Who’s coming for tea?
We found this beautiful teacup and saucer reimagined as a bird feeder at the Winter in the Woods Festival in Bragg Creek a couple of weeks ago. Desirée loved it at first sight and I quickly got onboard imagining little birds perched along the lip.
As soon as we hung it off the roof above our second floor deck, the chickadees and nuthatches began landing and sifting through the cup for their preferred seeds. We have several of each of these birds that overwinter, It is fun – and a little magical – to watch them flying through trees, perching on branches and chasing each other around.
With a little sunshine these Red-breasted nuthatches looked amazing as it came back and forth to the teacup. Photographing them was great and I was happy with the images I came away with.
A run of warmer weather preceded the latest dip of the thermometer here in southern Alberta. That opened up a couple of the ponds at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary last weekend. The calm, open water drew in dozens of Canada geese, mallard ducks and a few common goldeneyes. A steady cacophony of quacks was the soundtrack by the water. Some calling out to partners, occasional angry exchanges and seemingly random squawking here and there.
The sun was low enough that the light was still warm and, to my eye, a bit buttery. I focused on moment of action – flapping to dry wings, short flights across the pond and a couple of chases.
Watching the hunt
I spent a bit of time with a great gray owl last week. It was later in the evening and it seemed to be looking for a last snack before dark.
I watched it crisscross a meadow of tall grass and make several dives out of sight. It came up without a catch on those.
Apparently, it felt like a change of location was required. Crossing the road she landed on a couple of old fenceposts and stared hard into the adjacent little fields but didn’t find a target worth chasing.
Success came when she flew out of a tall tree she had spent a few minutes surveying from. When she launched, it was a drop to just above the grass and then a sudden drop.
She swallowed while low in the grass and then rose out and flew towards me before alighting on a post right beside me. A couple of minutes later she went across another field and out of sight.
We had two wonderful encounters with great gray owls yesterday. The highlight for me came when the second owl flew across the field to a tall post about 30′ away. I took some good flight shots there. Then he glided down and landed 2′ away on a fence post beside me. When he was there, it was incredible to share the space. Being that close I was awed by the power and wisdom that I felt from him.
He stayed there for around 10 minutes before I moved further down the fence. The wind picked up as the clouds covered the sun. The owl remained focused on finding dinner in the long grass but after several more minutes, with his feathers whipping around, he flew off into the trees.
My favourite great blue heron shot
Desirée shot this heron out of the sunroof while we were driving into the sun along Plummers Road near Priddis. It was beautiful light to see this bird in flight – but such a hard photograph to get. She has worked hard at her photography and built on her natural talent. I feel like this image is such a great reward for that: Artistic, dynamic, perfectly focused and truly beautiful. It’s my favorite image of a great blue heron. An incredible shot sweetheart!
The robins have just returned to our home this weekend. It was a nice surprise from the Easter bunny to see and hear them in the backyard again.
Desirée thought the image above suggested the bird centre in the sunlight was the hope of spring emerging from darkness of winter. I liked that a lot. She has a beautiful way of seeing things.
Archive images: Last summer with black-crowned night herons
A small slough west of Calgary is a little gem for birds from spring until fall and one I like to visit now and then. Last August I was surprised to find a few night herons perched among the long grass surrounding the water. I had not seen them frequent this location previously so it was a pleasure to watch them for about a half an hour.
It was early evening, around 6pm, warm with only a rustle of wind – just enough to keep the mosquitoes away. One heron found the conditions favorable and flew overhead at one point.
The herons were more active on the far side of pond. However one bird was stationed closer to me and I kept my long lens trained on that one for the most part. Eventually that paid off when a farm truck rumbled by on the gravel road behind me and set the heron to flight. The launch yielded my favourite photographs – I am a sucker for images that capture motion and power – but I was spoiled across the whole time I was there.
Bohemians in the backyard?
As cool as that visual could have been, self isolation would frown on people congregating in our backyard. Instead, a flock of 60 or more Bohemian waxwings flew into the trees behind our home in the morning. They nibbled at the trees, and the odd chunk of snow hanging in the branches. Flitting around the forest edge, I enjoyed their industry for half an hour as the morning sun shone over the hills. These are a favourite backyard bird for me. They don’t come around my home often but it is magic when they do.
Backyard blue jays
The home isolation as the world buckles down is hard. We are very fortunate to live in a forest so the time at home affords the opportunity to watch the trees and the wildlife that lives in it. These blue jays come by a couple of times a day. I’m sure I’ll be sharing more from my backyard for a while to come. Be safe, be isolated and find hope.