Nature

Bald in eagle in a blue sky

bald-eagle-blue-sky-flight-christopher-martin-3949

A couple of days ago I spotted this bald eagle balanced atop a telephone pole.  He was watching a small conspiracy of ravens gathered on a snow pile on the edge of a field in Springbank.

bald-eagle-blue-sky-flight-christopher-martin-3946

 

After a few minutes his curiosity seemed to get the best of him and we launched towards the group.  He spiralled above them for a moment but must not have seen anything too appealing as he landed on another telephone pole instead of amongst the ravens.

bald-eagle-blue-sky-flight-christopher-martin-3953

bald-eagle-blue-sky-flight-christopher-martin-3954-2

bald-eagle-blue-sky-flight-christopher-martin-3965

Maybe it was just to have a closer look before deciding.  Either way he decided not to stick around for long and flew a couple of hundred metres away and into a stand of trees isolated in middle of the field.

bald-eagle-blue-sky-flight-christopher-martin-3968

bald-eagle-blue-sky-flight-christopher-martin-3970

 


A long, cold (and worthwhile) wait

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3769

The photograph above of the snowy owl in flight was taken late in the morning on February 11th.  This flight followed a long wait after some good early action.  The wait started with a feather cleaning session on an entrance gate which was interrupted by the approach of this truck which prompted the bird to fly to a more isolated spot.

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3375

When the vehicle drew too close for the owl’s liking, she launched and flew along the fence line towards the sun.

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3380

She didn’t go too far – landing on a post roughly 100 metres away.

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3389

We were separated from the owl by a fence line of our own which ran parallel to hers and they were about 80 metres apart.  That distance was just fine for me and with a 500mm lens made the subject a reasonable size in the frame.  From where I was, the sun angle and the background were both far from ideal.  I walked along the fence line and found a new location which allowed for improvements in both areas.  I kept moving around now and then to change the scene.  The owl did not – she settled in and did not leave the post for a long time.  There was no way to know at that point, but it would be 2 hours and 38 minutes before the snowy would return to the air.

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3562

The potential for a special moment – maybe a dive close to our line or a flight with the sunlight catching her eyes – kept eyes glued on her and fingers resting on the shutter buttons.  At a few different points, a drift of snow buntings buzzed past the owl as they flew to different spots around the field to forage.  For her part, the owl watched these comings and goings with minimal interest.  For me, these sorties were welcome bits of action.

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3706

Along the way there was more preening, dozing and the occasional stretch.  The one below seemed like a yoga position and was one that she held for several seconds.  Maybe this was all a part of her morning meditation?

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3675-3

Just before noon, the wings opened and she pulled her body down into a crouch.  She paused for a second and then pushed off into the air.

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3719

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3721

The snowy flew along her fence line which allowed for a few nice photographs before she passed us, crossed the road and landed in the snow near the top of a small rise that was a couple of hundred metres away.  My fingers were aching from the cold so this was one of the rare times where I was no longer interested in continuing to shoot.  I was happy to get in the truck and get the heat going.

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3742

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3748

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3770


Flying low on the prairies

snowy-owl-north-of-langdon-christopher-martin-99

I spent a morning on the prairies between Irricana and Langdon this weekend.  I met up with my good friend, and fellow photographer, Jeff Rhude in Delacour and continued east from there to see what we could find.  We were looking for owls and an hour before sunrise, we made out three individuals perched in different locations.  It was much too dark to photograph with any reasonable expectation of making a good image.  To us, their presence boded well for later, when the day was much brighter.  A glowing sunrise welcomed the day and after photographing that for a little bit, we began combing the fields and fence posts for snowy owls.  The ones seen in the pre-dawn gloom were nowhere to be found but several kilometres away we did find this one standing on the snow in a field.

snowy-owl-north-of-langdon-christopher-martin-78

The snowy took flight and let the wind push her eastward, across the road in front of us, until she landed on a fence post.  She did not stay there long before diving into the snow on the far side of a frozen pond.  That was a bit too far to see if she caught something but it looked like she did.

snowy-owl-north-of-langdon-christopher-martin-85-3

Soon after she jumped off the snow again and flew low over the ground before rising up enough to clear the fenceline.

snowy-owl-north-of-langdon-christopher-martin-98

snowy-owl-north-of-langdon-christopher-martin-100

snowy-owl-north-of-langdon-christopher-martin-3307

snowy-owl-north-of-langdon-christopher-martin-3308

That flight took her up to the gate of a compressor station.  We photographed her for another three hours afterwards.  I’ll cover that in my next post.

snowy-owl-north-of-langdon-christopher-martin-105


Wildlife during a winter blizzard

blizzard-chickadee-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2681

The snow started to fly on Friday and has kept falling through the weekend.  And, it’s cold!  I went touring west of Bragg Creek yesterday but saw very little – even when the sun came out for a couple of hours.  Today was a different story and I saw a couple of moose, some white-tailed deer and a small banditry of chickadees.

blizzard-moose-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2622

Moose love the cold so I hoped to see them in one of their regular haunts.  I found this young bull grazing in the bushes.

blizzard-moose-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2656

These chickadees, mostly black-capped with a couple of boreals, flitted around a fence line that’s long been fighting to hold back the bushes behind.  I’ve always liked watching these little birds – they move very quickly so it’s a nice challenge to photograph them.

blizzard-chickadee-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2803

blizzard-chickadee-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2738

blizzard-chickadee-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2708

blizzard-chickadee-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2810


2016 wildlife images – some of my favourites from the past year

2016-favourite-wildlife-christopher-martin-9360

I love photographing wildlife, whether it’s a frigid morning, a warm afternoon, blizzards, or whatever, you will usually find me with a smile on my face.  I put this gallery together of my favourite images from those times over the past year.

The 2016 highlights started with snowy owls on the prairie, in March was a wolf pack’s takedown of an elk in Banff and eagles migrating through the high meadows east of Crowsnest Pass, my first visit to Yellowstone National Park in May was wonderful, summer saw the bears in buffalo berry patches throughout Kananaskis, Banff and Jasper, birds migrating along the Bow River in early fall provided some great opportunities and the year wound down, as it started, with snowy owls east of Calgary.

2016-favourite-wildlife-christopher-martin-4498

Throughout the year I spend an enormous amount of time hanging out with the great gray owls who have allowed me to photograph them for several years.  Owls, any species, are absolute favourite birds for me.  I feel exceptionally lucky that I continue to be able to watch them, learn more about them and just simply enjoy being in their presence.

2016-favourite-wildlife-christopher-martin-8200

You can click on any of these three images to open the 2016 wildlife gallery in a new window.


A landscape image gallery worth visiting

Paul Zizka’s Top 16 of 2016 is a beautiful gallery of wild, natural landscape imagery.  His images are creative in their composition, surprising in their subjects and timing and technically precise.  He lives in Banff and is a mountain landscape and adventure photographer.  I have enjoyed Paul’s work for a few years, his 2016 top 16 set are among his best.  You can find this gallery at this link.

 


A beautiful afternoon with a Snowy

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8330

After a blustery start to the day on December 27th, by 2pm the wind had settled down and the sun then came out making for a much more comfortable time while I watched this Snowy owl.  She seemed to enjoy the change in the weather too as she was very active.  Her hunting ability is exceptional and she caught a mouse on almost every glide low over the snow.

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8329

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8332

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8340

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8349

The two series, above and below, were both successful hunting runs where she caught a field mouse or something similar.

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8352

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8353

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8367-2

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8368

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8369

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8371

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8372

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8375

I have become a regular observer of this bird in particular as she has a large farm field staked as her territory and I’ve been lucky to find her there consistently.   In previous years, I have occasionally been able to repeat time with the same owl but this regularity is really special to me.

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8379

Earlier she flew to a few different parts of the field before settling on the area where she flew over in the photographs above.

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8275

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8315


A Snowy in another snowstorm

overcast-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-7708

A couple of weeks ago I went out on the prairie looking for Snowy owls.  North of Langdon, I found this owl in a familiar locale.  It was a cold, blustery wind that accompanied the sunrise.  The snow blew into the air throughout the morning and made it feel like we were much closer to the Arctic Circle.  It was pretty dark with a bluish cast in the morning which only added to the wintry feel. At one point, the owl flew directly overhead and then around me which was a highlight for sure.

overcast-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-7702

overcast-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-7694

The rest of the morning was spent watching the owl sitting with making the odd hop/flight around the field.  Another good morning with this Snowy owl.

overcast-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-7734

overcast-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-7649

overcast-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-7636


Merry Christmas… with a Dancing Elk

We enjoyed a great Christmas day around our home today.  Outside, the sun was bright, the sky was blue and the snow draped everything in a blanket of white.   Inside, we played games, built toys, laughed a lot and had a really good time.

I showed my family this video embedded above of a dancing elk that I had taken a couple of winters ago up in Jasper.  My mom thought that would be a good one to share online today – the kids agreed so I worked on that this evening (and here is the Youtube link as well).  It was a fun encounter with a young female elk who separated from her herd for a few minutes.  At several points, she broke into a dance, or rodeo bull impersonation, while I watched.

I hope you and yours have enjoyed a merry Christmas and I wish you all the best throughout the holidays.


A Snowy owl hunting on a rise

a-snowy-owl-christopher-martin-6318

The Snowy owl that I had photographed the previous week, I found again last Sunday.  This time she was on a snow-covered rise ~50 metres from the fence line.  It was much warmer than the week before and the sun was out so it was quite a pleasant visit.

A Snowy owl on the Albertan prairie © Christopher Martin-6232

The owl perched taking in a complete view of her surroundings – me included.  The wind was gusting ahead of a chinook that was arching across the prairies so she crouched low whenever it picked up.

a-snowy-owl-christopher-martin-6253

In between one of the wind blasts, she caught sight or sound of something to her left and glided towards a broken post.  She hovered for a moment and then dropped to the ground.

A Snowy owl on the Albertan prairie © Christopher Martin-6315

A Snowy owl on the Albertan prairie © Christopher Martin-6320

She grabbed something and quickly swallowed it.  She landed a little further behind the rise and in line with the post so I missed a clear line on the hunt’s conclusion.

a-snowy-owl-christopher-martin-6323

She soon returned to scanning the field.

a-snowy-owl-christopher-martin-6326

And I found another sight line.

a-snowy-owl-christopher-martin-6355


A Pileated evening in Bragg Creek

pileated-woodpecker-christopher-martin-1963

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.

pileated-woodpecker-christopher-martin-2015

pileated-woodpecker-christopher-martin-1832

pileated-woodpecker-christopher-martin-1982

Descending from the trees, he landed in a long abandoned pile of cut wood and set to pecking and probing for insects.

pileated-woodpecker-christopher-martin-1505

pileated-woodpecker-christopher-martin-1696

pileated-woodpecker-christopher-martin-1775

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.

pileated-woodpecker-christopher-martin-2131

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.

pileated-woodpecker-christopher-martin-2172

 


An owl on the other side

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2706

On the other side of the road, this Great gray owl continued hunting after it flew across.  She left the open forest for the denser evergreens on the southern approach which provided a completely different look from the images that I shared yesterday.

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2695

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2704

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2705

She flew between a couple of posts before gliding between a couple of trees.  I was lucky to be in position for some great opportunities.

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2718

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2719

The owl flew into the middle of this large tree, beside the trunk, and I thought she might choose to rest there for a while.  She did for a few minutes, but soon grew restless and began scanning the ground for activity.  She turned around, saw something and then shot out of the tree.  I lost sight of her almost right away but heard a lot of squawking and commotion before things went quiet again.  I assume the owl struck successfully but did not go into the woods to check – either way the cycle of hunter and hunted continued with one coming out successfully.

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2729

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2737

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2738

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2741

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2742