I walked my dog early this morning and when I looked to the north could see the Northern Lights rippling and snapping above the horizon. The hound was returned home and replaced by my camera. I walked down to the Elbow River which runs nearby and spent a couple of hours photographing the Aurora Borealis before it faded out against the approaching dawn. I’m feeling very lucky to be able to enjoy such a show in my backyard!
The Pow Wow is the centre of the Tsuu T’ina Nation’s Annual Celebrations. Last Friday evening Kezia and I went to the Redwood Meadows Fairground before the Grand Entrance. Kezia was invited to join her friend dancing afterwards which hit the night out of the park for her. The photography was great along the way with the beautiful regalia in the late sunlight.
On Friday night at the rodeo, my daughter and I watched the barrel racing. We had a lot of fun watching these amazing partners tear around the barrels.
Under mild protest my son and I watched the last half of the evening set of the Tsuu T’ina’s 43rd annual rodeo last night. Kian found a few boys to play kendama with so that bought me a little time to photograph. The sun dropped into some wildfire smoke that laid above the horizon which made for dramatic backlighting. I will share more soon but I’m packing my gear and heading over for Sunday’s short go this afternoon. Here a cowboy lifts the calf into position to fix three of the legs with a half hitch knot to complete his run in the tie-down roping event.
A family of belted kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon) live and fish around a small lake west of Bragg Creek in Alberta, Canada. They are tricky to photograph but a lot of fun to try. Over a couple of hours there were a few close flybys. Some I missed completely, they are very fast and can change direction instantly. But there were a few that got closer to what I have in my head. I’ll be back soon!
White-tailed deer are a bit flighty so when I came across this doe munching on some flowers (another dandelion hunter as it turns out), it was no surprise that the tail came up and she took a few quick steps away. She quickly returned to grazing so I wasn’t too much of a threat – or the flowers were too good to walk away from.
Last weekend there was a massive storm in the sky on Saturday night. Not the thunder and lightning kind – though there was a very energetic rain shower around 2am – rather a geomagnetic storm. With that came bright auroras which rippled and shot for several hours. The rain actually woke me up and when I looked outside, I could see the Northern Lights between gaps in the clearing clouds.
I picked up some gear and headed outside right away. Living near Bragg Creek we have dark skies except for the glow from Calgary to the east so it was easy to see the show right from my deck. When I walked over to the banks of the Elbow River, it coincided with an intense burst that lasted for almost twenty minutes. I woke my daughter up later when I went back home and we were able to catch another smaller outburst – her first in real-time. Easily the best part of a great night.
Earlier this year when there was still snow on the ground, my son and I caught sight of a bobcat. It darted out from stand of trees, crossed a small field and then disappeared into the forest. A week ago, my daughter and I saw another bobcat in almost the same location. Maybe the same one but there was no way for me to tell. This one appeared to be a young adult. And this time it was hunched down in a small grassy mound.
We watched for a couple of minutes and made sure we left the side closest to the trees unobstructed so the cat could slip away at any point. At one moment when Kezia and I walked to a different spot, it did just that seeming to evaporate, leaving no indication of ever having been there. It was wonderful to share this encounter with my daughter. And it had been a couple of years since I had last photographed a bobcat so that was fun too.
The snow started to fly on Friday and has kept falling through the weekend. And, it’s cold! I went touring west of Bragg Creek yesterday but saw very little – even when the sun came out for a couple of hours. Today was a different story and I saw a couple of moose, some white-tailed deer and a small banditry of chickadees.
Moose love the cold so I hoped to see them in one of their regular haunts. I found this young bull grazing in the bushes.
These chickadees, mostly black-capped with a couple of boreals, flitted around a fence line that’s long been fighting to hold back the bushes behind. I’ve always liked watching these little birds – they move very quickly so it’s a nice challenge to photograph them.
This White-tailed stag was found during a short drive into Bragg Creek on Christmas day this year.
We are slowly warming up to New Year’s Eve and looking forward to the fireworks that our local community of Redwood Meadows puts on. Always a great show – and they go early so the children get to enjoy them too!
I hope everyone has enjoyed, or is enjoying the last day of 2016. It has been a winding year for our family, as it often goes, but still filled with a lot of laughs and the continued wonders of rearing my two children.
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.
Halloween had a little shadow over it this year for us but the kids excitement and enthusiasm was quickly kindled and we had a great night. Our community is fantastic for trick or treating and the neighbours helped to make it a lot of fun.
Kezia was dressed as Rey from the latest Star Wars movie – she had her Jedi skills on display all night long.
Kian made his 80’s cartoon style Skeletor costume at home and enjoyed playing the character and doing the high pitched voice.
I enjoyed touring around with the kids and they were very accommodating while I snapped away – and were very generous sharing their candy with me.
(Please click on either image to open the Great gray owl gallery)
It has been a while since I put together a gallery of animal images so I worked on one last night. I chose Great gray owls as they are among my very favourite birds to watch and to photograph. They have a balance of power and intelligence that always impresses me. All of these images are from the Bragg Creek area, either in West Bragg or on the edge of Kananaskis that shares a border with it. I have been photographing some of these owls for six years or more although most of the early images didn’t make this cut for various user operator (me!) issues. For the 35 images that did, it was fun to look at the scenes I’ve been able to see them hunt, perch and fly in.
Looking back over these I feel very fortunate to be able to have spent so much time with these beautiful raptors. At some times of the year, I see them rarely but I enjoy knowing that they are still there. When are paths do cross, it never fails to be a continuation of my education about Great grays. I still have a lot to learn… lucky me!
A couple of weeks ago I spent the morning at the Wild Rose ponds in West Bragg. I watched this beaver swimming on the far side of the pond for several minutes before turning away to watch the sunrise. I realized she had kept coming my way when I heard the first tail slap on the water. She was about 15 metres away and had set a course parallel to me and the shoreline. I took this photograph of her as she raised her tail for another slap. She wasn’t too happy with my presence so I moved along after one more slap.
I’ve lived in Redwood Meadows for over 9 years and have never photographed a Great gray owl in the daylight here. A little while ago, I was driving back from Bragg Creek and spotted this owl perched on a fence post. I watched him in the sun for a little while before he flew. Then he quickly moved from post to post for a couple of minutes, with short breaks between flights.
Eventually he flew to the top of a nearby tree for a better view. That did not last long and he flew directly in front of me as he crossed the road (the first photo int his story) and flew into the heavier forest on the edge of the Tsuu T’ina Rodeo and Pow Wow grounds.
A friend and I spied this owl while on a short drive to scout out locations for a photo shoot. This is my tenth year living in the Bragg Creek area and this was the first Barred owl that I have seen here. It was the first time I have seen one in the wild anywhere for that matter. It is an understatement to say I was excited! The dark eyes are so striking compared to my familiarity with the glowing yellow eyes of the Great gray, Great horned and Snowy owls which I photograph throughout the year.
The owl was perched in plain sight – the fast approaching dusk had dimmed the daylight which suited this mostly nocturnal hunter. That made a fast shutter speed a challenge but that was a very minor challenge. She flew from the post to a branch a couple of metres above the long grass edging the road. Her head swivelled and angled as she searched for dinner. Within a couple of minutes, she locked in and made a dive headlong into the greenery. One dive, one strike and one kill.
From down in the grass she shifted the field mouse to her beak and then flew up and in front of us, heading into a stand of trees on a small ridge.
I lost her in the forest and the gloom but look forward to a follow-up encounter whenever it suits her.