I was in Banff for an early morning sunrise shoot a couple of weeks ago. Following that, I spent the morning hiking and driving around looking for wildlife. The first animal I found was this Great blue heron fishing on the first Vermilion Lake.
Following this short story of the heron in Yellowstone National Park, I thought it would be good to post another with its Canadian cousin. I watched the heron work in the long grass on the lake edge for several minutes before it turned away from the sun and flew eastward and beyond my sight.
Great blue herons are a favourite bird of mine. I was very happy when I spotted this one fishing along the Madison River in Yellowstone National Park when I was there a few weeks ago. I found a little shoulder off the road where I could park my car and I walked back to the small bridge I had just crossed.
The heron was stalking through the grass in the water, noted my presence with a slight turn of its head, and then continued. A few minutes, three strikes and two fish later, it had moved closer and was now directly across the water from me.
Whether it was momentarily full, spooked by a particular vehicle crossing the bridge or just tired of me watching, it jumped into the air after ducking under the logs in front of it in the picture above.
I was in a great position to watch the strong wingbeats lift the heron. I was already feeling lucky for first finding it along this beautiful river bend and then getting to photograph it fishing. When it took flight and then banked overhead, I was able to get several nice flight shots and I felt my luck had doubled down on its own accord – and won!
A friend and I spied this owl while on a short drive to scout out locations for a photo shoot. This is my tenth year living in the Bragg Creek area and this was the first Barred owl that I have seen here. It was the first time I have seen one in the wild anywhere for that matter. It is an understatement to say I was excited! The dark eyes are so striking compared to my familiarity with the glowing yellow eyes of the Great gray, Great horned and Snowy owls which I photograph throughout the year.
The owl was perched in plain sight – the fast approaching dusk had dimmed the daylight which suited this mostly nocturnal hunter. That made a fast shutter speed a challenge but that was a very minor challenge. She flew from the post to a branch a couple of metres above the long grass edging the road. Her head swivelled and angled as she searched for dinner. Within a couple of minutes, she locked in and made a dive headlong into the greenery. One dive, one strike and one kill.
From down in the grass she shifted the field mouse to her beak and then flew up and in front of us, heading into a stand of trees on a small ridge.
I lost her in the forest and the gloom but look forward to a follow-up encounter whenever it suits her.
At the western edge of the Lamar Canyon at a small trailhead just above the river of the same name this fox was curled up under a sage bush. A small crowd had gathered, and under the watchful eye of a park ranger, had their cameras trained on the small patch of red visible between the gray-green branches and leaves. Watching it from a slightly higher vantage point, I could see the ears pointed forward and hoped she was hunting. Within a few minutes, she belly crawled forward a little and it was plain to see she was readying for a leap.
The grass and sage hid any rodents from my sight but not so for the fox. Or, at least through those large ears, their sound was not hidden. When she did jump it was fast but she came up empty. She dug anxiously around this bush and circled it several times but somehow the little creature made good on its escape.
With the meal gone, the fox looked up and seemed only then to realize the crowd to one side of her. At that point, she lowered her head, ears and tail and sprinted past the people, crossed the road (where happily traffic had long been stopped) and sped up a hill through the underbrush, grabbing a rodent along the way.
I went further up the road in the hopes of the fox reappearing down that way. I guessed wrong but soon found that the fox had backtracked and went to a small hollow downhill from the original trailhead. When I set up 35 yards away, she was laying low against another bush with her eyes, and ears, trained on a spot near a rock and some fallen trees.
The weather in Yellowstone is always changing and while she waited sun gave way to rain pushed in by a strong wind, then snow, sun and clouds followed in quick succession.
A lightning run got her on the spot stared at for the previous fifteen minutes in a flash. This time she struck successfully and “wolfed” it down while her head was still hidden by the grass.
She stalked through the hillside again for a few more minutes.
She rubbed against a bush next. I don’t know if that was to rub off scent or to pick up the sage. Then she headed off through the scrub and grass.
Pronghorns are scattered across Yellowstone. They range from the lower grasslands through to high valley meadows. It was a cold morning so I was not surprised this fellow wanted to shake off the cold. When the droplets flew from his position a little higher than me, the effect looked more like there had been an explosion. I thought it was a good start to our respective days.
I watched him approach from Soda Butte Creek at the northeast end of the Lamar Valley. He looked like he had just crossed it but maybe that was just from the rain at daybreak. Shortly after spinning off the water, the sun came out, apparently to help dry his coat. The wet sagebrush began to steam as soon as the sunlight hit it, creating a haze around the Pronghorn.
He passed within 30 yards of me and then crossed the road on his way up the base of Druid Peak’s southern flank.
The Great gray owls are a favourite animal of mine. No surprise there for anyone who visits my site. This time of the year is great for photographing them near where I live so I often don’t travel too far afield – content to spend my time watching this beautiful birds. This weekend, I’m breaking with habit and heading to Yellowstone National Park. For all kinds of reasons I have not yet been there so I’m really excited. The wildlife and the landscapes there have filled my dreams for years so I can’t wait to get going later this afternoon. Wish me luck – I will share what I am fortunate enough to see when I return.
And, they have Great grays down there so maybe I’ll get to see some of the Yellowstone family too!
When the Northern Lights brightly lit up the sky on May 8th, I went out to a favourite spot along the Elbow River on the edge of Redwood Meadows. The river there is dotted with sets of rocks near the shore which provide interesting elements and break up the reflection in an attractive way. The landscape is beautiful and supported the main show in the sky above well. The Aurora streamed across the sky from the northern horizon to well past the zenith. The image below was taken with the camera pointing almost straight up.
There was an intense auroral storm that started late on May 7th and rang in Mother’s Day with vibrant ripples and sheets until just before dawn. This session of the Aurora Borealis was the most vibrant I’ve watched over the past five years. For three hours I watched the sky being canvassed with impossibly bright streams of spray paint. I enjoyed watching them on the northern edge of my community along the banks of the Elbow River. I thought it was a great start to Mother’s Day and certainly worth losing most of a good night’s sleep to watch the sky.