When the first serious blast of winter cold rolled onto the Prairies last weekend, it caught me west of Calgary near Springbank. The heavy clouds that introduced the snowstorm were already blocking most of the light as the sun started to rise. I stood on the south side of Highway 8 watching the irregular morning traffic on its way to and from Calgary. I liked how the headlights lit up the asphalt.
On a snowy morning in Lake Louise, I found this Steller’s Jay up in the trees looking for breakfast along a trail that wound away from the water. This one displayed the white markings around the eye which distinguish the Rocky Mountain subspecies from the other fifteen that are present across North America.
I did not expect to see this type of bird there at this time of the year. That said, they are regular denizens of parks, public areas and other places where trees and people happen to meet. Some will migrate but it is irregular and, with the mild start to winter this year, it is not surprising that this one, and likely a few more, have chosen to stay in the area.
It was May of this year when I saw my first Barred owl in Bragg Creek. I’ve lived here for ten years and spent a lot of time in the forests so it was a real thrill to find a new (to me) species in the area. In late October, another one was waiting for me as I was walking in the woods along the edge of Kananaskis Country. This time, the owl watched me intently for a few seconds, scanned the ground for prey for a few more and then repeated that for a couple of minutes while I watched and snapped a few images. Eventually the owl flew a short distance away but they blend into this type of forest so well that I lost sight with the next glide that followed. A beautiful creature.
About a month ago, I was looking for one of the Great gray owls I sometimes find along the backroads in Bragg Creek. The owl was nowhere to be found, but I did find a shock of red amidst the autumn yellows turned gold in the late afternoon.
Descending from the trees, he landed in a long abandoned pile of cut wood and set to pecking and probing for insects.
After a few minutes, he moved to a stump that was disintegrating into sawdust. Snow was hidden from the sun in the depression he was hammering and a few crystals stuck to his beak.
Whether it was a full belly, boredom or the evening’s fast approach, he jumped up on to a tree and circled the trunk while moving upwards. He pecked here and there but soon took flight through the forest and out of sight.
Last weekend I spent the morning looking for wildlife along the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park. I drove along, stopping several times for short hikes to get a view over the river valley or along a creek into the forest. None of the animals graced me with their presence but the land made it a good morning nonetheless. In Banff, the lakes are frozen but there was very little snow on the ground. Halfway towards Lake Louise, the snow was more prevalent and when I got to the lake, the trees were heavy with snow, the ground was well-covered and winter was firmly set. It has been a couple of years since I wandered along the lake shore in winter with camera in hand. I enjoyed the time, working to create some images while listening to the multilingual hum from the other visitors as they came and went. It was a good time to be up there to photograph. The snow was falling gently, the river that drains out of the northeastern end of the lake was yet to freeze over and the clouds were moving fast so the peaks were in and out of view. Lot’s of dynamic elements to weave together into a variety of images. This was my favourite from a relaxed morning doing what I love.
On the suggestion of a reader (thanks Jo Ann!), I hiked up to Boom Lake on the western edge of the Banff National Park near the British Columbia – Alberta border. The trail is a gentle ~5km hike complicated only by a bit of snow, ice and mud given the time of year. I enjoyed the walk through the trees and over the numerous streams. The lake appears suddenly and is walled in on the far side by Boom Mountain.
I would have thought the name came from the sound of the avalanches whose tears down the slopes can be seen in several places. However, I found that the lake was named Boom owing to the driftwood created by the trees that are pushed into the water by the avalanches.
Many of these logs are submerged but a large number have collected at the eastern end and where they poke out of the water suggested a logger’s boom to the person who formally named the lake in 1908. I found that interesting as I did the lake itself.
I scrambled over the rocks along the shore for a couple of kilometres while the wind, snow, sun all wrestled overhead, as they often do in these mountains.
Winter’s teeth have yet to be bared with any sincerity so it felt more like mid-October than mid-November. This little patch of vegetation drew my eye on the way down, the shock of color seemed a direct challenge to colder weather while the ice frozen over the leaf suggested its inevitability. Needless to say, I enjoyed my random thoughts and musings as I strolled back down the trail.
A couple of weeks ago I spent a night under the stars on the shore of Lake Minnewanka. On the way there, as I passed through Canmore, the full moon was lighting up the mountains that connect the town with the sky. Here the tip of Ha Ling and the East End of Rundle (EEOR) were lit up during the long exposure I made looking across the Trans-Canada Highway and over the town.
The headlights of a car driving on Highway 66 draw a line of light under the pre-dawn sky during a long exposure in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.
The sky in late October near the Rocky mountains often serves as a fantastic canvas for clouds, wind and sunshine to paint as they mix, blend and tear apart. I live on the eastern flank of the Rockies and am fortunate to be able to see a fair number of these beautiful collisions. This one was just before sunset in the third week of October on a recently paved country road off of Highway 8 between Bragg Creek and Calgary.