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.
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.
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.
Soon after she jumped off the snow again and flew low over the ground before rising up enough to clear the fenceline.
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.
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.
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.
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.
About a month ago, I was looking for one of the Great gray owls I sometimes find along the backroads in Bragg Creek. The owl was nowhere to be found, but I did find a shock of red amidst the autumn yellows turned gold in the late afternoon.
Descending from the trees, he landed in a long abandoned pile of cut wood and set to pecking and probing for insects.
After a few minutes, he moved to a stump that was disintegrating into sawdust. Snow was hidden from the sun in the depression he was hammering and a few crystals stuck to his beak.
Whether it was a full belly, boredom or the evening’s fast approach, he jumped up on to a tree and circled the trunk while moving upwards. He pecked here and there but soon took flight through the forest and out of sight.
I spent an evening on the Bow River at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary on the weekend. It was a beautiful day, warmly lit in golden light, and I had a great time photographing the birds well into dusk. Among the birds nearby were a few Double-crested cormorants fishing and flying around. I photographed as they flew or swam by. They are exceptionally fast birds and they often fly just above the water at speed which is exciting to watch. After the sunlight had left the river, I caught sight of one of these cormorants moving upriver. Darkness was starting to settle in so I dragged my shutter in order to use the lack of light to pan with the bird as it passed me. I used a shutter speed of 1/40th of a second and it worked out pretty well.