Wildlife

A Cormorant in motion on the Bow

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I spent an evening on the Bow River at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary on the weekend.  It was a beautiful day, warmly lit in golden light, and I had a great time photographing the birds well into dusk.  Among the birds nearby were a few Double-crested cormorants fishing and flying around.  I photographed as they flew or swam by.  They are exceptionally fast birds and they often fly just above the water at speed which is exciting to watch.  After the sunlight had left the river, I caught sight of one of these cormorants moving upriver.  Darkness was starting to settle in so I dragged my shutter in order to use the lack of light to pan with the bird as it passed me.  I used a shutter speed of 1/40th of a second and it worked out pretty well.


Walking through autumn

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This beautiful moose looked amazing in this autumn meadow.  Snow in Moraine Lake that morning, was rain lower in the valley.  This created a glow in the grass and a shine on her coat.

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She crossed the meadow slowly, grazing as she went along, before she slipped up into the forest.  I continued west along the Bow Valley Parkway and met up with a Grizzly to continue a particularly great day.

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Autumn Grizzly in the park

autumn-grizzly-in-the-banff-national-park-christopher-martin-4206Autumn strode confidently into the Banff National Park at the beginning of September.  While some berries and flowers were still producing their best work of the year, much of the foliage has started to turn with grass yellowing and leaves falling.  It is a beautiful season in the park (but I would have to say that I like them all!).  A couple of weeks ago I found this Grizzly bear in the Bow Valley between Lake Louise and the Castle Junction.  It moved steadily through the palette of fall colors, eating berries as it found them.

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It left this hillside meadow after a while and melted into the forest.  I caught sight one more time and could see it watch me for a second before continuing on and easily disappearing again.

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A beast in the bushes

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When Kian and I left Jasper we headed home via Highway 93A, which runs parallel to the main road but was much quieter and proved to be a great start to the end of our boys weekend in the national park.

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We spotted this black bear almost a kilometre ahead and it was kind enough to wait by the roadside until we drew near.  When we pulled up beside, the bear had settled onto a Buffalo berry bush.  The berries were pulled free, the bear slowly moved forward and my son and I watched as the moments crawled past.  It was cool to share that experience with Kian.

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Eagles flying at the Mount Lorette Ponds

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This year I have photographed a pair of Bald eagles who nested at the Mount Lorette Ponds.  These small lakes in Kananaskis are stocked with Rainbow trout most years so these eagles have obviously found an excellent location to summer.  On this morning in mid-August the day took a little while to warm up which saw both birds perch in the trees nearby.  I waited for a couple of hours for a fish catching run with no luck.

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The luck I did have was watching these two beautiful animals as they surveyed their land below.  One eagle was more active early and flew to different trees a few times before disappearing into the forest above the water.  I hiked around for a bit before returning and finding one over the water again while the other perched on the edge of that forest.

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A fight over a fish

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The pair of Ospreys who summer on the Castle Junction bridge’s nest raised two chicks through adolescence this year.  When I spent a day watching them in August that meant there were four of these raptors, now all very close to the same size, interacting with one another on and around the bridge area.  Flying, fishing, chasing and fighting over fish dominated the moments of action amid a lot of time spent perching over the river up in the trees that line that stretch of the Bow River.

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I spied this Osprey when it alighted on a weathered log with a freshly caught meal.  By the time I walked a few hundred metres so that I was directly across the river from the bird, it was no longer alone.  Ospreys have excellent vision, roughly twice the distance capabilities of humans, so it was no surprise that company arrived quickly.  Another Osprey landed close by, shrilly announcing its arrival and crying out for a share of the sushi.  The successful fisher had no interest in sharing and resisted all advances from the other to do so.

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Over the next four hours, I watched this bird defend its prize from sneaky grabs for a scrap, frustrated attacks, a couple of near dive-bombs and outright theft!  Throughout, the Osprey nibbled away on the fish – whether another bird was nearby or not.  The other Osprey never ganged up on their family member but I’m pretty sure two of the three made individual advances.

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With the repeated flybys the interloping Ospreys gave me some great opportunities for in flight shots that were interesting and new for my library.  The low to ground shots in particular.

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The birds were aware of my presence, I didn’t blend in with the rocks on the shoreline.  I didn’t move around much and, with the river between us, I felt confident that I was not impacting their behaviour and so I enjoyed the opportunity to watch the family dynamics play out.

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Several times the Osprey clutched the fish in one talon and looked to be getting ready to fly.  That didn’t happen – the bird didn’t stray more than a couple of metres from the log and stayed on it for most of the time.  That made me suspect this was an adolescent with little experience flying with fish but given the size, and the fact that it had caught the fish in the first place, I’m definitely not sure.

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Steadily the Osprey worked away on dinner, despite the numerous distractions, and finally finished all but the smallest scraps.  Shortly after finishing the Osprey flew off down the river.  It flew across my sight line affording me a nice flight series – a fun little reward after four hours crouching among the rocks.  I watched it all the way back to the nest where it few around a couple of times before I lost sight of it.  I hiked back to the bridge and came back to the shoreline a short stone’s throw from the Ospreys new perch.  Again, it took note of me and then continued looking down the river and up at the nest.  Several minutes went by before the bird launched and flew up to the nest.

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Tail slapping at Wild Rose

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A couple of weeks ago I spent the morning at the Wild Rose ponds in West Bragg.  I watched this beaver swimming on the far side of the pond for several minutes before turning away to watch the sunrise.  I realized she had kept coming my way when I heard the first tail slap on the water.  She was about 15 metres away and had set a course parallel to me and the shoreline.  I took this photograph of her as she raised her tail for another slap.  She wasn’t too happy with my presence so I moved along after one more slap.


Ospreys at the Castle Junction

Osprey in flight - © Christopher Martin-0876

Last week I spent a day walking, sitting, waiting and watching along the Bow River in the Banff National Park.  I was enthralled with the comings and goings of four Ospreys centred around their part of the river at the Castle Junction between Banff and Lake Louise.

Osprey banking in flight - © Christopher Martin-8729

My last visit with them was in April and there were only two of these sea hawks flying around.  It was wonderful to see their two chicks now almost fully matured.

Osprey on the nest - © Christopher Martin-7707

Four large raptors on one nest, even theirs which is massive, is pretty crowded accommodations.

Osprey in the Castle Junction - © Christopher Martin-8851

The parents seemed very feisty with the young ones, cajoling them to get airborne with squawks and dive bombs.

Ospreys around their nest - © Christopher Martin-8807

Amid all of the excitement, the birds circled the nest, perched in the trees over the river and they flew nearby several times.  I would imagine they will migrate south in less than a month so I will try to get back to spend time watching them before they go.

Osprey in flight - © Christopher Martin-0871

Banff Osprey in flight - © Christopher Martin-8733

Osprey fishing flight - © Christopher Martin-8049

Osprey fish flight - © Christopher Martin-8051

Osprey fish fight - © Christopher Martin-0962

Ospreys in flight - © Christopher Martin-8684


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.

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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