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.
I have been wanting to upload more portfolios of wild animals as the two I have had up for a while (Grizzlies and Great blue herons) seem lonely. Towards that goal, I have uploaded a Bald eagle gallery this afternoon. These are images from trips to the Khutzeymateen Provincial Park, Brackendale during the winter salmon migration and closer to home on the prairies. These images are from the last couple of years. If you are interested in having a look, please click on the eagle picture above or this link. I hope you enjoy.
I went to Wild Rose Lake a few days ago to see what animals might be active early in the day before dawn. I’m waiting for the loons to return to the lake so I visit regularly. On this morning, a beaver and a muskrat were paddling along different parts of the shoreline and there were small bands of ducks nearer to the middle. Thin bands of fog blew over the surface and I stopped to watch that dance for a while. It was a tranquil scene supported by gentle calls from the birds including three Canada geese (Branta canadensis) that floated by.
And then, all hell broke out. Apparently the geese were not three friends but one couple and a third wheel. The boyfriend apparently had enough and changed his tone from soft quacking to loud, angry honking. That happened right when he lunged at the other male and the two were in the equivalent of a back alley brawl – maybe a better description would be a pond pounding or a mid-lake mashup. The beaks were the main duelling weapon but wings and bodies were used to attack and defend as well. The main fight lasted less than a minute and then the chase began.
The male in the relationship trounced the other one and sent him scooting away. The chastened goose started beaking off from a short distance away and that seemed to rile the champion up. He then swam/flew to the instigator and nipped at him until he dove under the water. Popping up several meters away, the cycle then repeated itself six or seven more times. It was crazy to watch!
In the end, the lone goose ended up flying across the lake and the lovebirds continued their morning swim.
The early spring this year may see the Snowy owls leave their wintering grounds around Southern Alberta soon. When I was in Irricana photographing this owl, it was 16°C and she was panting to stay cool. I’m not concerned about their health in this heat as their nesting sites in the north get into, and above, these temperatures in the summer. However, I don’t know when it, or something else, will prompt them to leave as they always do.
There was a murder of crows circling a wooded spot east of Bragg Creek that caught my attention. I was driving into Calgary and pulled over to see what was going on. At that moment, this Bald eagle flew out of the trees and blasted through the middle of the group. They scattered and the eagle landed on a branch close by.
Whatever had drawn these opportunists in must have been deeper in the woods as I couldn’t see anything from where I was parked. While the eagle looked around I had time to switch lenses in favour of the longest one I have so I was able to get in quite close. The detail in the feathers was nice especially with the strong lighting – the relatively low angle of the sun in winter helped me here.
After a couple of minutes the eagle launched and banked into the forest. The crows had not yet returned so I imagined that he was hoping to finish his meal before being bothered again.
This bird was teasing seeds on the roadside in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in Kananaskis. It continued on as I got close to the ground and photographed it at eye level.
I drove to the High River area on the weekend to look for owls. It was still dark when I found a Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) perched to the side of a small pond east of Frank Lake.
I set up on the side of the road and spent almost two hours watching him from across the water. The morning slowly got brighter but with heavy gray clouds diffusing the sunlight, it stayed dark for most of the first hour. The owl alternated between short naps and moments of intent staring at any stray sound or motion. These last were both mostly imperceptible to me but kept my attention, and the long lens, focused on him.
Just before 9 am, he stretched wings vertically and launched into the air. After a couple of quick strokes, he glided over the pond and landed in a bare limbed tree.
The skeletal branches did not suit for long and he crossed to another tree edging the pond. This tree was heavy with autumn tinged leaves and provided a third distinct setting for me to photograph this beautiful tiger owl in.
After a few more minutes, he walked down the branch and settled closer to the trunk and more out of sight. I packed up and while I was putting my tripod away, I watched him fly out and glide over the field behind the pond.
Canon 5DIII and 24-105mm lens at 99mm: 1/100oth of a second on f/4 and ISO 400
We had a great afternoon in Prince Rupert today. The marina in Cow Bay was busy with boats of many different stripes coming and going throughout the day. Seals popped up amongst the boats looking for scraps from the fishermen – a quick snack between meals. While several Bald Eagles flew by overhead looking for a similar handout. One group cleaned and divided up several large Halibut on one of the tables on the dock. This drew in the seals and one eagle. The seals made out quite well and at the end, a chunk of fish was left beside the table for the eagle.
Canon 5DIII and 24-105mm lens at 105mm: 1/250oth of a second on f/4 and ISO 1000
It swooped down from its piling, grabbed the fish and then flew off to eat. I was watching from across the marina on a wharf. When the eagle left the dock, it flew towards the wharf and flew right under me as it headed away. A good start to the weekend.
Canon 5DIII and 24-105mm lens at 70mm: 1/40oth of a second on f/4 and ISO 1000