - 2014 © Christopher Martin-

Extension - 2014 © Christopher Martin-

Snow flight - 2014 © Christopher Martin

 


Red-tailed Hawks have returned to the prairies

Red-tailed flight - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) have the good sense to avoid winter on the prairies and they head south in late fall each year.  It’s always exciting when they start to return and I have been seeing them more and more over the last couple of weeks.  A little while ago, I found this one perched in a great, wild-looking tree along Highway 8, west of Calgary.

Perched but ready to fly - 2014 © Christopher Martin

I could see the hawk was getting ready to fly so I watched from the ditch for a minute until it launched.  There was a second hawk, presumably its mate, in a tight stand of trees so I figured that would be the direction it flew.

Flying through the trees - 2014 © Christopher Martin

It landed beside its partner and when I drove past them I could see a nest buried in the far side of the trees.  Photographs of the nest would not be in their best interest but I hope to see chicks fledge later in the spring.

Perched together - 2014 © Christopher Martin


Elk River Heron

Elk River Heron flight - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm f/4 lens: 1/1600 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800

The Elk River runs through a southeastern region of British Columbia’s Kootenay region.  Where the river spills out of the mountains into the Elk Valley, it widens and attracts an abundance of fish which in turn draws eagles, osprey and herons.  On our recent trip to Fernie I enjoyed several walks along the river and was able to watch all of these birds on separate encounters.  On the first evening my nephew Austin and I were out for a walk and watched a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) flying low along the river and land at a shallow stretch.

Elk River Heron - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm f/4 lens: 1/1600 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800

There was enough light that it worked out well to photograph him flying by and landing.

 Along the banks - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm f/4 lens: 1/1600 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800

He landed nearby but spooked when we walked a bit closer so we headed home.  It was the right call not only for the bird but the rain increased from the drizzle to a downpour which we were happy to miss.

Heron landing - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm f/4 lens: 1/2500 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800

Thanks Austin – it was fun to be out birding with you!

Elk River Heron - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm f/4 lens: 1/2000 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800


Elbow Falls Dipper

American Dipper - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm lens: 1/640 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

I went up to Elbow Falls last weekend for the sunrise but I stayed for the American Dippers (Cinclus mexicanus).

Winter Dipper - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DII + 70-200mm lens: 1/1000 of a second at f/8 on ISO 1000

I love watching these aquatically adept birds stalking, diving and swimming in the middle of the rapids.  On the last visit to the waterfall, there were three Dippers flitting about moving between the bottom of the waterfall and the rocks at the top.

Patience - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm lens: 1/640 of a second at f/4 on ISO 4000

An uphill battle - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm lens: 1/1000 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

Splashing around - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm lens: 1/1250 of a second at f/4 on ISO 2500

They chased each other down river a couple of times but spent most of their time fishing alone.  On a quiet morning in Kananaskis, it was nice to spend my time watching them.

Dipper Portraiture - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm lens: 1/640 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

Let's have a look - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm lens: 1/640 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600


Great Blue Heron at Red Rock Crossing

Great Blue Heron in the grass - 2014 © Christopher Martin
The Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) I see are usually wading in the water or flying above it. When I was in Sedona I went down to Red Rock Crossing and was surprised to catch sight of one not by Oak Creek but in a field of tall grass a couple of hundred meters away from the water.

Heron under the red rocks - 2014 © Christopher Martin
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Down in the grass - 2014 © Christopher Martin
The bird was walking on a path leading up towards a ridge but lingered fairly close which allowed me to change lenses for a couple of different looks.  I really love these birds and it was a treat to see one in an unusual environment.

Walking away - 2014 © Christopher Martin
I noticed some crimson flecks on its bill and when I left the bird and went back towards Oak Creek, I figured out why the Heron stayed nearby.  I realized I had interrupted its dinner.  I left the area and returned to the edge of the clearing an hour later to find it had left but not before returning to finish the meal.


Prairie Falcon over… the prairies

Prairie Falcon in golden light - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens: 1/6400 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 800

When I was waiting for my new owl friends to provide a beautiful through-the-window moment, my tripod and I were set up out the open on the snow-covered field that surrounds the barn.  I was not expecting any other wildlife to swing by given my foreign presence but this Prairie Falcon (Falco mexicanus) must have taken pity on me.

Falcon's downstroke -2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens: 1/6400 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 800

More likely, it was scanning the ground for dinner and the sun’s low altitude in the evening kept it from looking in my direction until it was pretty close.  I was happy to see this hunter though as the light was beautiful and the bird even more so.

Silo flight - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens: 1/6400 of a second at f/4 on ISO 200

It was a very pleasant surprise when I ran across another one of these beautiful birds (maybe the same one) when I returned to that same area a couple of days later.  Well we didn’t really run into each other – I was driving and the bird was flying around a grain silo.  It circled around me twice which gave me a moment to get out of my car and track it a bit easier.


An abandoned barn for owls

Reserved observation - 2014 © Christopher Martin

I went out on the prairie a couple of times on the weekend.  I was looking for owls.  On the “hope to see” list were Great Horned, Snowy and Short-eared.  I went to the back roads around Frank Lake.  I encountered a couple of Snowies but it was too dark to photograph them.  I returned to both locations in better light a couple of times but unsurprisingly they had both moved on.  Nice to know they were around though.  Short-eared proved elusive and I did not see any ears, short or otherwise.

Barn sentinel - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4X extender: 1/640 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 1600

I did find a great old barn set off in a remote spot with a couple of grain silos on the first evening.  That scene was great on its own but the Great Horned Owl I saw perched in a window.  The window frame was weathered with peeling red paint so character was not in short supply.  The owl was shy once I stopped my car and it hopped inside the barn to perch on a beam.   I set up a ways back from a west-facing window at the other end of the barn in the hopes that the owl might fly through it as dusk approached and it went out to start hunting.

Framed - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4X extender: 1/320 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 3200

A chilly wait through the golden light had no results and when the owl did head out, it flew through the eastern window.  While I waited, a long lens and high ISO allowed for a couple of nice shadow dominated images.  I left the owl the first night with it perched on a fencepost near the barn.  When I returned home and looked at the images, I was surprised to see a second owl buried in the shadows inside the barn.  It had been invisible to my eyes but had just barely resolved on the highest ISO images.

I returned two days later before dawn and saw the pair of owls working out of the same eastern window.  I set up on the same western window and could see them through main entrance as the sun rose.  Their activity wound down as the day wrestled with the night and soon they were perched on the same beams as before.

In shadows - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens: 1/80 of a second at f/4 on ISO 2000

This time, I took a wide path around the side of the barn and was able to photograph each owl on their respective beams through the eastern window (per the image at the top of this post and directly below).

In the barn - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4 extender: 1/100 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 3200

I returned to my original spot and as I came around the barn saw that one of the owls had flown up to the top of a silo.  It was perched there scanning the fields.  I guess it wanted one last snack before its nap.

Up on a grain silo - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4 extender: 1/1000 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 1600

It stayed up there for ten minutes and then flew along the fence-line, dropped on a fence post for a minute and then glided over the patchwork of snow and grass to a mound of earth a few hundred meters away.

Fence flight - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens: 1/1600 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

I waited a while longer to see if the owl would come back or its mate would head out.  Neither happened and I packed up as the owl inside the barn dropped off to sleep.

I’ll head back to see about that window again in a couple of weeks.  Maybe they’ll give me an opportunity then.  It was great to see these beautiful birds either way.  They have amazing faces and I really enjoyed studying them for a couple of hours.


2013 Favourite Wildlife Photographs

The tail-end of lunch - 2013 © Christopher Martin
“The Tail-End of Lunch” from the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Provincial Park
Canon 5DIII + 500mm lens:  1/1250 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1250

Last year was a good year for wildlife.  I had some really great encounters with animals in Brackendale, Cabo San Lucas and the Khutzeymateen on British Columbia’s west coast.  Closer to home, I enjoyed a lot of time on the Prairies and in the mountains photographing .  These hikes and drives were rewarded with nice images of birds, bears and a moose that made it into this collection.

If you are interested in the list of 32 selected photographs, please CLICK THIS LINK to open the gallery’s webpage.  Continue reading below if you want to know a bit more about my goals in 2013 and how they are evolving for the new year.

"Wapiti Water Shake" in the Banff National Park
“Wapiti Water Shake” in the Banff National Park
Canon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens: 1/640 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

Water launch - 2013 © Christopher Martin
“Black Water Launch” from the Khutzeymateen Inlet on northern British Columbia’s west coast
Canon 5DIII + 500mm lens: 1/1600 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

When reviewing my wildlife images from 2012 last January, I said my goals for 2013 would be the same.  At that time, I said my goals were to improve my approaches to wildlife (to minimize disruption and increase the chance to observe natural behaviour), improve my technique (better sharpness and quicker response to animal movement) and create images that tell a more complete story about the animals (more engaging and interesting).  I did work on those throughout the year and I can see improvements in my imagery as a result.

A Bald Eagle's winter flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin
“Winter Flight” along the Squamish River in Brackendale in British Columbia
Canon 5DIII + 300mm f/4 lens: 1/1600 of a second at f/4 on ISO 800

Increasingly I am also trying to bring more artistry into my wildlife compositions.  Overall, I have been happy with the results of that effort.  I’m excited about this new year.  Drawing more creativity and beauty into the photographs I make is the path I will stay on for now.  With our children growing up and more willing to occasionally head out early and stay late, I am really looking forward to enjoying more and more of these encounters with my wife and our son and daughter.  That is the most important goal for me in 2014.

Shadow Pelican - 2013 © Christopher Martin“Shadow Pelican” before dawn in Los Cabos, Mexico
Canon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens: 1/8000 of a second at f/4 on ISO 3200


Eagle Skirmishes

Eagle Skirmish - 2013 © Christopher Martin

An eagle enjoying a feast is not often left alone for too long in Brackendale.  Finished spawning, the salmon drift downriver listlessly and eventually die naturally or with the assistance of the scavengers along the rivers.  The effort is in pulling the fish out of the water.  When that is done, competition often arrives to stake a claim.  Skirmishes, jousting and all out fights can breakout before one eagle is chased off.

Lox for breakfast - 2013 © Christopher MartinThis eagle was unchallenged as we floated past but it kept its head on a swivel wary of potential thieves.

Guarding breakfast - 2013 © Christopher MartinIn another spot, there were a lot of fish along the rocks and a lot of eagles vying for them.

Salmon wars - offense and defense _2013 © Christopher Martin-

Eagle ballet - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Occasionally, as in the photograph below, an equilibrium of sorts will be found where a few eagles will take turns on a fish with little aggression.

Salmon Potluck - 2013 © Christopher MartinHowever, one eagle soon came screaming in and upset the delicate balance.

The disruptor arrives - 2013 © Christopher MartinThere are many gulls that wait for opportunities to grab bits out of the water.  When eagles aren’t around, they have similar battles over prime spots.

Seagull skirmishes - 2013 © Christopher Martin


Bald Eagles in Brackendale

Immature in flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4X extender:  1/1000 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 3200

I was in Brackendale, just north of Squamish, for a couple of days in December.  Every year thousands of Bald Eagles congregate in this area along the banks of the Squamish River.  There are three separate salmon spawning runs that overlap between November and February that result in dead and dying salmon littering the rocky shoreline.  The easy dining is a draw for eagles, seagulls as well as the occasional otter and seal (which in turn are quite the draw for photographers as it turns out!)  I was there for the Bald Eagles and was not disappointed in any way.  The first day was spent along the berm, that serves as a main viewing point, a bit further upriver in an eddy where a particularly cool eagle was hanging out.

Walking this way - 2013 © Christopher Martin-33612Canon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4X extender:  1/1000 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 3200

I will do a separate post from the second day when the snow fell and I was out on a birdwatching float down the river.  For now, these images are from the first day where the overcast skies allowed for open shadows and allowed the texture and detail in the eagle plumage to be seen.   It was pretty dark at times as you can tell by the ISO settings I was using but it was a great day filled with eagles coming and going.

River Flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin-31222Canon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4X extender:  1/1000 of a second at f/5.6 on ISO 4000

There are so many fish that serious fights appear to be rare but eagles are opportunistic so there are still skirmishes where one will try to chase off another who has already gone through the effort of retrieving a salmon out of the water.

Eagle Battle - 2013 © Christopher Martin-31552

Canon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4X extender:  1/1000 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 4000

Others preferred a little more distance from their brethren.  This eagle hung out on a perch in the middle of a pond-like eddy off the river. At one point it called out but it didn’t fly over to the scattered groups of eagles in the trees across the water nor did any of them come over to visit.

Eagle eye - 2013 © Christopher Martin-34812Canon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens:  1/800 of a second at f/4.5 on ISO 1600

2013 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens:  1/1000 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 2000

It splashed around in the shallow water for a while, stopping to snack for a minute, but seemed to return to this stick as its preferred resting spot.

Fish hunting - 2013 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens:  1/1600 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

Brackendale Buffet - 2013 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens:  1/1600 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1000

Direct stare - 2013 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens:  1/2000 of a second at f/4 on ISO 800

Eagle Portrait - 2013 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens:  1/2000 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

I never tired of watching these eagles flying.  I think they are one of the most beautiful birds to watch in flight.  It was a great day on BC’s west coast.

Low Altitude - 2013 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4X extender:  1/1000 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 3200

Flying downriver - 2013 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens:  1/1000 of a second at f/4 on ISO 3200


A Curious Cormorant

Shakin' - 2013 © Christopher Martin
When we were in Cabo San Lucas in early December, I saw many cormorants flying past our beach.  They fly low and fast with little deviation from a straight line past the shore.  The odd one would dive under to fish but our location did not seem to be a great spot for a meal.  One morning, I was watching for Brown Pelicans, who will occasionally land quite close by, when a juvenile Brandt’s Cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus) popped up on a rocky shelf about 30 meters away.

Jumpin' up - 2013 © Christopher Martin
It looked at me for a second, started shaking off the water and then set to preening its feathers.  I was thrilled to see one of these birds closeup.  From afar, they appear to be completely black.  With this opportunity, I was able to see the different shading in the feathers and the lighter shading around the face.

2013 © Christopher Martin

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Shakin' all over - 2013 © Christopher Martin

That was interesting for me but the location made the images even better than the close proximity.  It had chosen a dynamic spot where the waves were breaking close behind it, one even crashed right on the bird.  The water droplets from the cormorant’s shaking, the sea spray and warm morning sunlight as well as some nice looks from my new friend made for a really great encounter.

Breaking surf - 2013 © Christopher Martin-

In the surf - 2013 © Christopher MartinThis fellow preened again for a few minutes after this and a couple of other waves crashed.  Then it flew off the rock down to the water.  I left it swimming and diving for fish.
Into the air and back to the water - 2013 © Christopher Martin-

Ocean swimming - 2013 © Christopher Martin


Birds from a visit to the George C. Reifel Sanctuary

Heron at Reifel - 2013 © Christopher Martin - 68547I went to the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary on Sunday.  I was hoping to see Saw-Whet Owls but with the cold snap that hit Vancouver and the Lower Mainland a few days before, I was told they had disappeared.  Hardier birds were hanging around the snowy pathways so I wasn’t disappointed with the visit.   This Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) was hunting in the shallows near a blind and wandered very close.
Sandhill Squawk - © Christopher Martin-71887A Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) squawks to its family nearby.
Sandhill Exhalation - 2013 © Christopher MartinThe same bird exhales a puff of warm air.

Pileated Woodpecker - © Christopher Martin-70987A Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) drums on an old tree for insects.A male Mallard's iridescent cap - 2013 © Christopher MartinA Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) swims between the ice chunks in a brackish pond.
Trouble doubled - 2013 © Christopher MartinTwo female Mallards waddle down the pathway.
Wood duck perch - 2013 © Christopher MartinA pair of Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) share a perch over the water.
Crane Flight - 2013 © Christopher MartinA small flight of Sandhill Cranes transit between ponds at the sanctuary.


A Christmas moose… or two

Bull moose grazing - 2013 © Christopher Martin
My parents and I went out for our fairly annual moose run this morning.  The kids give the drive to look for wildlife a pass as they were busy assembling new toys and reading new books.  We found two bull moose in a line of aspen along a ridge and watched them walking for a few minutes.  They dropped down through the deep snow into a meadow of scrubby willows nearby and set about grazing on the slender branches.

Antler free - 2013 © Christopher Martin
One of the moose had shed its antlers while the other still carried a beautiful rack.  Both were big, strong boys and it was great to see them in such good health here in the middle of winter.

Reaching up - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Aside from that, it was nice to share an encounter with these wonderful animals with my parents on Christmas morning.

A little shy - 2013 © Christopher Martin


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