I drove east of Langdon in the evening a couple of days ago looking for owls. At this time of the year the odds are decent to see Snowy owls perched on a silo or a fence line so I was looking for them as well as Short-eared owls that have been reported in that area recently. It was about an hour before sundown when I found a Snowy owl perched a couple of hundred metres away along a fence line.
This beautiful fellow flew between a few posts and was not interested in having me around so I headed west as the sun fell behind a tall bank of clouds standing over the Rocky Mountains. I found the second, and final, Snowy of the afternoon on a small oil and gas installation built on a rise that was a bit of a hike from the road.
She was perched on a storage tank and took only passing interest in me during my 15 minute walk towards her. As I drew closer I took a few photographs and as color came into the sky with sunset, I took a bunch more :)!
She kept tabs on me but had her focus on the surrounding fields. I didn’t see anything of note but it was a different story for the owl.
When she did launch she glided over to another small hill then dived into the field where it seemed she caught something. It was too far for me to make out and when she flew again after a couple of minutes she went further away and I had no interest in chasing her any further.
Canon 5DIII camera + 500mm f/4 lens: 1/640 seconds at f/4 on ISO 3200
I spotted this Snowy owl perched on this oil and gas installation east of Langdon. She was about a kilometre off the road so I parked, grabbed my gear and headed over. She was scanning to the east while I approached from the west side. As I walked she kept an eye on my, swivelling her neck to watch me infrequently. From a hundred metres away, with colour brushing into the sky as the sun set, I stopped to compose this photograph. I love these birds and I love sunsets – these seemed to be interesting juxtapositions to the storage tank she was perched on.
The past year was an interesting one for my wildlife photography. I stayed largely in Alberta for the year and the animals presented in this gallery are almost all from close to my home. Reflecting on that, I’m reminded what an incredible place I live in. Owls were prominent throughout the year with Snowy, Great gray and Great horned owls all sharing time with me. Black and Grizzly bears were less seen for me but what I had were memorable for me. I continue to deeply appreciate the more common animals and enjoyed revisiting some of those images when I was putting together this set. The gallery is made up of 40 images and can be visited by clicking this link or the link above.
Looking back over the year, I pushed myself to create more dynamic images with a goal to show more of the animal’s power, grace and general movement. I wanted to bring more patience to my time in the field and that has paid off with longer encounters and more enjoyment of the beautiful places I am in while I wait for something to fly, walk or run past. I have continued to learn more about the animals that I spend time with and that knowledge benefits me in many ways beyond photography. This year I began connecting on a spiritual level with many of the animals that I encounter. That continues to be an amazing journey whose benefit to my photography is significant but is a distant second to feeling the awareness of these beautiful creatures.
I’m excited for the encounters that will come in the new year, the connections I will seek to establish and the places these intentions will lead me to. Thank you for following my imagery through the year – I am honoured by everyone who chooses to spend time looking at, and hopefully enjoying, my photographs. Let’s see where things go in 2016…
I drove to High River yesterday and spent the morning touring the gravel roads looking for wildlife on the prairies. My hope was to find a Snowy owl as they have begun returning there. An hour after sunrise, east of Frank Lake, I spied a beautiful owl perched on a fence line and I spent the next four hours watching it sit, fly, hunt and then sit. A lot of watching while she dozed or scanned the surroundings but it was time I enjoyed completely. I wanted to share this photograph of the bird from the early afternoon when she landed in a field and was surrounded by sticks left behind after the last harvest. I am excited to share more from the day and will soon.
Creatures in our forest are readying for winter right now. This squirrel, one of our long-time neighbours, was out collecting warm material to line her home with when she found one of our strings of Buddhist Lung ta prayer flags (Tibetan:རླུང་རྟ་; Mandarin Chinese:風馬 – Feng ma; meaning “Wind horse”). I found her while she was well into separating one of the flags. I really can’t take much issue with this resourceful little creature so I think we will have to buy some more flags to replace these.
I really like Brown Pelicans (their scientific name is Pelecanus occidentalis). They can be acrobatic in flight but generally look very cool while gliding in the sky or low over waves. They are inquisitive, excellent hunters and socially engaging. They are also active early in the morning and late in the evening which allows for some great lighting opportunities when photographing them.
I have put together a gallery of a few of my favourite Brown Pelican images here (or click the image above). In the gallery, please click on any picture to see a full size image. Most of these images are from Los Cabos in Mexico with a couple of flight pictures from Laguna Beach, California.
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.
This calf and his mother were in the Bragg Creek Provincial Park, grazing on the edge of the forest near the road. With momma close by, the calf was bolder than I expected. He stared at me from a few paces in the trees before crossing the road and walking very close to my car.
Once he had checked me out, then he skipped back again and joined in snacking on the greenery.
On one of our morning drives, Kian and I came across a few Bighorn rams on the Akamina Parkway near Cameron Lake in the Waterton National Park. These were adolescents, not the adult males which will battle for the attention of the ewes in the fall. Nonetheless, a couple of them were practicing their rutting between grazing on the roadside vegetation.
When the big boys crash their horns together it can echo across a valley. These battles didn’t carry that kind of power but it was great action with no lack of enthusiasm. We were able to watch three battles and my son and I both loved watching, and hearing, the collisions.
I do wonder if concussions are a problem as they are with human contact sports.
This morning I found a coyote skittering along the ditch on Highway 8 in between Bragg Creek and Springbank. At first, I thought it was an older pup but then I realized it was an adult in its sleek summer coat. I often photograph coyotes in the cooler months when they have their heavier jackets on so I’ll forgive myself the initial error. I believe this one was a female and she was absolutely beautiful. I was worried when I spotted her as she seemed to be trying to cross the road amid pretty steady traffic. Watching her, it became apparent that she and a couple of ravens were attracted to some bits of roadkill on the highway.
It was a relief when she slipped under the fence towards a field with an open stand of broken and weathered trees. She turned her attention towards hunting for field mice and that’s where the fun really began.
Turns out she is an accomplished hunter and I was delighted to watch her successfully catch two mice on three jumps. Of those leaps, I was in good position for two of them and am happy with the action caught.
The image above is the start of the first leap. The image at the top of this post was the next image as she was fully airborne.
The whole sequence from target acquisition to landing is efficient and I admired the focus, power and dexterity she showed. The three leaps all occurred within a short 2-3 minute stretch. On either side, she favoured me with a few inquisitive looks.
After a total of fifteen minutes she crossed a gravel back road and disappeared into the heavy scrub brush on the other side.
At one point when I photographed a family of foxes in May, there was a ragged piece of cloth which served for a long-running tug-of-war at one point in the evening.
These three kits were the main players and they alternated between 1 on 1 and 1 on 2 battles.
For a while, a fourth looked interested in joining but they didn’t join in for very long.