Birds

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.

 


A dance with Sandhill cranes

Sandhill crane couples dance with each other.  I found this pair in a field west of Bragg Creek and was lucky to be able to watch them.

A few Canada geese watched the dance as well.  They seemed to watch with little interest.  Far less than me.

Sandhill crane dancing - © Christopher Martin-2992


Kingfishing on the water

A family of belted kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon) live and fish around a small lake west of Bragg Creek in Alberta, Canada.  They are tricky to photograph but a lot of fun to try.  Over a couple of hours there were a few close flybys.  Some I missed completely, they are very fast and can change direction instantly.  But there were a few that got closer to what I have in my head.  I’ll be back soon!


Incoming

I found a small marsh as the day moved towards evening.  There were a few blackbirds, shovelers and other ducks swimming around the pools between the tall grass.  This mallard circled overhead twice and then surprised me by landing in the middle of the grass.  I expected the water would be preferred but I don’t know enough about these birds to pretend to know anything at all.  I was very happy to be surprised and she looked amazing as she flared her wings to land.


Canada geese skirmishing on Frank Lake

The tall grass near the bird blind on Frank Lake is nesting ground for Canada geese, ibis, yellow-headed blackbirds, herons and more.  At dusk the cacophony rising up from these residents can be surprisingly loud.  There are birds chasing one another, others returning with material for their nest, food for their chicks as well as occasional territorial spats.  It’s an incredible spot to set up near the trails and watch life on a marsh.  On a visit there in early May the weather was warm and the sunlight before dusk was incredible.

Throughout the evening, the Canada geese were active with a couple being particularly feisty.  That presented some new image opportunities that I had not yet photographed which is always exciting for me.

When the sun set, the activity level along the shoreline rose noticeably.  All manner of birds flew overhead and low along the water.  Some of the geese moved their skirmishing to the small pond directly in front of me.  I didn’t move around and they seemed oblivious, or at least undistracted, by me – which was perfect.  I stayed until it was dark and loved every minute.




 


Around the edge with a red-winged blackbird

I took advantage of a Red-winged blackbird’s interest in me and photographed it among the reeds on the edge of the third of the Vermilion Lakes.  There were several blackbirds calling one another and flying between perches.  They would flit between the little islands of long grass on the lake, the trees hanging over the water and the bushes that filled in the shoreline.

This one came closer and stayed longer than the others which gave me a few good moments to photograph.


A heron’s portrait

There are a couple of great blue herons near Exshaw, east of Canmore.  In late April, before the greening up in the grass and the trees, I found this stark and beautiful scene with one of them pausing within it for a moment.


Watching owls fly in the Palouse

On the first day I was in the Palouse earlier this year, I found a great horned owl haunting an abandoned farmstead near Colfax.

My friends photographed the rolling hills and fields while I waited for the owl to fly.  Over the course of an hour or so her started up in a broken metal structure, flew over to a green field, returned to the farmhouse and alighted at the weather vane nearby.  At one point she met up with her mate in another field before leaving him when he stepped into the taller grass.  She hunted successfully twice but she was just out of sight both times.  I loved the even lighting from the overcast sky coupled with the varied scenes that she went through while I was there.


Loons on the lake in Banff National Park

I found a pair of common loons on the third Vermilion Lake in the Banff National Park on the weekend.  They were diving and skimming the water surface for food, enjoying the sunshine and paddling close to each other at different points.

The sunlight caught the iridescence in their feathers.  It is beautiful when the red eyes glow and the silky greens shimmer along their necks.