I like photographing birds – no surprise to those who follow this blog. I’m not a birder with a long list of life birds but I really enjoy watching almost every bird I see, particularly when they are in motion. Several days ago at Carburn Park the sky was overcast, snow fell and wind out of the north had a bit of a bite to it. A great day to watch and photograph along the Bow River.
At one bend there was a small colony of California gulls. A few flew off in the time I watched them. Although these gulls are common around Calgary’s rivers through the winter, and can be easily found at any time, I had fun watching these ones fly by.
My children reminded me last night that today is the vernal equinox which marks the first day of spring. It has been a severe winter here in southern Alberta so it is a little hard to believe spring could be arriving soon. Last Sunday I was photographing at Carburn Park – one of Calgary’s beautiful parks along the Bow River – photographing ducks, geese and gulls along the water.
Snow fell through the day, wind blew in from the north and clouds slid low over the city. I enjoyed the inclement weather for its photographic potential but I had no thoughts of spring as I went along for a few hours.
When I spied an American robin among the rocky shoreline, I have to admit I was surprised. It looked and felt like winter – particularly on this day – but robins are wonderful harbingers of spring and I happily welcomed their presence as a sign of that change. I dropped down to the ground and soon found that robin and seven others flitting about the rocks. They know more than I do about season change or else they wouldn’t be here. I hope you enjoy a beautiful spring!
This black-capped chickadee chirped and sang from the woods beside a small peninsula on Upper Kananaskis Lake. I sat down and waited for a little while to see if it would come into view. They are curious little birds and it didn’t take long for this one to perch among the golden leaves nearby. With a quick check done, it soon flitted off and I continued on towards the windswept side of the lake across the peninsula.
I watched this osprey bathe in a shallow stretch of the Bow River in the Banff National Park on the weekend. The splashing around and dunking under water reminded me of my son when he’s having a soak in the bathtub.
After delivering a fish to his mate, he flew off, gliding under the bridge the nest is built on top of.
He took a break to soak for a few minutes and then dry out his feathers for a couple more.
After a long shake, the Osprey flew back to a high point to better survey the water.
I hope that everyone is enjoying a Merry Christmas with those they love. We had an early start with Santa’s stockings for the kids starting the morning off right. Coffee helped the adults wake up, and then catch up, with Kezia’s and Kian’s enthusiasm. A lot of laughs, smiles and hugs – just what this daddy was looking for!
This Great horned owl was a patient subject when I was guiding a new friend and fellow photographer from Colorado around the prairies. We toured the gravel backroads east of High River and this was the first of three owls (two Great horned and one Snowy) we spent some time with. With the very light plumage, I think of it as a Christmas owl. It must be the season!
With warmest regards from my family to yours,
The fields and forests west of Bragg Creek have been owl havens for me in the spring and summer for several years. The autumn and winter encounters have been much less numerous but I added one more on the weekend. A couple of warm days had melted most of the snow in this meadow but on the morning I was out it was cold.
I had spotted this Great gray owl perched on a weathered fence post as I drove along the road. I pulled over, hopped out and crossed the fence to get the rising sun behind me and onto his front.
The day warmed up several degrees in the sunlight while I hung out with this beautiful raptor. I stayed there for a little over an hour and he made a couple of flights to alternate posts along the fence line. His focus on hunting seemed to take second place to warming up in the sunshine.
When I left he was staring intently at a spot in the long grass – I waited for another 20 minutes hoping an attack dive would come. His patience beat mine and I left with a few good flight photos, a smile and a thank you to this beautiful owl.
When I was in Shangri-La last month, I spent one day touring the Pudacuo National Park (also called Potatso; in Chinese it is 普达措国家公园). Not enough time by any stretch of my imagination but I enjoyed the time I had. In the morning I walked along the shoreline of Shudu lake and early on came across this White wagtail (Motacilla alba alboides) hunting for insects.
From this partly submerged perch, he flew down and skimmed the water’s surface. Each dive appeared to be successful and after a few minutes the bird flew into the trees and disappeared.
I found this Merlin feasting from a fence top perch near High River last weekend. I watched him for a couple of minutes before a hauling truck passed by. At that point, the noise and proximity disturbed this fellow and he took flight. He shot upwards with a couple of fast wing beats and then surprised me with a hovering break to grab another bite. It was likely a readjustment of the load but it was neat to watch.
With the prey in the right place, he then banked away over the prairie and settled in the grass a couple hundred metres away to finish his meal.
The many are the one
Fly over the world you have made
Share your vision with those who will see
Fly where you will and we will know you are
In time we will understand more of what is
And we will change as you change
We will fly in our way as you fly in yours
You are and we will be
Frank Lake is just east of High River in southern Alberta and is a great location for birding throughout the year. In the summer, ibis, herons, avocets, blackbirds, ducks, pelicans and a menagerie of other avians congregate there for their summer residence.
On a recent visit, I enjoyed watching and photographing a number of these birds. The Black-crowned night heron above was of particular interest to me as it stalked along this fence above a stream where it emptied into the lake.
Frank Lake, just east of High River, is a great refuge for birds during migrations. It also serves as a summer home and breeding ground for many shorebirds and waterfowl. The sandy flats, rocky outcrops, tall reedy marshes and open water appeal to a wide range of birds and provides nice habitat to raise their chicks in.
The American avocet (Recurvirostra americana) is a beautiful shorebird that summers in Frank Lake. This is the northern end of their summer range – I’m glad they choose to come this far. I have photographed them at the lake a few times before where they have been feeding in the muddy shallows and beaches. On a trip there a couple of weeks ago, I was looking for some in flight images. When I had walked down to the shore, all the birds were active. I don’t think it was because of me or any raptors that had rustled everyone up. It seemed like it was a sunny afternoon, lot’s of chicks were hungry and all of the birds were flying, swimming and running around. It was a great scene with pelicans, stilts, geese, gulls and ducks all milling about.
And avocets! I found two small groups of them along the shoreline. One was a group of adults that generally left one another alone to forage for the tiny insects they favour. The other was a pair with their brood of four chicks.
From the adult group, I was able to track a few fliers. The family was a great bonus as I had not seen avocet babies before and I enjoyed watching them following their parents around.