Wildlife

Early rutting in the mist

Stags in the Bragg Creek mist - © Christopher Martin-4016

I found this pair of White-tailed deer on a misty morning a couple of weeks ago. The stag on the right jabbed the other a couple of times.  It took a bit of prodding, but they eventually jousted for a few short skirmishes before going back to grazing in the dew-soaked field.  The rut will come in a few weeks, it seemed these two were getting in a little practice.

Stags in the Bragg Creek mist - © Christopher Martin-4011

Stags in the Bragg Creek mist - © Christopher Martin-4007

Stags in the Bragg Creek mist - © Christopher Martin-4002

Stags in the Bragg Creek mist - © Christopher Martin-4001


A bear and her berries

Kananaskis Grizzly 152 in the rain - © Christopher Martin-2177

For the second week in a row, I caught up Grizzly bear #152, and her smile, in Kananaskis’s Spray Valley Provincial Park.  Once more she was feasting on Buffalo berries.  Unlike the sunny encounter last week, the rain was falling steadily providing a sheen to the leaves, the bear’s coat and the tall grass.

Kananaskis Grizzly 152 in the rain - © Christopher Martin-2075

Kananaskis Grizzly 152 in the rain - © Christopher Martin-2055

The bear went in and out of the bushes, eating steadily along the way.  Again I was reminded how easily they can disappear within the vegetation – they are a part of the land and seem to join it and separate at will.

Kananaskis Grizzly 152 in the rain - © Christopher Martin-2343

Kananaskis Grizzly 152 in the rain - © Christopher Martin-2505

Kananaskis Grizzly 152 in the rain - © Christopher Martin-2028

 


A smiling Grizzly in Kananaskis

Kananaskis Grizzly 152 - © Christopher Martin-1046

A couple of hours after watching a Black bear in a patch of Buffalo berries, I found this Grizzly in another one a few kilometres away.  She appeared to be a very happy bear, taking some anthropomorphic liberties, I even thought she smiled a few times as in the photo above!

Kananaskis Grizzly 152 - © Christopher Martin-1335

This female’s tag has the number 152 and she has spent her life in Kananaskis Country according to what I could find online.  With the poor berry crops of the previous two years, it is not surprising she is without cubs this year.  I hope that the much better fortune this year will lead to her and the other females in the central Rockies bringing many cubs out of their winter caves next spring.

Kananaskis Grizzly 152 - © Christopher Martin-1000

At one point, the Conservation officer attending blew the fog horn which startled the bear into a short run. One that ended at the next berry patch.

Kananaskis Grizzly 152 - © Christopher Martin-1277

She dug up the ground near the second patch a little bit too.  I expected her to be solely focused on the berries but maybe a few roots made for a better, and more complete, lunch.

Kananaskis Grizzly 152 - © Christopher Martin-1176

When she turned around to dig in another spot, it was impossible to not stare at those incredible claws!

Kananaskis Grizzly 152 - © Christopher Martin-1162


Fine dining in the woods

Kananaskis Black bear in Buffalo berries - © Christopher Martin-0907-3

This summer’s weather – rain and sunshine in a daily tug-of-war – has been a perfect gardener for the wild Buffalo berries.  These have ripened over the past week or two and are drawing in the bears throughout Kananaskis.  This Black bear made it easy for me to find him when he sauntered across the road a couple of hundred metres in front of me.  I pulled up to find him standing up in the middle of a patch feasting on the berries.

Kananaskis Black bear in Buffalo berries - © Christopher Martin-0908

They are a great source of calories for the bears so it is wonderful to see so much fruit this year.  Some years are not nearly as abundant and it seemed like that was not lost on this beautiful bear.  He appeared to be relishing almost every bite.  The berries stretched back into the forest and he slowly made his way further back as he ate.  I lost sight of him shortly after these pictures but could see branches bend and hear the odd one crack for several more minutes before he vanished back into the wilderness as they often do.

Kananaskis Black bear in Buffalo berries - © Christopher Martin-0915


Eagle fishing in the Banff National Park

Eagle fishing in Banff - © Christopher Martin-5085

I watched this eagle glide across the Vermilion Lake from its nest on the far side.  Ahead of his arrival on the shore in front of me, waterfowl and a couple of Great blue heron scattered in all directions.  The eagle flew higher and circled a couple of times, staring into the water.  He dove, his claws slicing the water, but finding no joy.  The raptor pulled up into a branch of a dead tree to reconsider its approach.

Eagle fishing in Banff - © Christopher Martin-5077

Eagle fishing in Banff - © Christopher Martin-5078

Twenty minutes passed before his second flight.  He flew in a wide arc, gaining a little more altitude.  The birds that had been on the water, had not returned so the eagle had a clean line this time.

Eagle fishing in Banff - © Christopher Martin-5086

He dove, again, and this time his talons came off the surface with a fish in their grasp.

Eagle fishing in Banff - © Christopher Martin-5089

The fish was quickly moved from talons to beak and then swallowed mid-flight.

Eagle fishing in Banff - © Christopher Martin-5093

The eagle flew back up to the same tree and settled on a branch near where it had been pestered by the blackbird earlier.  From there, I hoped he would fish again and I waited for more than an hour.  Along the way, he called out a few times which gave some interesting head and beak positions to photograph.

Eagle fishing in Banff - © Christopher Martin-5253

Eagle fishing in Banff - © Christopher Martin-5420


Buzzing a Bald eagle

Eagle and Blackbird in Banff - © Christopher Martin-5036

This Bald eagle perched along the southern shore of the first of the Vermilion Lakes in the Banff National Park.  A Redwing blackbird did not like this visitor and buzzed the much larger creature.

 

 

 


A Great gray owl in Redwood Meadows

Great gray owl in Redwood Meadows - © Christopher Martin-3782-3

I’ve lived in Redwood Meadows for over 9 years and have never photographed a Great gray owl in the daylight here.  A little while ago, I was driving back from Bragg Creek and spotted this owl perched on a fence post.  I watched him in the sun for a little while before he flew.  Then he quickly moved from post to post for a couple of minutes, with short breaks between flights.

Great gray owl in Redwood Meadows - © Christopher Martin-3714

Great gray owl in Redwood Meadows - © Christopher Martin-3730

Great gray owl in Redwood Meadows - © Christopher Martin-3735

Great gray owl in Redwood Meadows - © Christopher Martin-3736

Great gray owl in Redwood Meadows - © Christopher Martin-3737-2

Great gray owl in Redwood Meadows - © Christopher Martin-3738

Great gray owl in Redwood Meadows - © Christopher Martin-3748

Great gray owl in Redwood Meadows - © Christopher Martin-3749

Eventually he flew to the top of a nearby tree for a better view.  That did not last long and he flew directly in front of me as he crossed the road (the first photo int his story) and flew into the heavier forest on the edge of the Tsuu T’ina Rodeo and Pow Wow grounds.

Great gray owl in Redwood Meadows - © Christopher Martin-3780

 


An evening with Grizzly bears in Yellowstone

Yellowstone Grizzly bear mom and cubs at dusk - © Christopher Martin-9331

The second time I crossed paths with this family of Grizzly bears it was deep into dusk.  I spotted the mother in the hill above the Swan Lake Flat about an hour earlier but quickly lost her and the cubs in the rolling slopes as they made their way down.

Yellowstone Grizzly bear mom and cubs at dusk - © Christopher Martin-9292

When they did appear it surprised me how close they got before I saw them.  Knowing the size of an adult Grizzly, it showed me how high those hills are.  The trio walked and grazed, with he twins play fighting along the way, towards the Grand Loop Road eventually settling about 150 metres away.

Yellowstone Grizzly bear mom and cubs at dusk - © Christopher Martin-9348-3

The failing light made photographing the bears a fun challenge.  The golden halos created by the glow from the western horizon being caught by the hair in their coats was amazing.  That alone was more than worth the wait.

Yellowstone Grizzly bear mom and cubs at dusk - © Christopher Martin-9360

Yellowstone Grizzly bear mom and cubs at dusk - © Christopher Martin-9395

Yellowstone Grizzly bear mom and cubs at dusk - © Christopher Martin-9352

Yellowstone Grizzly bear mom and cubs at dusk - © Christopher Martin-9423

They moved parallel to the road for about 20 minutes before heading back into the hills.

Yellowstone Grizzly bear mom and cubs at dusk - © Christopher Martin-9481


A family of Grizzly bears in Yellowstone

Yellowstone Grizzly bear mom and cubs - © Christopher Martin-8002
This mother Grizzly bear brought her cubs down to this sage brush meadow on the Swan Lake Flat above Mammoth Hot Springs several times in the four days that I was in Yellowstone National Park.  Two of those walkabouts coincided with me being in the area so I was able to watch them for a couple of hours in total.  These photographs are from the first encounter in the evening on May 20th.

Yellowstone Grizzly bear mom and cubs - © Christopher Martin-7922

The twins were playful.  Carefree knowing their mother was watchful of the crowds that invariably developed along the Grand Loop Road as well as for any Grizzly males who might cross their path.

Yellowstone Grizzly bear mom and cubs - © Christopher Martin-8030

The mother had a lot of character in her face, with a bit of a bend in her snout and lighter colouring in the fur in the outer disc.

Yellowstone Grizzly bear mom and cubs - © Christopher Martin-8108

Both cubs tackled each other, bared their teeth and tried on attacks and defences back and forth.

Yellowstone Grizzly bear mom and cubs - © Christopher Martin-8045

For the most part, momma didn’t mind but when they drifted too far away a huff from her would send them scrambling back to her side.  She was hungry and spent her time digging up roots but did play with them a little bit.

Yellowstone Grizzly bear mom and cubs - © Christopher Martin-8154

Occasionally, the little bears would stop and watch the people watching them.  I wondered what they made of all of us hugging the edge of the road, lined up facing them.

Yellowstone Grizzly bear mom and cubs - © Christopher Martin-8214

Yellowstone Grizzly bear mom and cubs - © Christopher Martin-8173

Yellowstone Grizzly bear mom and cubs - © Christopher Martin-8126

I watched the trio for an hour that evening.  With the shadows lengthening, they moved slowly away from the road into the rolling hills eventually melting into the plateau.  Before then, I took the opportunity to frame them in their surroundings.

Yellowstone Grizzly bear mom and cubs - © Christopher Martin-8249

Yellowstone Grizzly bear mom and cubs - © Christopher Martin-8258-2

 


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 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


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