Posts tagged “bird photography

Summer with the great grays

It was a great spring to spend lot of time with these majestic owls.  For many years there have been several pairs of great gray owls that I’ve been able to photograph hunting and resting on perches in and around forests near my home.  I’ve never taken it for granted.  Happily the great spring has continued into summer.  Here are a few of my favorites from July so far.

 

 

 


Avocets at Frank Lake in May

I went to Frank Lake in early May.  A short drive east of High River, this is a wetland controlled by Ducks Unlimited Canada and is designated as an Important Bird Area.  The migratory and summer populations both have a large variety of bird species.  I enjoy photographing there – it’s a beautiful location on the prairies, has abundant wildlife and offers a wide area across three basins to explore.

American avocets are one of my favorite shorebirds.  On my last visit, I had great opportunities to photograph them from mid-afternoon through dusk.  These are a few of those images.  Thank you for having a look.


Eagles in the Columbia Valley

At the end of March, I had some time in Radium with my family.  I spent the mornings meandering along the Columbia River as well as some of the valley’s ponds and puddles.  This area of British Columbia seemed a couple of weeks further into spring than my home in Bragg Creek in Alberta.  Green was starting to show on the trees and in the grassland.  And on one lake, ice was still covering most of its surface.

The open water offered fish and the ice had some kind of insect, slug or some such on it.  Ravens and bald eagles were drawn in by both.  Over a couple of days I had some great opportunities to watch both and their occasional interactions.

 

 


A long-eared owl hunting

The long-eared owl has proven to be an elusive target for me photographically for many years.  I’ve heard them call, or seen them in dim light but not been fortunate enough to get time with them in decent light.  That happens in wildlife photography but hope springs eternal!  Last week I was looking for great gray owls west of Calgary with two visiting photographers and luck broke our way.

Driving along a quiet back road we found this beautiful bird perched on a fence line in mid-afternoon sunshine.  It was cold but the owl seemed comfortable and even a little dozy.  The eyes closed a few times broken up by broad sweeps of the fields in front and the bushes behind.  We moved off the road and walked a little closer before setting up the long lenses on the various supports.  A little while passed and then the long-eared started to twist her head  while her eyes fixated at a point in the snow a few meters away from the fence.

This carried on for a few minutes and was accompanied by more sweeps.  I was not sure we would see a dive into the snow or if the owl would lose track of the rodent under the snow. It didn’t and we did.  In a very quick change from being stationary, she swept into the air and then plunged towards the ground and into the snow.

Most of her body disappeared as the snow was knee-deep.  That did not have any impact on her accuracy.  She pulled the rodent out of the snow and swallowed it in one gulp.

She repaired to the post, made another flight – this time over the brambles behind – then returned to the fence.  We headed off, leaving her to her field, and continued scouting for great grays. We found a couple in beautiful light – I will share those photographs soon.


How lucky I am! Another snowy owl flying on the prairie.

In one of the canals east of Dalemead I found this snowy owl.  It was on the right of way road above the watercourse beside the long grass.  I walked down the road a little closer and settled into the snow at an angle I could photograph the bird with the sun lighting her front.  I had hopes of the owl flying in my general direction when she chose to continue hunting.

A bit of time passed with her sweeping the landscape and reacting whenever a new sound was heard or bit of motion was seen.  The temperature was much warmer than the rest of February had been so it was a rather pleasant wait. Eventually she started to get more active, preening and shaking out her feathers.  When she jumped off of the snow, she stayed low for a few wingbeats.

Then she banked and passed in front of me.  That was wonderful and on the outer edge of what I was hoping for.



 


A crow’s silhouette

 

Raven's silhouette - © Christopher Martin-8363-2

Crows, like ravens, are known as clever birds but I think their beauty is under appreciated.  The iridescent purples and blues that can shimmer out of their black feathers are wonderful.  A couple of weeks ago, I watched a few crows flush off a fence near Cochrane.  I tracked this one and got lucky with this shot.  I loved the shape of the silhouette and how a tiny bit of that iridescence can be seen on one wing.


A snowy glance

Favoured by a snowy glance - © Christopher Martin-9302

There is something magical when you lock eyes, however briefly, with a wild animal in their environment.  Last weekend this snowy owl favored me with a long glance as it flew over the prairies.  Here is the little story behind this image.

Favoured by a snowy glance - © Christopher Martin-9139

I was driving the country roads east of Calgary and spied this owl on the top of a small hill a fair distance from the road.  The image above was taken with a big telephoto (500mm) so the bird was likely a kilometer away.  Distance can be a bit tricky on the prairie so I may be a bit off but it was too far away for any of the shots that I was looking for.  I left the car and slowly trudged up said hill on a parallel line from the owl.  I don’t like to spook animals so slowness is key when approaching and lot’s of stops to watch closely for signs of pressure in the bird.  After 45 minutes I was about 60 meters away, the owl continued to scan the fields from the high ground and I settled into the snow.

Favoured by a snowy glance - © Christopher Martin-9189

The sun shone, the owl dozed a bit between scans and I had an internal dialogue about the sanity of sitting on a bare hilltop on a cold day.  It had warmed up compared to earlier in the morning when I photographed a prairie falcon a few kilometers away but a steady breeze kept things chilly.  None of that really mattered though, I was happy to be sharing time with the owl.

Favoured by a snowy glance - © Christopher Martin-9280

Another 15 minutes passed and then so did a couple of ravens.  As they flew overhead the owl tracked them closely.  That seemed to stir her energy up and shortly after they passed she ruffled up her feathers, stamped a little bit and then took flight.

Favoured by a snowy glance - © Christopher Martin-9297

She flew eastward into the sun which lit her beautifully.

Favoured by a snowy glance - © Christopher Martin-9300-4Favoured by a snowy glance - © Christopher Martin-9303.jpgFavoured by a snowy glance - © Christopher Martin-9301-3.jpg

After a couple of wingbeats she looked my way and then stared at me for a couple more.  Was it curiosity, an acknowledgement of the encounter, her saying goodbye?  Probably not any of those but it was powerful, and as I said before, magical.

Favoured by a snowy glance - © Christopher Martin-9305-2


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.