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Moose

Wildlife during a winter blizzard

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The snow started to fly on Friday and has kept falling through the weekend.  And, it’s cold!  I went touring west of Bragg Creek yesterday but saw very little – even when the sun came out for a couple of hours.  Today was a different story and I saw a couple of moose, some white-tailed deer and a small banditry of chickadees.

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Moose love the cold so I hoped to see them in one of their regular haunts.  I found this young bull grazing in the bushes.

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These chickadees, mostly black-capped with a couple of boreals, flitted around a fence line that’s long been fighting to hold back the bushes behind.  I’ve always liked watching these little birds – they move very quickly so it’s a nice challenge to photograph them.

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Alces alces in a Kananaskis snowstorm

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As dawn broke on a recent morning when I was up in Kananaskis, the skies were leaden and threatening to drop some form of precipitation.  It was cold and windy so it seemed an open question whether it would be rain, snow or a frozen mix of the two.  The weather foiled my plans for a sunrise shoot of Mount Kidd but made it an easy decision to drive further up the valley into the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.  I passed a few White-tailed deer but did not see much else on the way up.  Apparently I had an appointment (unbeknownst to me at the time) with this wonderful family of moose.  They were standing around this marsh in plain view beside the turn off of the Kananaskis Lakes Trail up to the Upper Lake’s parking lot and trailhead.

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The calf stayed close to her mom but was not very shy.  Staring at me several times to satisfy her curiosity about what I was and whether I was something of interest or not.  The bull was hidden within a few trees at first so it was a great surprise when I saw his antlers first come into sight.

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When a snowplow passed by, its scoop loudly grinding against the asphalt, the young one was startled and ran a little ways off from the roadside.  Mom followed and they munched along as they slowly headed into the forest.

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The bull was a magnificent creature.  Healthy and very confident, neither the vehicles nor my presence made any impression on him.  He kept his eyes on any activity around him but was focused on grazing.  I watched him for the next hour as he moved between trees, bogs and little fields.  Their ability to blend in and disappear, despite their size, was observed many times and always surprises me.

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The storm’s intensity ebbed and flowed through the morning and the snow followed accordingly.  At times falling hard, at times almost stopping completely.  Along with adjusting the camera settings to drag the shutter and blur the snow’s motion or freeze the flakes in action, it was a great setting to photograph these moose in.

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The bull kept an eye on the family as they went into the trees and eventually followed them away from the marsh.  The encounter ended shortly thereafter but I would not ask for anything more.  It was a great day in Kananaskis.

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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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A bold young moose

Moose calf in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-4834

This calf and his mother were in the Bragg Creek Provincial Park, grazing on the edge of the forest near the road.  With momma close by, the calf was bolder than I expected.  He stared at me from a few paces in the trees before crossing the road and walking very close to my car.

Moose calf in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-4751

Moose calf in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-4825

Moose calf in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-4846

Once he had checked me out, then he skipped back again and joined in snacking on the greenery.

Moose calf in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-4786


Two seasons, one day apart

Bragg Creek spring owl - © Christopher Martin-6690

April 17th was a warm day, even when I went out in the morning.  I photographed this Great gray owl perched over a field in the early golden light and it felt like summer was just around the corner.  Shortly before finding the owl, I spent a few minutes watching the moose below as it grazed on these brambles.  With lots of sunshine all day long, the temperature rose up to 20°C by the afternoon – which is lovely for this time of the year.

Bragg Creek spring moose - © Christopher Martin-6645
The next day, was a very different story as snow fell overnight and changed the land completely.  I happened to find another owl and another moose while I was out in the white winterland.  I am used to our wild weather swings but I still found the difference striking.

Bragg Creek spring owl - © Christopher Martin-6736
Bragg Creek spring moose - © Christopher Martin-6754

Priddis Moose

Priddis Bull Moose - © Christopher Martin-9415

On a cold morning in Priddis, this young bull was in an open meadow in the forest with a small group of females.  It was -20ºC which seems to be a temperature where moose like to be out of the forest.
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Priddis Bull Moose - © Christopher Martin-9463
Priddis Bull Moose - © Christopher Martin-9398
Priddis Bull Moose - © Christopher Martin-9468

Fall harvest

Autumn moose - © Christopher Martin-1449-2

A female moose (Alces alces) had a meadow full of leafy trees and bushes all to her self when I found her in West Bragg.  I hope to see a few more in these colorful settings before we roll into the next season.


Mother and calf: Moose in Kananaskis

Mom and calf - 2014 © Christopher Martin
In early April I went into Kananaskis along Highway 66 from Bragg Creek.  I was late getting out of bed and did not leave myself enough time to set up for a sunrise shoot.  I went for a short hike around Elbow Falls but returned to my car pretty quickly.  Heading back, I was scouring the hillsides and trees for wildlife.  I was lucky to catch this female just as she was stepping out of the forest.  The sun hadn’t cleared the mountains across the Elbow River so the moose was not yet in the sunlight.  I decided to set my camera up on my tripod and wait for a few minutes.

Funny face - 2014 © Christopher Martin
When the sun rose over the hill, the light was soft and warm so I was quite happy to sit quietly and watch as she moved around.

A little hidden - 2014 © Christopher Martin
Patience often pays off and it was true on this occasion.  After at least fifteen minutes of watching the moose casually grazing along the slope, I heard a couple of sticks break near where she had come out from the trees before.  A couple of minutes after that, a calf came out onto the hillside.

Forest watcher - 2014 © Christopher Martin
The young moose watched me with a bit of apprehension for a minute, but after a few checks with mom, started grazing and wandering around the scrub brush.

Got stick? - 2014 © Christopher Martin
The pair dined for a while occasionally eating together with mom always watchful as cars passed by or a strange sound came to her ears.  They were calm and it was special to be able to watch them.  I hope the buds, leaves and shoots start to grow soon so their rather austere winter diet is replaced.

Breakfast together - 2014 © Christopher Martin


A Christmas moose… or two

Bull moose grazing - 2013 © Christopher Martin
My parents and I went out for our fairly annual moose run this morning.  The kids give the drive to look for wildlife a pass as they were busy assembling new toys and reading new books.  We found two bull moose in a line of aspen along a ridge and watched them walking for a few minutes.  They dropped down through the deep snow into a meadow of scrubby willows nearby and set about grazing on the slender branches.

Antler free - 2013 © Christopher Martin
One of the moose had shed its antlers while the other still carried a beautiful rack.  Both were big, strong boys and it was great to see them in such good health here in the middle of winter.

Reaching up - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Aside from that, it was nice to share an encounter with these wonderful animals with my parents on Christmas morning.

A little shy - 2013 © Christopher Martin


Moose in Bragg Creek (now snow-free)

Mother Nature flipped a switch a week ago and now we are free of snow and the temperatures are t-shirt appropriate.  The moose probably aren’t excited about the warmer weather but I’m sure they are enjoying snacking on the new greenery.  Looking at the photographs of this young bull moose afterwards, it struck me that it has been about nine months since I have had snow-free backgrounds of moose.

A little shy - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Regarding the moose,  expect that they will start retreating for the cooler forest just after dawn pretty soon.  I think it is finally safe to say we are now coming out of the mild, but very long, winter here.

 


A Christmas Moose

A young bull moose - © Christopher Martin-7922

The cold continues which was great for our family wildlife drive this morning.  The moose we saw were scattered over a few different spots in West Bragg Creek.  This bull looked up with a small amount of interest and then went back to chewing branches.  I’ll take it as a good sign and wanted to share this image of a moose on Christmas Morning along with wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas.  I hope you have time to relax with those you love today and over the next few before many of us get wound up again.


Forest portraits of a Bragg Creek moose

Moose profile - © Christopher Martin-7302

When the mother and calf had retreated into the woods, this moose remained in the meadow and kept grazing.

On the down low - © Christopher Martin-7657-2

When she moved into a stand of brambles, I used larger apertures to minimize the depth of field to separate her head from the branches in the foreground and background.

Winter moose - © Christopher Martin-7580

The shallow plane of focus and a black and white conversion worked well for this image below.

In the brambles - © Christopher Martin-7372