Wildlife

Morning flight

Mallard ducks backlit against morning sunshine rise off a pond east of Cochrane in Alberta, Canada.  Photographed on September 26, 2020.


Hummingbirds in the backyard

Early in the summer, we had a couple of hummingbirds that visited our backyard. We had a feeder out before we went on vacation and I had a couple of great photography sessions sitting on our deck watching them come and go. These are a few photographs from those.

This is either an immature or a female Rufous hummingbird. I don’t know this species near well enough to say which one. Certainly a beautiful bird no matter.


Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron over Frank Lake

After a day that started with snowfall, the clouds cleared in the evening.  Desiree and I headed south to Frank Lake to see what birds were staging around the shoreline.  With the unusual dip in temperature, I was unsure which birds may have jumpstarted their migrations and which would still be there.  We were treated to a large squadron of white pelicans which were the main focus of our bird watching and photography.  The sun fell under the clouds an hour before dusk and the light was incredible right through to sunset.  Aside from the pelicans, we had several species of seagulls, great blue herons, cormorants, hawks, coots, ducks and shorebirds that came by.  And, a number of Black-crowned Night-Herons too. Surprisingly to me, most of those were juveniles.  Which Desiree was able to identify as Night-Herons.  Which was great as I thought they were an egret or another type of heron.  The young look very different from the adults in this species of heron!  This photo caught the heron flying into the warm sunlight and I was lucky to have it catch the eye.


Loon on the lake

A quiet moment watching a lone loon between his dives under the water.


Swallow vertically

A tree swallow on barbed wire south of Cochrane.


Whiskey Jack on the wing

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.


Backyard isolation

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.

 


Great gray owl in the late winter forest

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.

ng range.


Archive images: Last summer with black-crowned night herons

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.


Bohemians in the backyard?

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.


Backyard blue jays

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.

 


Great gray owl – winter edition

 

Driving home through Millarville last weekend, I hoped to see a great gray owl along the edge of the forest that skirts the road toward Bragg Creek.  I had my camera beside me and my girlfriend and I kept eyes peeled for them on fenceposts or perched in the trees.

We found one amid a snow storm.  It was not in a stop friendly location so I took a couple of quick shots and continued along.

Happily, another one was waiting a few miles further along.  This one was watching over a field and was kind enough to have chosen a tree that was across from a small pullout.  We had time to point out the owl to the kids and for me to put a long lens on it.  After a few minutes, it launched out over the field and I had some good flight opportunities.

It had been a few months since I had seen a great gray owl so I was thrilled to get to see two that evening.  I’ll have to make sure I retrace my steps there again soon.