British Columbia

Smoky Golden Moonrise

My son and I returned from a weekend hiking and camping with good friends in the Monashee Provincial Park in British Columbia on Monday night.  Wildfires have been a clear and present danger across the province for the whole summer and west of Golden we drove between two separate fires that were burning on mountainsides across the valley from each other.  The thick smoke obscured the flames and blocked out much of the sun.

It was powerful to directly observe something we have followed all summer remotely.  We stopped at a pullout briefly and then continued east towards home.  The day retreated and when we were nearing Golden, the moon rose above the forest and mountain ridge lines.

The smoke in the air from the fires, and likely others that were not visible to us, turned the sky a purple colour at dusk that moved quickly into a deep blue.

The nearly full moon shone brightly and had an orange cast to it.  Beauty from these wildfires that I enjoyed but that I would trade for rain there in a heartbeat.


Sunrise reflected in Emerald Lake

Sunrise reflected in Emerald Lake - © Christopher Martin-0162

Our family stayed at the Emerald Lake Lodge on the weekend. It is a beautiful lake ringed by peaks including Emerald Mountain and Mount Burgess but can prove tricky for sunrise photography.  I had two mornings where I was able to watch dawn arrive.  I really enjoyed the stillness of the water and its mirroring of the pastel sky.  Both mornings ushered in great days for the kids, Bobbi and I.

Sunrise reflected in Emerald Lake - © Christopher Martin-0148

The boat house across from the lodge is a beautiful, rustic spot that I love to photograph around when I’m visiting.  I found a few different looks this time around.

Sunrise reflected in Emerald Lake - © Christopher Martin-0140

Sunrise reflected in Emerald Lake - © Christopher Martin-0342

Sunrise reflected in Emerald Lake - © Christopher Martin-0142


Eagles in the Elk Valley


Elk Eagle Valley - © Christopher Martin-0150

We were in Fernie a couple of weeks ago and on the drive home found a few Bald eagles who were flying around a carcass that had been pulled a few hundred meters off the highway.  They scattered when we first stopped but came circling back around the trees and back to the easy meal.  A nice break during the lean winter months.

Elk Eagle Valley - © Christopher Martin-0157

Elk Eagle Valley - © Christopher Martin-0161

 


Grazing in the estuary

 

2014 © Christopher Martin

When I was in the Khutzeymateen (K’tzim-a-deen) in June, the sedge was waist-high in the estuary which sits at the end of park’s fjord.  The Grizzly bears come out of hibernation in late May or early June and the grass is growing fast and waiting for them.  We spent an hour watching this boar mowing a path through the green.  He was a big, beautiful bear and it was a privilege to spend some time watching him in his valley.

2014 © Christopher Martin

(Click any image to open a higher resolution version in its own webpage)

Grizzly and grass - 2014 © Christopher Martin

We took the zodiac from the sailboat in the morning and were lucky that the weather didn’t beat us up.  The rain varied between a drizzle and a downpour which provided great mood to some of the images.   Being in the Great Bear Rainforest on the west coast, it can rain hard and often does.  There is a point where it is impossible to photograph, or even stay outside, but that day it went easy on us and played nicely.  Along the way we saw several bears at different points in the estuary and only headed out when the tide started to come in.

Khutzeymateen Grizzly - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Looking up - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Grizzly and grass - 2014 © Christopher Martin –

Sitting down for dinner - 2014 © Christopher Martin


Evening over Osoyoos

Osoyoos Dusk - © Christopher Martin-7035

When we were in Osoyoos in August, we stayed at the Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort.  It is a great place to stay and its location above the lake and across from the city gave us a beautiful view of both as well as the hills to the west.

Sunset from Spirit Ridge in Osoyoos - © Christopher Martin-7045

On our last evening, I watched the sunset from one of the rooftop patios and enjoyed the light and its changes on the land and in the sky.  As the sun sped away, there were interesting scenes that kept my interest sharp through into night.

Sunset over Lake Osoyoos - © Christopher Martin-6948

(Please click on any image if you would like to view a higher resolution version)

Cloud painting - © Christopher Martin-6959

Hiding from the night - © Christopher Martin-7016-2

Sunlight sneaks between a ridge and the clouds above Lake Osoyoos in the Okanangan Valley, British Columbia, Canada.

Western sky - © Christopher Martin-6931

Evening comes over Osoyoos - © Christopher Martin-7013


An ill-tempered Grizzly bear

Khutzeymateen staredown - 2014 © Christopher Martin

A Grizzly bear male watches from the tall grass of the Khutzeymateen Estuary.  He looked to have been on the wrong side of a couple of fights judging by his beaten up coat.

Grizzly reflected - 2014 © Christopher Martin

We were on a zodiac inflatable and he was on the edge of the river.  We looked at each other, us six in our boat and him now on a log.  He growled and huffed while swiping his claws across the tree bark.

Swipe - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Then, having made his point, he turned his back on us, indicating that we were no longer worthy of concern and continued feasting on the sedge.

Growl - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Wary over dinner - 2014 © Christopher Martin

We watched him as we retreated and he wandered to the edge of the forest and then disappeared from view.

In their land - 2014 © Christopher Martin


A morning of fog and mist in the Khutzeymateen

Morning in the Khutzeymateen - 2014 © Christopher Martin

One evening we watched a crab boat come down the Khutzeymateen Inlet and weigh anchor for the night.  The next day there were some opportunities to photograph the vessel shrouded in mist.  Against the massive trees of the rainforest and the steep valley walls, it looked almost like a toy.

(As always, please click on any image to open a higher resolution version on its own page)

Fog and mist - 2014 © Christopher Martin

A morning full of weather - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Mornings in the Khutzeymateen often find the coastline wrapped in blankets of fog while low flying clouds cling to the steep hills of the rainforest and the snow-covered peaks.  The Grizzly Bears are the obvious draw but the landscape of this northern part of the Great Bear Rainforest is hauntingly beautiful.

Morning in the mountains of the Khutzeymateen Inlet - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Later in the day much of the fog burned off and when we sailed by the boat I was able to have a closer look.

Crabbing in the Khutzeymateen - 2014 © Christopher Martin

 

 


Side Sedging Grizzly

 

Side sedging Grizzly - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 200-400mm f/4 IS EXT at 526mm: 1/320oth of a second on f/5.6 and ISO 2500

A Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) mows down sedge grass grown tall in the estuary of the Khutzeymateen Inlet.  This boar was pretty nonchalant when we came upon him as we rounded one of the river channels that divides up the grassland at low tide.  He was sauntering along and sat down across from us to settle down for a snack.  When he turned his head sideways to chew away, it created an unusual look at this handsome fellow and his impressive chompers.


Elk River Heron

Elk River Heron flight - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm f/4 lens: 1/1600 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800

The Elk River runs through a southeastern region of British Columbia’s Kootenay region.  Where the river spills out of the mountains into the Elk Valley, it widens and attracts an abundance of fish which in turn draws eagles, osprey and herons.  On our recent trip to Fernie I enjoyed several walks along the river and was able to watch all of these birds on separate encounters.  On the first evening my nephew Austin and I were out for a walk and watched a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) flying low along the river and land at a shallow stretch.

Elk River Heron - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm f/4 lens: 1/1600 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800

There was enough light that it worked out well to photograph him flying by and landing.

 Along the banks - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm f/4 lens: 1/1600 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800

He landed nearby but spooked when we walked a bit closer so we headed home.  It was the right call not only for the bird but the rain increased from the drizzle to a downpour which we were happy to miss.

Heron landing - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm f/4 lens: 1/2500 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800

Thanks Austin – it was fun to be out birding with you!

Elk River Heron - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII and 500mm f/4 lens: 1/2000 seconds at f/4 on ISO 800


Flying off a red roof

Off the red roof - 2014 © Christopher Martin

We’re in Fernie with family for the Easter weekend.  We escaped Calgary’s heavy snowfall but the Elk Valley was socked in today with heavy leaden clouds.  Rain, snow and sleet took turns falling through the day which provided a great background with some of the birds I came across.  This raven was a favorite with the red roof providing great color to a potentially weary scene.

 


Eagle Skirmishes

Eagle Skirmish - 2013 © Christopher Martin

An eagle enjoying a feast is not often left alone for too long in Brackendale.  Finished spawning, the salmon drift downriver listlessly and eventually die naturally or with the assistance of the scavengers along the rivers.  The effort is in pulling the fish out of the water.  When that is done, competition often arrives to stake a claim.  Skirmishes, jousting and all out fights can breakout before one eagle is chased off.

Lox for breakfast - 2013 © Christopher MartinThis eagle was unchallenged as we floated past but it kept its head on a swivel wary of potential thieves.

Guarding breakfast - 2013 © Christopher MartinIn another spot, there were a lot of fish along the rocks and a lot of eagles vying for them.

Salmon wars - offense and defense _2013 © Christopher Martin

Eagle ballet - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Occasionally, as in the photograph below, an equilibrium of sorts will be found where a few eagles will take turns on a fish with little aggression.

Salmon Potluck - 2013 © Christopher MartinHowever, one eagle soon came screaming in and upset the delicate balance.

The disruptor arrives - 2013 © Christopher MartinThere are many gulls that wait for opportunities to grab bits out of the water.  When eagles aren’t around, they have similar battles over prime spots.

Seagull skirmishes - 2013 © Christopher Martin


Grizzly Bear Travels

Cub on patrol - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The four days I spent in the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary in August were incredible.  I’ve posted a number of images, bears and other wildlife, frequently over the two and half months since returning.  From a productive photography perspective, the trip was a success by any measure.  Alongside the images I came back with are the memories of individual encounters, the surprise of a seal popping up beside the boat as well of a pod of orcas transiting by at a distance and good deal more.  I’ve saved my favourite bear encounter for the last.

Coastal traveler - 2013 © Christopher Martin

After a couple of days of heavy rain, the third day in the inlet was cold but clear.  Not long after dawn broke we were in the zodiac floating at the mouth of a creek where the salmon were running up.  Along with a mixed flock of gulls, we were waiting in the hopes that a bear would materialize out of the rainforest and start fishing.  A bit restless, I let my eyes wander along the shoreline across the water.  On one sweep of the kelp covered rocks exposed during the low tide, I caught a bit of movement.  Through a lens, I could make out an adult padding along eastwards towards the estuary.  Drawing closer, we saw a second bear skip out of the dark shadows the forest still held on to.

Furry and Feisty - 2013 © Christopher Martin

This ball of fur was a cub, a first year, and for the next hour we paralleled their passage over rock, under tree and across stony beaches.

The mother was cautious when she heard the boat but Dan Wakeman, the captain of the Sun Chaser and our guide, has been in the inlet for the past thirty-five summers and as we pulled within twenty-five yards of the shoreline, she recognized her fellow resident and carried on with few second glances thereafter.

2013 © Christopher Martin

The cub was far more curious about us than its parent was.  A few times it pulled up, stared in the zodiac’s direction and huffed.  Mom’s only notice of the behaviour came the times when there was too much huffing and not enough walking.  At those times, she would huff and the little one would scurry back in step.

Berry hunters in the forest - 2013 © Christopher Martin

They weren’t racing along the shore but it did seem that she had a place she wanted to be.  Presumably it was the easy fishing grounds of the estuary at low tide.   There was still time to stop and snack on berries in a heavily wooded chute.

Listening for trouble - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Mom may not have been worried about us but she was on alert for other bears.  The boars can attack a mother and her cubs at any time so she would stop and have a listen, a sniff and a look now and again.

Slippery rocks - 2013 © Christopher Martin

There was no trail that they were following as this shoreline spends half the time underwater.  The wet kelp, rocks and edge grass would have seen me sliding all over the place if I was covering the same ground.  With their padded feet and surprising agility, these Grizzlies had few slips and little trouble navigating the terrain.

Beach walk - 2013 © Christopher Martin

They reached the estuary and moved down onto the beach above.  From there they strode away towards the channels where the river was channeled with the tide out.  Salmon were surely on the menu.  We crossed the inlet and there was already an understanding that this had been a very special encounter.  This is a small glimpse into the magic and majesty of the Khutzeymateen Inlet.  I will be returning in June to see the bears as they’ve emerged from hibernation and are busy eating the sedge grass, raising cubs and coupling up – I honestly can’t wait.