Posts tagged “bird

Loons on the lake in Banff National Park

I found a pair of common loons on the third Vermilion Lake in the Banff National Park on the weekend.  They were diving and skimming the water surface for food, enjoying the sunshine and paddling close to each other at different points.

The sunlight caught the iridescence in their feathers.  It is beautiful when the red eyes glow and the silky greens shimmer along their necks.


Bald eagle rising

Near Priddis, on my way to photograph at Frank Lake, I found a bald eagle perched in this interesting tree.  I waited for a few minutes before the bird took flight.  For me this image is a subtle allegory for choosing to fly above chaos – I like that!


A short study of an old friend

I’m not sure if it’s the attractive color scheme, the way they move through water or something more ethereal that draws me to the avocet.  This is a bird that I am endlessly curious about and it steals time from other shorebirds whenever I cross ones path.  Last weekend at Frank Lake was no different.

Spring at this wetland just east of High River has a myriad of summer residents settling in and migrating travelers on their way north.  This visit along the shoreline counted ibis, night herons, cormorants, killdeer and more fly by as the evening shadows slowly grew.  I photographed many of them but none as often as the avocets.

Most of these were paired up and the couples swam together or high stepped in the shallows  near one another while they fished.  I saw two sets skirmish over territory briefly.  However most just ambled along undisturbed – company to one another and disinterested in much else.

 


An American dipper in the cold mist

The quick stab of wintry weather last weekend reminded me of a visit to the Vermilion Lakes in January.  It was cold, -25°C cold, but this American dipper flitted around the pond with the energy typical of this species.

This was a welcome distraction from my wait for daybreak, still 15 minutes away, so I switched to a telephoto lens and photographed the comings and goings for a little while.  Hot springs seep out of the hillside and run into the pond which keeps sections ice-free throughout the winter and creates the hazy mist that rolls in slow motion waves across the water.  It was a beautiful spot to be on a frigid morning – even when my fingers might argue it was not worth it, I believe it was.


Snowy owl flights

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-6090

I started a morning last weekend watching a snowy owl.  When she had a long yawn, that seemed like a good sign to keep moving.  I left the napper and headed along a range road which ran due north.  After a few miles, this owl popped into view as it flew out from behind a small bush.

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-5994

Happily, it wasn’t too upset by the disturbance and landed about 100 metres to the east.  I took a few photos from the roof of my car and then pulled out my longest lens (500mm) and the monopod as it felt like I had time before he might start hunting again.

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-6011

That started a great 90 minute stretch where I was able to move into good positions (the owl, me and the sun in a line) a couple of times while he hunted across the field.  There was a lot of preening, listening and looking around (and the occasional glance my way) in between the three flights he made while I was there.

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-6016

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-6017

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-6024

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-6029

He flew back to the road, and directly past me, on the first flight and landed where a slight rise afforded a view in both directions.  He stayed pretty alert and it did not take very long before a target was found.

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-6083

The owl flew a very short distance and then dropped on the far side of the road.  He grabbed a small mouse that was beneath the snow but not safe from this accomplished hunter.

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-6084

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-6086

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-6088

He finished second breakfast and flew back close to the roadside perch.  The light was amazing and lit up the golden eyes.

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-6152

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-6165

More than an hour later he flew across the field away from me and I headed home.

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-6246

 


A long, cold (and worthwhile) wait

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3769

The photograph above of the snowy owl in flight was taken late in the morning on February 11th.  This flight followed a long wait after some good early action.  The wait started with a feather cleaning session on an entrance gate which was interrupted by the approach of this truck which prompted the bird to fly to a more isolated spot.

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3375

When the vehicle drew too close for the owl’s liking, she launched and flew along the fence line towards the sun.

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3380

She didn’t go too far – landing on a post roughly 100 metres away.

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3389

We were separated from the owl by a fence line of our own which ran parallel to hers and they were about 80 metres apart.  That distance was just fine for me and with a 500mm lens made the subject a reasonable size in the frame.  From where I was, the sun angle and the background were both far from ideal.  I walked along the fence line and found a new location which allowed for improvements in both areas.  I kept moving around now and then to change the scene.  The owl did not – she settled in and did not leave the post for a long time.  There was no way to know at that point, but it would be 2 hours and 38 minutes before the snowy would return to the air.

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3562

The potential for a special moment – maybe a dive close to our line or a flight with the sunlight catching her eyes – kept eyes glued on her and fingers resting on the shutter buttons.  At a few different points, a drift of snow buntings buzzed past the owl as they flew to different spots around the field to forage.  For her part, the owl watched these comings and goings with minimal interest.  For me, these sorties were welcome bits of action.

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3706

Along the way there was more preening, dozing and the occasional stretch.  The one below seemed like a yoga position and was one that she held for several seconds.  Maybe this was all a part of her morning meditation?

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3675-3

Just before noon, the wings opened and she pulled her body down into a crouch.  She paused for a second and then pushed off into the air.

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3719

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3721

The snowy flew along her fence line which allowed for a few nice photographs before she passed us, crossed the road and landed in the snow near the top of a small rise that was a couple of hundred metres away.  My fingers were aching from the cold so this was one of the rare times where I was no longer interested in continuing to shoot.  I was happy to get in the truck and get the heat going.

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3742

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3748

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3770


Flying low on the prairies

snowy-owl-north-of-langdon-christopher-martin-99

I spent a morning on the prairies between Irricana and Langdon this weekend.  I met up with my good friend, and fellow photographer, Jeff Rhude in Delacour and continued east from there to see what we could find.  We were looking for owls and an hour before sunrise, we made out three individuals perched in different locations.  It was much too dark to photograph with any reasonable expectation of making a good image.  To us, their presence boded well for later, when the day was much brighter.  A glowing sunrise welcomed the day and after photographing that for a little bit, we began combing the fields and fence posts for snowy owls.  The ones seen in the pre-dawn gloom were nowhere to be found but several kilometres away we did find this one standing on the snow in a field.

snowy-owl-north-of-langdon-christopher-martin-78

The snowy took flight and let the wind push her eastward, across the road in front of us, until she landed on a fence post.  She did not stay there long before diving into the snow on the far side of a frozen pond.  That was a bit too far to see if she caught something but it looked like she did.

snowy-owl-north-of-langdon-christopher-martin-85-3

Soon after she jumped off the snow again and flew low over the ground before rising up enough to clear the fenceline.

snowy-owl-north-of-langdon-christopher-martin-98

snowy-owl-north-of-langdon-christopher-martin-100

snowy-owl-north-of-langdon-christopher-martin-3307

snowy-owl-north-of-langdon-christopher-martin-3308

That flight took her up to the gate of a compressor station.  We photographed her for another three hours afterwards.  I’ll cover that in my next post.

snowy-owl-north-of-langdon-christopher-martin-105


Three Snowy owls on the 30th

snowy-owl-in-flight-christopher-martin-8802

Just before New Year’s Eve, I headed east and ended up spending all of the daylight hours on the prairies.  During the day I came across three Snowy owls in separate locations.  The first was perched on a telephone pole keeping an eye on the coming dawn and the snow below.  She flew in front of me when a loud truck passed by which afforded me a great angle to photograph her.

snowy-owl-in-flight-christopher-martin-8803

She glided to a fence post in the middle of a nearby field. On her way she crossed the eastern sky which framed her wonderfully.

snowy-owl-in-flight-christopher-martin-8815-2

With a great start now in hand, I carried on and ended up returning to the field where I have been fortunate to photograph one Snowy a few times (one, two, three and four) already this winter.  I found that owl about an hour after sunrise.  She was comfortably resting on another telephone pole.  I say comfortably because she stayed in the same spot for the next 85 minutes.

snowy-owl-in-flight-christopher-martin-8928

Happily for me, it was not the deep freeze we have had regularly so far this winter so I was relatively comfortable while I waited.

snowy-owl-in-flight-christopher-martin-9145

A couple more hours went by after that, punctuated by three flights between high points around the field.  That’s a lot of waiting for a little action but I don’t mind.  I certainly have a lot of time to let my mind wander and to think about things at length – a luxury these days.  And, when the launch occurs, I love watching Snowy owls in flight.  Especially when they are framed against a clear blue sky.

snowy-owl-in-flight-christopher-martin-9379

I hope for a look from the owl during these flights – eye contact makes for more compelling images but often that doesn’t happen as they fly in the wrong direction or have their eyes focused on something else.   Look or no look, I enjoy watching and click when I see an interesting wing angle, body position or something else that seems interesting to me.

snowy-owl-in-flight-christopher-martin-9529

snowy-owl-in-flight-christopher-martin-9530

The days are short at this time of the year so it felt like late afternoon came quickly.  Along with it came some wonderful light and I found the third owl perched on a fence post a mile or so from the other Snowy.

snowy-owl-in-flight-christopher-martin-9709

I do not think I have seen this one before and she stared intently at me for a minute like I was a stranger.  Then she went back to scanning the field behind her in the image above.  Soon after she flew, glided across the field, caught something in the snow and flew up to tree to dine.  That all happened far away from me so I carried on to try to take advantage of the warm sunlight.  I didn’t find anything else before the sun went down but enjoyed watching the color rise up into the sky.

prairie sunset -christopher-martin-9834

Eventually I returned past the last owl’s field and now she was perched in a tree closer to the road.  I got out hoping to photograph her silhouette against the sunset.  Her profile in the tree was not great from my position so I waited to see if something would fall into place.  After a little bit she leaned forward and then dropped off her perch to fly over the field.  That was my last photograph of the owls and tied off a pretty good day on the prairies.

snowy-owl-in-flight-christopher-martin-9912

 


A beautiful afternoon with a Snowy

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8330

After a blustery start to the day on December 27th, by 2pm the wind had settled down and the sun then came out making for a much more comfortable time while I watched this Snowy owl.  She seemed to enjoy the change in the weather too as she was very active.  Her hunting ability is exceptional and she caught a mouse on almost every glide low over the snow.

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8329

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8332

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8340

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8349

The two series, above and below, were both successful hunting runs where she caught a field mouse or something similar.

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8352

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8353

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8367-2

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8368

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8369

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8371

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8372

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8375

I have become a regular observer of this bird in particular as she has a large farm field staked as her territory and I’ve been lucky to find her there consistently.   In previous years, I have occasionally been able to repeat time with the same owl but this regularity is really special to me.

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8379

Earlier she flew to a few different parts of the field before settling on the area where she flew over in the photographs above.

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8275

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8315


A Snowy in another snowstorm

overcast-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-7708

A couple of weeks ago I went out on the prairie looking for Snowy owls.  North of Langdon, I found this owl in a familiar locale.  It was a cold, blustery wind that accompanied the sunrise.  The snow blew into the air throughout the morning and made it feel like we were much closer to the Arctic Circle.  It was pretty dark with a bluish cast in the morning which only added to the wintry feel. At one point, the owl flew directly overhead and then around me which was a highlight for sure.

overcast-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-7702

overcast-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-7694

The rest of the morning was spent watching the owl sitting with making the odd hop/flight around the field.  Another good morning with this Snowy owl.

overcast-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-7734

overcast-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-7649

overcast-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-7636


A Steller’s Jay in Lake Louise

Stellar's-jay-in-lake-louise-christopher-martin-3916-2

On a snowy morning in Lake Louise, I found this Steller’s Jay up in the trees looking for breakfast along a trail that wound away from the water.  This one displayed the white markings around the eye which distinguish the Rocky Mountain subspecies from the other fifteen that are  present across North America.

stellar-jay-in-lake-louise-christopher-martin-3924

I did not expect to see this type of bird there at this time of the year.  That said, they are regular denizens of parks, public areas and other places where trees and people happen to meet.  Some will migrate but it is irregular and, with the mild start to winter this year, it is not surprising that this one, and likely a few more, have chosen to stay in the area.

stellar-jay-in-lake-louise-christopher-martin-3893

 


Barred owl: a little curious, a lot shy

barred-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-0908

It was May of this year when I saw my first Barred owl in Bragg Creek.  I’ve lived here for ten years and spent a lot of time in the forests so it was a real thrill to find a new (to me) species in the area.  In late October, another one was waiting for me as I was walking in the woods along the edge of Kananaskis Country.  This time, the owl watched me intently for a few seconds, scanned the ground for prey for a few more and then repeated that for a couple of minutes while I watched and snapped a few images.  Eventually the owl flew a short distance away but they blend into this type of forest so well that I lost sight with the next glide that followed.  A beautiful creature.

barred-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-0919