I found this snowy owl perched along a forgotten fence line north of Lyalta (which is east of Calgary). After a trek across the field to get to about 60 meters away, I leaned against a post and waited. I set my exposure so that I would have a slower shutter speed at the start. I wanted to show some motion in the wings and estimated that 1/200th of a second would allow for that. Fifteen minutes later something drew his attention and he launched perpendicular to me and the fence.
I had two nice images of him flying towards the sun before he was past me. The first had a soft blur in the wings as they were near level. The other caught the wings at their full extension upwards. Both images kept the head sharp so luck played to my hand when I was panning with the bird. The shutter speed worked out well. I continue to try slower speeds but have yet to nail one of those with a sharp face. I will share those when I do.
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.
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.
October 20, 2017 | Categories: Banff National Park, Birds, Nature, Wildlife | Tags: alberta, Banff National Park, BIF, Branta Canadensis, canada geese, Canada Goose, Flashback Fridays, Two Jack Lake, wildlife photography | 6 Comments
A couple of days ago I spotted this bald eagle balanced atop a telephone pole. He was watching a small conspiracy of ravens gathered on a snow pile on the edge of a field in Springbank.
After a few minutes his curiosity seemed to get the best of him and we launched towards the group. He spiralled above them for a moment but must not have seen anything too appealing as he landed on another telephone pole instead of amongst the ravens.
Maybe it was just to have a closer look before deciding. Either way he decided not to stick around for long and flew a couple of hundred metres away and into a stand of trees isolated in middle of the field.
For the past couple of years, every November I start getting excited to see Snowy owls. That is the time that they start to return to southern Alberta after their summer nesting season in the Arctic. This year, Great gray owls and mountain landscapes kept me away from the Prairies until December. When I head out to the open fields east of Calgary, I crossed paths with three separate Snowies and a Red fox – truly a windfall of good fortune!
The first Snowy owl was perched on a telephone pole overlooking a farm field where the fox was hunting. She was content to swivel her head around to keep eyes on everything around but not very excited by me, the traffic passing by, the farm dog that barked now and again at the fox nor the fox herself. So relaxed, that she stayed put for almost two hours. It was -22°C and the wind made it feel cooler than that. I couldn’t blame her for not moving around too much but it was quite a while to wait. I maneuvered my car to the far side of the road so that I could keep a lens on her from my seat and waited. The light flattened out and the clouds formed a white sheet behind her but I didn’t mind too much – I was happy to spend time with my first Snowy this winter!
When she did launch off the pole, it was to glide down to the field. She skimmed low over the snow and grass before disappearing behind a small rise. I hopped out and walked along the fence to a vantage point where I could see the owl again. She looked like she was preening after eating a mouse but I didn’t see the attack if it did happen. She sat and watched some more, staring at me lazily a couple of times – and once with the focused laser beams as seen above! After a few minutes, she stood up and quickly took flight again.
I love watching owls take off – they have strong wingbeats that have a clipped range of motion which seems effective to get them into the air fast. The Snowy owls, along with the Great horned owls, are enormous as far as North American owls go so it is impressive how much power they generate. She flapped hard and then levelled off about 2-3 metres off the ground as she retraced her flight plan back towards the road.
Near the fence line she climbed up to perch on a new telephone pole’s insulator. Once settled, she puffed up her feathers – the one acknowledgement to the cold I saw from her this time out.
This year I have photographed a pair of Bald eagles who nested at the Mount Lorette Ponds. These small lakes in Kananaskis are stocked with Rainbow trout most years so these eagles have obviously found an excellent location to summer. On this morning in mid-August the day took a little while to warm up which saw both birds perch in the trees nearby. I waited for a couple of hours for a fish catching run with no luck.
The luck I did have was watching these two beautiful animals as they surveyed their land below. One eagle was more active early and flew to different trees a few times before disappearing into the forest above the water. I hiked around for a bit before returning and finding one over the water again while the other perched on the edge of that forest.
September 19, 2016 | Categories: Birds, Eagles, Kananaskis, Nature | Tags: alberta, animals, bald eagle, BIF, bird, Canada, flying, Kananaskis Country, Mount Lorette Ponds, nature, wildlife photography | 13 Comments
I found this Great horned owl and her mate flying around a long line of trees on the edge of a farm field east of High River. On this flight she flew at eye level, very close to where I had my camera and lens setup on a tripod. Too close to fit the whole bird in the frame but I was happy to get a sharp image.
Watching these two eagles for an hour back in March, I am convinced they are the pair who will occupy the large nest perched in these trees over a pond on a farm on the high prairie east of the Crowsnest Pass.
Both had no difficulty catching the ground squirrels in the fields surrounding the pond. When they did, they returned to this branch to eat – possibly for the company. It was very cool to be a stone’s throw away from the wonderful creatures. At close range, I was reminded how big these birds are.
Other eagles circled the water as well but none seemed paired up like these two which leads me to believe they “own” the nest. I’ll get back there soon and see where things stand now!
There were a lot of fun shots to choose from which I whittled down to these few here. It was, obviously, a well spent afternoon by my standards.
April 21, 2016 | Categories: Animals, Eagles, Wildlife | Tags: alberta, animals, bald eagles, BIF, birds, Canada, Crowsnest Pass, eagles, flying, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, wildlife photography | 18 Comments
This Great gray owl was hunting for field mice in West Bragg yesterday. It dove a few times, easily punching through the thin covering of snow left by Friday’s snowstorm. I watched it fly between fence posts before it flew up to this branch. It turned out to be a good vantage point as it caught a mouse on its next dive.
I do want to also wish everyone a Happy Easter! I hope everyone enjoys time with family and friends over the weekend. We started the morning with a fun hunt with yarn that led the kids to their respective jackpots. While we were outside, I looked for our resident rabbit but he was nowhere to be found – so no Easter Bunny photographs this year!
March 27, 2016 | Categories: Alberta, Animals, Owls, Wildlife | Tags: animals, BIF, bird in flight, bragg creek, Canada, Great Gray Owl, owls, spring, strix nebulosa, wildlife photography | 10 Comments
A pair of Bald eagles were drawn to Redwood Meadows today. My daughter and I spotted them flying overhead when we were on our way to grab an ice cream cone in Bragg Creek. We stopped going there and again on the way back. They were drawn by a deer that had died near the golf course. Ravens were on the ground while the eagles bided their time above in the nearby trees.
I have a deep admiration for Snowy owls. The range they cover, their adaptability, their calm repose they show when resting and their beauty while in flight are just the tip of a long list. This time of the year is exciting for me as it marks the return of these owls to the prairies. I was aware of recent sightings near Frank Lake and decided to head down there on the weekend. A beautiful sunrise greeted me shortly after I arrived and then I set about touring the backroads in search of these wonderful birds.
After an hour I found this owl perched on the fence dividing up the prairie. She watched me stop and get out of my car with some interest and then spent much of the next four hours ignoring me! I packed on as much glass as I had (a 500mm with a 1.4x extender) and crossed onto the field. She was a couple of hundred meters from the road so I took an indirect line to get closer and tried to make sure I didn’t make her anxious or uncomfortable. After 15 minutes I was about 30 metres away and she head her eyes closed more than open. The photograph above was one of the moments when she looked my way. Over the next hour and a half, the wind blew, she made two separate short flights low over the fields returning to a nearby fence post, I got chilled and she seemed to catch up on a fair bit of sleep. I loved sharing time there and when she finally flew off across the road and out of sight, I thought that was the end.
I was wrong. I returned to my car, packed things up again, and drove west back towards Frank Lake. About two kilometres down the road, there she was standing in a field of sticks close to the road. These dried out stalks made an interesting environment to photograph the owl in and I set up in the ditch so I was low to the ground. Looking at the time stamp on the image files, we stayed there for more than two hours, however it did not seem anywhere near that long. She started to become a bit restless for a few minutes before she flew. Preening feathers and looking around in all directions until she finally leaped back into the air.
I followed her to her intended destination which was a pair of grain silos just across the road. She alighted next to the open cover of one of the silos and I had a perfect spot to watch her leaning against my car.
The picture above was not the owl landing on the silo. There must have been mice in the silo because during the 20 minutes she perched on that lip she spent a fair bit of time looking down into hole. Staring intently mostly but a couple of times she spread her wings out and I thought she might dive in there. When she flew off, she followed the roofline down and disappeared from my view. I think she was chasing a mouse but I’m not sure if she caught it or not.
After a few seconds, the owl flew back into sight when it banked around the silos and crossed the road again. I followed her once again until she disappeared over the low rise. Again, I thought that was the end of this extended visit.
Again, I was wrong. She landed a little further down the road, I followed and we spent another hour watching one another. Well, me watching her and her paying much more attention to everything else.
The weather was changing fast with the wind carrying the clouds further east and leaving blue sky and sunshine behind. I think both the owl and I enjoyed that. I had bundled up so the chill was gone – the Snowy had no such challenges.
The encounter did truly end when she either grew tired of my company or was ready for a meal off of the prairie. A pretty fantastic experience for me.
December 9, 2015 | Categories: Alberta, Animals, Owls, Prairie, Wildlife | Tags: alberta, animals, BIF, bird, Bubo scandiacus, Canada, Canadian Prairie, flying, High River, owl, Snowy owl, wildlife | 24 Comments
February 27, 2015 | Categories: Alberta, Nature, Owls, Turtle, Wildlife | Tags: alberta, BIF, birds, blue sky, Bubo scandiacus, Canada, flight, flying, nature, owls, raptors, Snowy owl, wildlife | 4 Comments