Wildlife

A raptor perched on an old house.

I had a beautiful encounter with a snowy owl on a barren hilltop near Namaka on Family Day.  That was preceded by a mutual fascination that this juvenile prairie falcon and I shared for a long-abandoned house on the prairies.

I was driving the backroads after sunrise primarily to look for snowies.  I like these drives on the winter prairie as the views are expansive and I always hope to see something unexpected.  I had not visited this worn out farmstead before and I stopped to have a look.  It was -27°C so I was content to take a couple of pictures out of the rolled down window – until I spied the falcon perched on the peak of the roof.  Then I got out and walked slowly closer.

After 15 minutes, I was set up beside one of the sheds a little ways off from the main house.  The falcon watched me approach but was more interested in scanning the field to the east.  I kept my lens trained on the roof for a few more minutes until the bird launched.

It flew over the field and out of my view.  I trudged back – it always seems farther and colder when returning from an encounter than it was getting there.  My hands were happy to get out of the wind and I was happy to have some nice images of this beautiful, hardy bird.


Snowy owl

I spent a few hours photographing this beautiful bird east of Calgary near Delacour.  The temperature, and the wind chill, conspired to make it a bit uncomfortable for me.  Not so for the owl, he appeared to take the cold with little interruption to normal operations.  He perched atop telephone poles and fence posts for long periods broken up by several flights low over the fields.  Three of those were successful hunts.  This image was from one of the scouting flights as he climbed towards a high perch.  I liked the interesting shape of his profile and the soft details in the background of this image.


A meeting in Bragg Creek

I went to the Bragg Creek Provincial Park just before the latest snowfall.  Wandering along the Elbow River, exasperated chirping voiced several nearby squirrel alerts accompanied me.

Curiosity took over one’s hesitations and he climbed down from a treetop to watch me from a branch a couple of meters off the ground.  I crouched low and stayed still and soon he was digging out a pine cone from the sticks and snow.

 

With the right one gathered, he raced back to the tree and had breakfast from the low perch.  It was interesting to watch how he whittled down the cone.  Clever, efficient and dextrous work.

Once done, he let out a few chirps.  Conveying either the all clear or the threat’s still here – or something else altogether – before leaping away.  A couple more jumps along with some branch runs and he was out of sight.  His and a few other chirps spun through the woods now and again as I continued wandering.


Bald eagle in Bragg

Found a bald eagle in a branch above a couple of ravens that were on the ground.  There must have been something that they were fighting over with the eagle for breakfast.  When the raptor launched it angled away from me but I had a good side shot for a second.


Happy holidays!

I hope you are enjoying time doing what you enjoy with those you love. We had an energetic start to the day with a dog’s temporary escape to visit the neighborhood, cleaning up from Santa’s whirlwind visit and enjoying the general madness. That’s given way to a relaxed afternoon with a gentle snowfall helping to set a calmer tone.

This white-winged crossbill was one of a mixed flock of finches, chickadees and nuthatches that I found hunting for seeds in a stretch of forest west of Bragg Creek yesterday. It was another energetic group and, looking back, seemed to be a little foreshadowing for this morning’s chaos. Looking forward, their community, cooperation and tolerance are some positive things to bring forward.


Hawk flight

A hawk launches out over the prairies.  Photographed in late August last summer.


Dippers and their questionable behavior

Not bad behavior, just one that I don’t pretend to understand.  When I was last at Elbow Falls, I photographed two American dippers as they flew, dove and splashed around the fast-moving water.  Along the way, one of the birds flew to an overhang beside the edge of the waterfall, and then slid on the ice before finding purchase in the snow.

It paused for a moment and then flew at the waterfall!

The bird flapped its wings to hover for several seconds only a few inches from the water where it fell over the edge.  I don’t know if it was looking for insects behind the water – surely not in the water itself!  Likely it was something else, maybe even simple curiosity or just because it could do it.  It was unusual and really fantastic to watch.


Dippers at Elbow Falls


American dippers are year round residents below the Elbow Falls.  When I was there before sunrise, I could hear an occasional chitter from one pair as they flew up and downstream.  As the day brightened I saw them a couple of times while I was photographing the landscape around the waterfall.

I shifted my attention to them and had two lengthy sessions photographing them.  The first began when I was taking the last couple of shots above the falls and noticed one dipper fishing in the small rapids there.  The bird splashed here and there, submerged in the flowing water and managed to hunt down a good number of insects in there.  After several minutes, breakfast concluded and the bird flew down the river and quickly went out of sight.

An hour’s wait separated me form the second encounter.  Eventually one of the dippers flew by and landed at rapids upstream from the falls.  That was too far for any reasonably interesting photographs but a second dipper followed only a little while later.  This one returned to pools above the waterfall which I have enjoyed watching them at often.  When the bird alighted in the water this time, I laid down on the snow to get close to eye level with the little bird.  I was well rewarded as it soon chose to ignore me and walked close by.


Harvest ravens

Late October provided a window of warm weather that gave farmers the opportunity to finish their harvesting.  Driving near the Springbank Airport, I saw the dust plume generated by a combine on one field and went to have a look.  Often, birds and coyotes can be drawn in looking for any dazed or dead rodents resulting from the harvester passing over their burrows.  These ravens were four of a much larger group that were following behind the tractor.  I watched these ones as they hopped and flapped around, cawing at one another while searching for food.


A short spell with a few of Invermere’s belted kingfishers

It seems longer than a month ago when Kian and I went to the Columbia Valley in British Columbia for the Labour Day long weekend.

(please click any image to see a higher resolution version)

We had a great time skateboarding in Invermere, touring around Fairmont and even did a little swimming which was unreasonably cold for the late summer.

Photography wasn’t the focus of our trip but, unsurprisingly, I fit a little in here and there.  Easily the best of these was our walk along the narrow channel of the Columbia River where it meets the northern tip of Windermere Lake.  We found five kingfishers chattering, flying and occasionally diving along the water.

This juvenile alighted on the pillar near us as we were watching another one flying on the far side of the river.  He stayed for several minutes.  Drawing a flyby from one kingfisher but mostly left alone to scout for dinner before the sun set.


Wood ducks shakin’ in YYC

Wood ducks are one of my favorite species of waterfowl (side note: that is a weird word!)  I love the plumage of both genders.  To me, they are among the most beautiful birds.  Beyond that, I like watching them paddling around, chasing one another and most of all splashing during their cleaning routine.

Last weekend I spent a couple of hours watching them carry on about their day.  Every now and then, one would separate from the raft of ducks, presumably to get some space, before dunking their head under the water several times, shaking the water off, flapping wings, rising out of the water and then repeating it for as long as they saw fit.  I didn’t tire of watching the water drops fly!


Inglewood reflection

I’m heading down to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary to see which migrating as well as resident birds are around on a wet, cool afternoon.  Kezia and I were down there together last weekend and found some wood ducks, a variety of gulls, one heron and a good number of Canada geese.  This one was paddling on one of the ponds near the river.  Kez and I both like the serene aspects of this scene.