Autumn strode confidently into the Banff National Park at the beginning of September. While some berries and flowers were still producing their best work of the year, much of the foliage has started to turn with grass yellowing and leaves falling. It is a beautiful season in the park (but I would have to say that I like them all!). A couple of weeks ago I found this Grizzly bear in the Bow Valley between Lake Louise and the Castle Junction. It moved steadily through the palette of fall colors, eating berries as it found them.
It left this hillside meadow after a while and melted into the forest. I caught sight one more time and could see it watch me for a second before continuing on and easily disappearing again.
When Kian and I left Jasper we headed home via Highway 93A, which runs parallel to the main road but was much quieter and proved to be a great start to the end of our boys weekend in the national park.
We spotted this black bear almost a kilometre ahead and it was kind enough to wait by the roadside until we drew near. When we pulled up beside, the bear had settled onto a Buffalo berry bush. The berries were pulled free, the bear slowly moved forward and my son and I watched as the moments crawled past. It was cool to share that experience with Kian.
The pair of Ospreys who summer on the Castle Junction bridge’s nest raised two chicks through adolescence this year. When I spent a day watching them in August that meant there were four of these raptors, now all very close to the same size, interacting with one another on and around the bridge area. Flying, fishing, chasing and fighting over fish dominated the moments of action amid a lot of time spent perching over the river up in the trees that line that stretch of the Bow River.
I spied this Osprey when it alighted on a weathered log with a freshly caught meal. By the time I walked a few hundred metres so that I was directly across the river from the bird, it was no longer alone. Ospreys have excellent vision, roughly twice the distance capabilities of humans, so it was no surprise that company arrived quickly. Another Osprey landed close by, shrilly announcing its arrival and crying out for a share of the sushi. The successful fisher had no interest in sharing and resisted all advances from the other to do so.
Over the next four hours, I watched this bird defend its prize from sneaky grabs for a scrap, frustrated attacks, a couple of near dive-bombs and outright theft! Throughout, the Osprey nibbled away on the fish – whether another bird was nearby or not. The other Osprey never ganged up on their family member but I’m pretty sure two of the three made individual advances.
With the repeated flybys the interloping Ospreys gave me some great opportunities for in flight shots that were interesting and new for my library. The low to ground shots in particular.
The birds were aware of my presence, I didn’t blend in with the rocks on the shoreline. I didn’t move around much and, with the river between us, I felt confident that I was not impacting their behaviour and so I enjoyed the opportunity to watch the family dynamics play out.
Several times the Osprey clutched the fish in one talon and looked to be getting ready to fly. That didn’t happen – the bird didn’t stray more than a couple of metres from the log and stayed on it for most of the time. That made me suspect this was an adolescent with little experience flying with fish but given the size, and the fact that it had caught the fish in the first place, I’m definitely not sure.
Steadily the Osprey worked away on dinner, despite the numerous distractions, and finally finished all but the smallest scraps. Shortly after finishing the Osprey flew off down the river. It flew across my sight line affording me a nice flight series – a fun little reward after four hours crouching among the rocks. I watched it all the way back to the nest where it few around a couple of times before I lost sight of it. I hiked back to the bridge and came back to the shoreline a short stone’s throw from the Ospreys new perch. Again, it took note of me and then continued looking down the river and up at the nest. Several minutes went by before the bird launched and flew up to the nest.
A double rainbow arched over Medicine Lake just before sunset in Jasper National Park. Light rain fell on Kian and I as we watched these rainbows develop on the edge of a storm that had rolled up the Maligne Valley. The sun was near setting so the sunlight was pure gold and the colors across the landscape were incredible.
I spent the morning at Moraine Lake today. A cold front swept in last night and when I caught my first glimpse of the valley when I drove up, the snow line was visible amid the layers of forest, rock and cloud.
At the lake, daybreak started cold with a steady drizzle of rain. The blue water’s hue varied as the amount of light let through by the clouds changed. I enjoyed the morning with the whole valley changing steadily.
On the Labour Day weekend, my son and I camped in Jasper. I hadn’t been there in over a year and I was shocked to see a vast swath of burnt hillsides in Medicine Lake area of the Malign Valley. Somehow I completely missed the Excelsior Wildfire that burned over a 1000 hectares between July 9th and 22nd, 2015. We were looking for wildlife and enjoying the chaotic weather when the sun broke through to paint select trees amid the skeleton forest left behind as a stark reminder of the wildfire.
Last week I spent a day walking, sitting, waiting and watching along the Bow River in the Banff National Park. I was enthralled with the comings and goings of four Ospreys centred around their part of the river at the Castle Junction between Banff and Lake Louise.
My last visit with them was in April and there were only two of these sea hawks flying around. It was wonderful to see their two chicks now almost fully matured.
Four large raptors on one nest, even theirs which is massive, is pretty crowded accommodations.
The parents seemed very feisty with the young ones, cajoling them to get airborne with squawks and dive bombs.
Amid all of the excitement, the birds circled the nest, perched in the trees over the river and they flew nearby several times. I would imagine they will migrate south in less than a month so I will try to get back to spend time watching them before they go.
Kian and I spent a great day in the Banff National Park last week. We met my parents, his grandparents, in Banff and divided the day between the Gondola that runs up Sulphur Mountain and the Lake Minnewanka boat cruise. It was a lot of fun touring with my son and my parents. Here is a recap – I have used Kian’s photographs to illustrate the day.
When we got started, Kian asked me if he could use one of my cameras. The answer was, and always is, yes. We then spent big chunks of the day photographing away. This was one of the first times where he has really wanted to spend time doing it and I was happy to join him.
From the top of the gondola, we walked up to Sanson’s Peak and found Golden-mantled ground squirrels all around plus a couple of Hoary marmots on the rocks. Kian picked out these creatures and angled for good spots to shoot them (with a camera).
On the water, we covered the length of the lake and Kian made some very nice landscape images along the way. Coming back, he started experimenting with the reflection of his camera in the window against the scenery beyond. These were some of my favourites from his set. When droplets settled on the glass towards the end of the trip, he turned his attention to them framed with the mountains. Those joined my list of favourites too – great vision and creativity.
The next day, we spent a couple of hours post processing his work. It was fantastic! I love the way he sees things and creates images. I’m a one trick pony and didn’t do much more than photographing through the day. Kian however was also the safety model for the flotation device, shared ecological knowledge about the forest along the lake and took a turn piloting the boat.
After the boat ride, my parents headed back to Cochrane and Kian and I waded in the water for a bit – right up until our legs went numb! We then went down the Johnson Lake road to see if the Buffalo berries were ripe and drawing in any bears. They were and they did! We saw a Black bear and a Grizzly.
After all of that excitement, we headed for home. Dusk came quickly and we decided to pull off of the Trans-Canada Highway and drive up the Sibbald Creek Trail to find a spot to photograph the sunset for a few minutes. We found a small lake close to the road and this was Kian’s final picture from a great day. An absolutely wonderful landscape image and one we both agreed was among his best (so far).
He is a competent young man intent on trying out new things – I am exceptionally happy for him about the person he is choosing to become. And, I am very proud of him.
Dark clouds wrapped the eastern edge of the Bow Valley near Mount Yamnuska as the sky brightened at dawn last Friday morning. The storm front to the west continued pushing towards the prairies and by dawn the line of rain was directly overhead Highway 40 (Kananaskis Trail) where it crosses the TransCanada Highway.
To the west were the rows of mountains, one leading down the Bow Valley towards Canmore and Banff, the other through Kananaskis Country. When the sun cleared the horizon, light met water and a double rainbow arched over the valley’s mouth.
To the east, the sunlight hit the clouds toning them in warm pastels before dawn. As the sun rose, the colours continued to deepen absorbed by the clouds as well as skipping along the underside.
I loved watching the alchemy of the light mixing with the clouds and rain. The whole sky, in all directions, was dynamic and changed continuously through sunrise. A little later, the sunlight shone through falling rain, and I made this last photograph of the landscape of this part of the Stoney Nakoda Nation before heading up the Kananaskis Trail and spending the morning with a pair of Bald eagles at the Mount Lorette Ponds.
For the second week in a row, I caught up Grizzly bear #152, and her smile, in Kananaskis’s Spray Valley Provincial Park. Once more she was feasting on Buffalo berries. Unlike the sunny encounter last week, the rain was falling steadily providing a sheen to the leaves, the bear’s coat and the tall grass.
The bear went in and out of the bushes, eating steadily along the way. Again I was reminded how easily they can disappear within the vegetation – they are a part of the land and seem to join it and separate at will.