Birds

A Steller’s Jay in Lake Louise

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On a snowy morning in Lake Louise, I found this Steller’s Jay up in the trees looking for breakfast along a trail that wound away from the water.  This one displayed the white markings around the eye which distinguish the Rocky Mountain subspecies from the other fifteen that are  present across North America.

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I did not expect to see this type of bird there at this time of the year.  That said, they are regular denizens of parks, public areas and other places where trees and people happen to meet.  Some will migrate but it is irregular and, with the mild start to winter this year, it is not surprising that this one, and likely a few more, have chosen to stay in the area.

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A Pileated evening in Bragg Creek

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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An owl on the other side

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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.

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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.

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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.

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In the presence of greatness

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A couple of weeks ago snow had fallen overnight and I went into Bragg Creek to see what I might be able to photograph in this prelude to winter.  I was thrilled when I spied this Great gray owl flying along an old fence line.  She looked amazing against the lightly blanketed grass and trees.  Her colouring made her appear as a piece of the forest in motion.

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This owl has a well-defined hunting ground that I’m familiar with.  That said, I hadn’t seen her in over a month until the week before this encounter.  That time it was dusk and my camera and I both had trouble focusing as she flew past.  She stared at me for several wing beats which looked fantastic.  However the images were soft and I came away disappointed for missing some great shots.  Persistence paid off, as it often does given enough of it, and she was even more engaging this time around.

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Keeping an eye on my whereabouts was a minor distraction to her hunting and she made three separate attacks over the half hour that I watched her.  One was successful and a fourth, when she disappeared into the deeper woods, seemed successful given what I could hear.

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She hunted on the north side of the gravel road for most of the time I was there.  This forest is open with relatively wide spacing between the mostly Aspen trees and tall grass filling in between.  On the south side, the forest is dominated by evergreens and is much denser.  I will share some more images of this owl from the other side tomorrow.

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A heron fishing in silhouette

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Walking back from the birds along the shoreline of the Bow River, I drew a line along the ponds in the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary.  The daylight was failing and the paths were in deep shadow.  The water reflected the southern sky where there were breaks in the surrounding forest.  In one of these bright patches, was a welcome surprise, there stood a Great blue heron, his profile silhouetted and motionless at first.

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The bird then moved slowly in the shallows and I loved watching as the hunter stalked the fish below.

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Within a couple of minutes, a strike came.  The water was pitch black to me but that did not help this fish.  The heron lifted its head out of the water with a very nice sized dinner I would imagine.

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Once finished, the heron continued to ply its trade, looking to have seconds.

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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.


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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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

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Buzzing a Bald eagle

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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 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

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Wild Rose’s Common Loons

Wild Rose's Common Loons - © Christopher Martin-4474

There have been three Common loons that spend each spring on Wild Rose lake in Bragg Creek.  Last weekend, I found them for the first time this year and watched them for swim, dive, call and chase each other around for an hour.  The morning light on the water was beautiful and made a great backdrop for these lovely birds.

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Loons need a long stretch of water to use as a runway to get airborne.  When this trio decided to leave, two flew along the far end of the lake away from me.  The third, fortunately for me, flew towards me and lifted into the air right beside me.

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Wild Rose's Common Loons - © Christopher Martin-4631

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Hanging out, flying around

Great horned owl near High River - © Christopher Martin-3980

These two Great horned owls flew between various perches among the strip of trees I found them in east of High River.  I watched them for two hours as the morning’s overcast sky brightened.  They were unsettled by ravens a couple of times but mostly seemed to be resting while keeping eyes on the fields they looked over.   When they did fly it was worth the wait.

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Great horned owls near High River - © Christopher Martin-3922

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Great horned owl near High River - © Christopher Martin-3464

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Great horned owl near High River - © Christopher Martin-3540

Great horned owl near High River - © Christopher Martin-3517