Author Archive

A Heron in Banff

Banff Great blue heron - © Christopher Martin-1754

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.

Banff Great blue heron - © Christopher Martin-1747

Banff Great blue heron - © Christopher Martin-1744

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.

Banff Great blue heron - © Christopher Martin-1759

Banff Great blue heron - © Christopher Martin-1767

 


A Heron in Yellowstone

Yellowstone Great blue heron - © Christopher Martin-9157

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.

Yellowstone Great blue heron - © Christopher Martin-9123

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.

Yellowstone Great blue heron - © Christopher Martin-9132

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.

Yellowstone Great blue heron - © Christopher Martin-9143
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!

Yellowstone Great blue heron - © Christopher Martin-9147-2
Yellowstone Great blue heron - © Christopher Martin-9150

Yellowstone Great blue heron - © Christopher Martin-9153


A forest hunter

Great gray owl's forest hunt - © Christopher Martin-2969-4

On a warm summer evening, down a country road leading nowhere, I found a pair of Great gray owls.  One was hunting actively near where I set up while the other was perched deeper in the forest.

Great gray owl's forest hunt - © Christopher Martin-2966

The shadows lengthened and I hoped for a special moment before the sun slipped below the ridge to the west.  She flew over me and I thought that would be the end of the encounter as she flew into the trees.  Instead, she alighted on this small branch and stared intently at a couple of spots in the grass.  Shortly after she dove headlong into one of those spots and disappeared.  

Great gray owl's forest hunt - © Christopher Martin-2970

Several seconds ticked by and then she leaped into the air – with a field mouse secured in her beak.  It was my good fortune that she flew directly towards me as she gained altitude before banking to her left and heading further uphill towards her nest.  The first image and the ones directly below are the series as she flew through the trees towards me.
Great gray owl's forest hunt - © Christopher Martin-2971
Great gray owl's forest hunt - © Christopher Martin-2972
Great gray owl's forest hunt - © Christopher Martin-2973
Great gray owl's forest hunt - © Christopher Martin-2974
Great gray owl's forest hunt - © Christopher Martin-2975

 These were a series of moments well beyond what I was even hoping for.


A brief visit with a Barred owl

Bragg Creek Barred Owl - © Christopher Martin-0959
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.

Bragg Creek Barred Owl - © Christopher Martin-0948

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.

Bragg Creek Barred Owl - © Christopher Martin-0970-2

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.

Bragg Creek Barred Owl - © Christopher Martin-0987

I lost her in the forest and the gloom but look forward to a follow-up encounter whenever it suits her.

Bragg Creek Barred Owl - © Christopher Martin-0994





A Red fox in Yellowstone

Yellowstone Red Fox - © Christopher Martin-9834

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.

Yellowstone Red Fox - © Christopher Martin-9833The 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.

Yellowstone Red Fox - © Christopher Martin-9846

Yellowstone Red Fox - © Christopher Martin-9801

Yellowstone Red Fox - © Christopher Martin-9902With 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.

Yellowstone Red Fox - © Christopher Martin-9938

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.

Yellowstone Red Fox - © Christopher Martin-9959

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.

Yellowstone Red Fox - © Christopher Martin-9975

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.

Yellowstone Red Fox - © Christopher Martin-9986

She stalked through the hillside again for a few more minutes.

Yellowstone Red Fox - © Christopher Martin-0006

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.

Yellowstone Red Fox - © Christopher Martin-0032

The Pronghorn shake

Yellowstone Pronghorn Shake - © Christopher Martin-8435-2

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.

Yellowstone Pronghorn Shake - © Christopher Martin-8421

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.

Yellowstone Pronghorn Shake - © Christopher Martin-8457

He passed within 30 yards of me and then crossed the road on his way up the base of Druid Peak’s southern flank.

Yellowstone Pronghorn Shake - © Christopher Martin-8466

Yellowstone Pronghorn Shake - © Christopher Martin-8492


I love owls but…

Great gray owl's meadow flight - © Christopher Martin-7050
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.

Great gray owl's meadow flight - © Christopher Martin-7049

And, they have Great grays down there so maybe I’ll get to see some of the Yellowstone family too!


Great gray owl on frost and in gold

Great Gray Owl in the frosty meadow - © Christopher Martin-6695-2

Last week’s dropping mercury and precipitation allowed the fields around Bragg Creek to be encased in frost on the weekend.  I spent the morning watching birds of all sizes waking up – with most waiting for the sun to warm things up a bit.  This Great gray owl was more interested in breakfast and I watched him hunt for a couple of hours taking his catches back to the nest hidden somewhere in the forest nearby.  These images of the owl just lifting off the grass with a field mouse in its beak really captured the tone of the morning – frosted grass, shafts of golden light, a spectacular bird in flight.  It was another wonderful morning spent in awe of the natural world.

 

Great Gray Owl in the frosty meadow - © Christopher Martin-6646

Great Gray Owl in the frosty meadow - © Christopher Martin-6692

Great Gray Owl in the frosty meadow - © Christopher Martin-6647


Images of the Aurora over the Elbow River

Albertan Aurora over the Elbow River - © Christopher Martin-5945-2

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.

Albertan Aurora - © Christopher Martin-5930

 

Albertan Aurora - © Christopher Martin-5979

Albertan Aurora - © Christopher Martin-6030

Albertan Aurora - © Christopher Martin-5938


Wild Rose’s Common Loons

Wild Rose's Common Loons - © Christopher Martin-4474

There have been three Common loons that spend each spring on Wild Rose lake in Bragg Creek.  Last weekend, I found them for the first time this year and watched them for swim, dive, call and chase each other around for an hour.  The morning light on the water was beautiful and made a great backdrop for these lovely birds.

Wild Rose's Common Loons - © Christopher Martin-4510

Wild Rose's Common Loons - © Christopher Martin-4587

Wild Rose's Common Loons - © Christopher Martin-4476

Wild Rose's Common Loons - © Christopher Martin-4498

Loons need a long stretch of water to use as a runway to get airborne.  When this trio decided to leave, two flew along the far end of the lake away from me.  The third, fortunately for me, flew towards me and lifted into the air right beside me.

Wild Rose's Common Loons - © Christopher Martin-4625

Wild Rose's Common Loons - © Christopher Martin-4631

Wild Rose's Common Loons - © Christopher Martin-4643


Mother’s Day Aurora

Mother's Day Aurora Borealis - © Christopher Martin-5949

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.


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