We had a massive thunderstorm roll directly over our home last weekend. A warm night met with heavy clouds with rain, wind and lightning all in large measures. We have some incredible storms in the summer – this one felt like the first of those. Here the forest in my backyard is silhouetted by lighting arcing across the clouds in the storm.
A tree swallow on barbed wire south of Cochrane.
I love Canada jays. They go by a couple of names (well I guess we like to call them by a few names) – I like Whiskey Jack and Canada jay more than gray jay but those are just my own preferences. Some people see them as mischievous camp robbers. I don’t. For me, they exemplify companionship as I always flitting around in pairs. I found this one in a tree and waited until it flew off towards the call of its partner.
The squirrels continue to race around the trees in our backyard. Social distancing and self isolation obviously have no meaning for them. Still, I did identify with this one for a minute when it perched alone. Soon it resumed scrambling up the trunks and leaping across branches. It drew a little closer to the balcony in short order.
Last April, I was on Washington’s coast photographing in the Olympic Peninsula west of Seattle. The Sol Duc Rainforest was one of the incredible forests that I spent time photographing in. I found the old growth with the density of wilderness to be stunning. It’s a beautiful location to get lost for days. I had a few hours and look forward, down the road, to get back for more.
On a solo outing to some remote roads, I found a gorgeous great gray owl perched on a telephone pole in warm afternoon sunshine.
A short wait ended with the bird gliding into the forest. It found a perch there and moved to two other ones before flying to a knot of trees close by.
She scanned the sky occasionally, watched the ground steadily but did not find a target on or under the snow. One launch had the owl drop onto a pile of deadfall. I caught a nice launch off of a tree trunk and followed the bird up to her next perch.
Soon she flew across the nearby meadow and landed in a lone evergreen. She flew along a frozen creek to a slender tee – a winter’s skeleton – that bowed under her weight.
And then she flew west, further afield, and well beyond my shooting range with the gear I have.
A small slough west of Calgary is a little gem for birds from spring until fall and one I like to visit now and then. Last August I was surprised to find a few night herons perched among the long grass surrounding the water. I had not seen them frequent this location previously so it was a pleasure to watch them for about a half an hour.
It was early evening, around 6pm, warm with only a rustle of wind – just enough to keep the mosquitoes away. One heron found the conditions favorable and flew overhead at one point.
The herons were more active on the far side of pond. However one bird was stationed closer to me and I kept my long lens trained on that one for the most part. Eventually that paid off when a farm truck rumbled by on the gravel road behind me and set the heron to flight. The launch yielded my favourite photographs – I am a sucker for images that capture motion and power – but I was spoiled across the whole time I was there.
Last June I traveled to Radium with my children. On our travels there we passed through the Kootenay National Park during an early summer snow storm. We stopped along the Kootenay River to photograph the icy blue water and bright green of the young forest being met by the white blizzard.
A night on the western edge of Bragg Creek in January. The clouds had incredible texture all afternoon and when the last light caught them it threw incredible pinks and purples across them. A cotton candy sky glowing to see the day off. Same scene above and below – two versions.
As cool as that visual could have been, self isolation would frown on people congregating in our backyard. Instead, a flock of 60 or more Bohemian waxwings flew into the trees behind our home in the morning. They nibbled at the trees, and the odd chunk of snow hanging in the branches. Flitting around the forest edge, I enjoyed their industry for half an hour as the morning sun shone over the hills. These are a favourite backyard bird for me. They don’t come around my home often but it is magic when they do.
The home isolation as the world buckles down is hard. We are very fortunate to live in a forest so the time at home affords the opportunity to watch the trees and the wildlife that lives in it. These blue jays come by a couple of times a day. I’m sure I’ll be sharing more from my backyard for a while to come. Be safe, be isolated and find hope.