Birds

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.


A short study of an old friend

I’m not sure if it’s the attractive color scheme, the way they move through water or something more ethereal that draws me to the avocet.  This is a bird that I am endlessly curious about and it steals time from other shorebirds whenever I cross ones path.  Last weekend at Frank Lake was no different.

Spring at this wetland just east of High River has a myriad of summer residents settling in and migrating travelers on their way north.  This visit along the shoreline counted ibis, night herons, cormorants, killdeer and more fly by as the evening shadows slowly grew.  I photographed many of them but none as often as the avocets.

Most of these were paired up and the couples swam together or high stepped in the shallows  near one another while they fished.  I saw two sets skirmish over territory briefly.  However most just ambled along undisturbed – company to one another and disinterested in much else.

 


Chasing away the competition

The American avocets were mostly paired up along the stretch of shoreline along Frank Lake when I went there last night.  Here one avocet chased off another couple while the mate.  Apparently defending territory they had claimed at some point.


Fight or flight?

On a snowy day in early April these two geese charged each other repeatedly as I watched them on the edge of the ice at Wild Rose Lake.  Here the one Canada goose looks bemused by this emphatic display.


Robins in Tillebrook

A visit east included a short visit to the Tillebrook Provincial Park.  A few American robins were hunting the trees for winter berries.  The branches split up the sunlight and shadows into shafts and streaks that the birds danced through.