Birds

Spring flight – a great gray owl in the evening

I saw this owl perched in the middle of a field of bushes at first.  The sun was getting low so I felt lucky to have found her before it became too dark to photograph.

She flew low over the foliage and dropped into them for a moment – disappearing from view.  A blur of motion behind a line of still wintering trees caught my eye and I followed her as she landed on a branch halfway up the last of these trees.

A few minutes later, she flew across the field once again and disappeared into the forest.

All the while, her mate had been perched at the top of an evergreen in the middle of the bushes and I turned my attention to him for a little while.  The light failed quickly and I headed home leaving the lone owl at his viewing tower.


Gulls in motion under the city lights

Last week one of the snowstorms that came through Calgary picked up intensity after dark.  I was staying downtown near the Bow River and watched as the increasing snowfall was illuminated by the city lights above one of the bridges crossing the water.  A silhouette sped in front of a light at one moment and then a dozen more did the same the next.

A colony of gulls threw waves of their silhouettes into the storm circling low over the water and then above the lights for several minutes before they appeared to settle down.

I don’t know if it was the weather, disturbance by a someone or something or members returning to congregate for the night but they were excited for a short while.  I loved the grainy sky created by the snow and the shape of these dark blurs as they flew into and out of the light.


Gulls in flight at Carburn Park

I like photographing birds – no surprise to those who follow this blog.  I’m not a birder with a long list of life birds but I really enjoy watching almost every bird I see, particularly when they are in motion.  Several days ago at Carburn Park the sky was overcast, snow fell and wind out of the north had a bit of a bite to it.  A great day to watch and photograph along the Bow River.

At one bend there was a small colony of California gulls.  A few flew off in the time I watched them.  Although these gulls are common around Calgary’s rivers through the winter, and can be easily found at any time, I had fun watching these ones fly by.

 


Welcome to the first day of spring

My children reminded me last night that today is the vernal equinox which marks the first day of spring.  It has been a severe winter here in southern Alberta so it is a little hard to believe spring could be arriving soon.  Last Sunday I was photographing at Carburn Park – one of Calgary’s beautiful parks along the Bow River – photographing ducks, geese and gulls along the water.

Snow fell through the day, wind blew in from the north and clouds slid low over the city.  I enjoyed the inclement weather for its photographic potential but I had no thoughts of spring as I went along for a few hours.

When I spied an American robin among the rocky shoreline, I have to admit I was surprised.  It looked and felt like winter – particularly on this day – but robins are wonderful harbingers of spring and I happily welcomed their presence as a sign of that change.  I dropped down to the ground and soon found that robin and seven others flitting about the rocks.  They know more than I do about season change or else they wouldn’t be here.  I hope you enjoy a beautiful spring!


Chickadees in late afternoon sunshine

Through the winter, there are chickadees that hang out in my backyard.  On Sunday afternoon, I found a few of them pecking seeds out of the fresh snow below the feeder.

I took a few minutes to photograph them when the sun had dropped low enough to backlight them and the speckles of snow their pecking threw into the air.

A boreal chickadee came at the last and flitted about for a few seconds before flying off in a spray of glistening snow.


My favourite wildlife photographs from 2017

It took a little longer to find time to complete my review of my wildlife images this year.  Due largely to general busyness and some measure of procrastination.  So I appreciated the irony that one of the areas I have put a lot of thought into, and work to improve, is patience.  Looking back, this focus on waiting is helping me to get closer to the wildlife imagery that I want to be creating.  Waiting for the animals, waiting on their schedule for something to happen, can be a challenge – sometimes, like in the cold, a significant one.  I’m happy that I laid down on the snow, crouched in marshes, hiked into valleys and froze my fingers to find those opportunities and try to do something with them.

The 2017 gallery can be viewed at this link or by clicking on any of the pictures in this post.

A comparison with my 2016 wildlife gallery suggests some subtle changes.  I see exploration into some ideas, blurs for one, that is interesting.  I’ve been trying to bring more imagination into my wildlife images.  Lot’s more to work on there.

Comparing years past with the last one, I like the direction and that stirs up the motivation coals.  The latter always being a good thing, I think.


Flashback Friday: Pelicans flying over the Sea of Cortez

It has been a couple of years since I went to Cabo San Lucas.  Thinking about an image for Flashback Friday, one from a spectacular sunrise there came to mind.  The fiery sky had me thinking about where to set up for a landscape shot when I saw a brief of brown pelicans flying low over the water.  I switched to my camera with a telephoto lens attached and watched as they rose off the water.  This let their silhouettes contrast sharply from the background.  That got me excited and I squeezed off a couple of photos before they dropped down again and continued southwards.

If you are interested in seeing a few more images like this one, here is another photo from the same flight which I posted that morning in December 2014.  And, another post where one pelican flew very close to me a couple of days later and I isolated the lone bird against the sky and the rising sun.

A few minutes later, I returned to landscape hunting and was not disappointed in any way with what nature laid out before me.

 


A morning at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

A couple of weeks ago, I walked with a friend down to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary.  Canada geese were massed along the Bow River in and around the cold water. Flights of these birds came in and out all morning.

I dragged the shutter and panned with the birds as they flew past to create blur and lend motion to the images.

A very enjoyable couple of hours went by and then my friend had to leave.  I elected to stay and walked down the iced over path that parallels the Bow along the eastern edge of the bird sanctuary.

A young stag trotted along the rocky beach right in front of me at one point.  He stopped for a few seconds out of mild curiosity before skipping around the corner and quickly going out of sight.

An immature bald eagle alighted in a tree across the water a few hundred meters away.  It was watching the geese that congregated near the water intently.  After half an hour it launched into the air, crossed the river and flew directly overhead.  I love eagles so this was a highlight of the morning for me despite the somewhat harsh lighting.

The day was close to noon by then and I headed towards the ponds.  A couple of magpies were making a terrific racket which drew my attention.  Looking in the dense stand of trees I spied a great horned owl calmly perched a couple of meters off the ground.  She stayed mostly oblivious to the angry birds and they soon moved on.  I returned to check on the owl a couple of times in the afternoon but she was napping for the most part so I didn’t photograph much.  It was unseasonably warm so I enjoyed spending time with the owl with no expectation for more.

 


Flashback Friday – owl to perch flight

A couple of years ago I watched this owl hunting in the snow west of Bragg Creek.  It was a relatively warm day for March and this great gray was active for a long while before launching off of a fence post and flying upwards to this skeletal tree.  I liked how the eyes are locked on the landing spot in this image.  The overcast sky and bare branches suited the gray feathers backlit against the clouds.


Flashback Friday – squabbling geese on Two Jack

The ice started to recede on Two Jack Lake in late April this year.  Waterfowl was drawn to the open water as they migrated back to Banff National Park.  Some birds were resting briefly before continuing further north.  For a small gaggle of Canada geese, they seemed to be planning for a longer stay.

At one point, one goose decided to chase another.  The target flew off and was joined by his mate and they landed at another opening.  Perhaps this was a territorial “discussion”.  For me, it yielded a series of images with the aggressor splashing, flying and skimming across the water.  The bird banked around the small cove towards me so I was in a great position to photograph him.




The remaining couple settled down quickly and returned to paddling on the water.  A little while later one laid don near a stand of trees while the other went to the edge of the ice that still covered most of the lake.


A chickadee surrounded by autumn

 

This black-capped chickadee chirped and sang from the woods beside a small peninsula on Upper Kananaskis Lake.  I sat down and waited for a little while to see if it would come into view.  They are curious little birds and it didn’t take long for this one to perch among the golden leaves nearby.  With a quick check done, it soon flitted off and I continued on towards the windswept side of the lake across the peninsula.

 


Flashback Friday – a loon shakin’ on the Vermilion Lakes

This past summer I spent a lot of time at the Vermilion Lakes in Banff National Park.  I was drawn there by a pair of common loons who nested on the third lake this year.  This photograph was from May 27th at 5:41 am on a morning when I was alone with the loons and their beautiful, haunting calls to one another.  After diving, they preen their feathers and eventually lean back, unfold their wings and vigorously flap them to shed water.  This process always fascinates me and I love the way the still images look.   It starts slowly, with the bird shifting their weight and then stretching out the wings while raising their bodies off the water.  The flapping then starts and builds to a crescendo with the loon’s head pointing straight up, wings blurring furiously and water drops spraying off in all directions.  And then it ends with the bird dropping back into the water and carrying on preening, diving or paddling along.  The whole cycle lasting roughly 3-5 seconds.  The image below is that peak in the cycle where it seems the bird itself might fly apart.