Posts tagged “Canada

An eagle in the trees

A couple of weeks ago, a raven’s cawing drew my attention to a small line of trees near the Springbank airport.  The raven’s dark shape was fluttering something and when I got a little closer I could see this bald eagle.  It was lunchtime and the eagle was not interested in sharing.  The raven soon took off and left the eagle to finish the prairie dog just caught in the surrounding fields. The eagle gave a few hard stares to the occasional magpie that came by but for the most part lunch went uninterrupted.

 

 


Great horned owls

The prairies around High River are dotted with small stands of trees.  These islands on the grasslands are usually home for a good number of birds.  Last weekend, I visited a long running favorite stand of mine where a pair of great horned owls have raised chicks for 30+ years I have been told.

The morning I arrived, the female was in the nest – presumably the eggs are incubating now.  The male was perched nearby and over the course of an hour he made two sorties to other trees and grabbed one field mouse along the way.

Other than that little bit of action, there was a lot of dozing in the nest and a few very slow blinks by the male too.  He kept his eyes on the magpies that came nearby now and then as well as anything else that flew or drove by.  But it was generally a fairly quiet morning – I think they were both resting up before the chicks are born.  When that happens the activity level necessarily picks up considerably.


A spring aurora on the prairie

A red alert from the Aurora Watch website late on the 27th prompted me to head north in search of the Northern Lights.  I traveled around for a while on either side of midnight – the sky was clear but the lights were very soft.  Eventually the sky’s glow began to build and I stopped on Jumping Pound Road south of Cochrane to watch the Aurora Borealis as it rose up.   There was a great arch that developed and sprites pulled away at different times throughout the show.

 


Signs of spring: mountain bluebirds

Less than a couple of weeks ago, it was close to -30ºC and there was a thick layer of snow across the prairies.  A couple of days ago it was just above 0ºC with only small patches of snow left on the fields near Mossleigh.  I spent the afternoon on the backroads to see what I could find.  Snowy owls were nowhere that I could see so I suspect the majority have now headed north.  Wedges of Canada geese flew overhead steadily as the sun began to sink lower.  These were joined by the occasional small bevy of swans which were great to see and I will share some of those pictures soon.
Early in the afternoon a blur of blue zipped past where I was photographing a stormy cloudscene to the east.  A mountain bluebird landed on a barbed wire fence a few metres away and quickly flitted around the posts and in the tall grass for a few seconds.  This male was joined by two others and two females and they flew off across the road and quickly out of sight across a field.  These birds are usually early spring migrants so I took it a definitive sign that winter’s grip is releasing now.

On the hunt with a great gray owl

A couple of weeks ago I took a break from the snowy owls on the prairie and visited some of my great gray owl haunts near my home.  I had not seen a gray for several weeks so it was a fishing expedition at best with limited expectation.  I was excited when I found this owl perched over the snow.  It wasn’t too long before she dove into the snow and quickly swallowed some kind of mouse or vole. Her back was to me when she landed so I didn’t get a good look at her snack.  She flew up into a bare tree and continued surveying the small meadow.

She decided pretty quickly that wasn’t the spot for her and she flew into the evergreens after only a couple of minutes.

She landed and then dozed for close to half an hour from a good spot in the trees overlooking another small patch of snow.

I put on my snow boots and took an indirect path to a little hill opposite her new perch.  Her eyes watched me a little bit but the lids shut once I sat down on a log.  I was happy to wait and see if she would continue hunting after her rest.

When she did start looking around again, she seemed keen to resume and I was in a great position for her next dive which happened right away.

With another snack in her belly, she retreated to the trees and I left her shortly after taking this last picture.


A wide-eyed snowy owl

The snowy owls will soon start to head north so I’m trying to get out to photograph them as much as my time will allow before they go.  I found this owl just after sunrise and when she looked backwards at me, her wide eyes caught the sunlight beautifully.  I will miss these gorgeous birds when they return to their summer breeding grounds on the arctic tundra.


Listen to the young

Mother and cub traveling along the Khutzeymateen Inlet towards the estuary

The theme for this year’s World Wildlife Day is listen to the young.  I love this celebration of animals in their natural environments and a focus on the voices that will guide our future.  Thinking about this day and this theme, my mind went to the Grizzlies in the Khutzeymateen and the mothers who raise their cubs in this bear paradise.

grizzlies-for-world-wildlife-day-christopher-martin-3176

These images are from a couple of different mother cub pairs.  When I was lucky enough to spend time with these bears, I loved hearing their voices.  I hope my children are able to say the same when they are my age.

Khutzeymateen Inlet, British Columbia, Canada - August 2013

I hope to give both my children and the bears the opportunity to share their voice.  I will always listen.


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 sunny snowy morning

Snowy owls have been a focus of mine this winter.  Last Saturday I was east of Calgary again – touring the back roads, looking for owls and, when they were found, working to not spook them.  A few of my earlier visits to the prairies have been frigid experiences.  That day was pleasantly different – the sun cut through the clouds early and they moved on altogether by mid-morning but did so without a heavy wind pushing them.  The relatively mild and calm weather was welcome indeed.

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-5832

The day was productive in every sense.  I found two owls just after daybreak near Gleichen.  I spotted the first one as she flew parallel to the road I was traveling down.  The second was perched on this fence line but he took off as the first neared.   The displacer landed and fussed with her feathers while scanning the ground.  The sun lit her up a couple of times which was special.  She eventually glided over the fields behind her and landed on a rise after catching an unlucky creature for breakfast.  I drove below the rise and caught her yawning before she rested and dozed for a bit.

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-5876

Note: this snowy is mottled with dark and light feathering and that used to be thought to be exclusively females and the almost pure white owls were males.  Over the last few years, that has been disproven (some females are all white and some males are not).  There is no visible way to confirm the sex that I am aware of so I still refer to a white one as “he” and the others as “she”.  That is a bit of anthropomorphization but I really dislike calling animals “it”.

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-5971

I had an encounter with a beautiful almost solid white snowy owl an hour later a little further north of this spot.  I will share that story with him soon!

 

 


Splashing the clouds with color at dawn

a-sunrise-in-the-fog-christopher-martin-4787

Before photographing down in the fog a week ago, I stopped along the Trans-Canada Highway on the hill overlooking Springbank to watch the sunrise.

a-sunrise-in-the-fog-christopher-martin-4776

The eastern sky was starting to brighten quickly and I hoped the clouds would catch the early light.  The fog was quite close to the hilltop when I first arrived but it fell back down before dawn came.  The sunlight did bathe the clouds in amazing colors.  It was spectacular!

a-sunrise-in-the-fog-christopher-martin-4795


Clearing fog under a rising sun

fog-clearing-over-yyc-christopher-martin-4860

On Monday morning fog rolled up from the rivers around Calgary and covered most of the city and surrounding areas.  I was near the Springbank airport at sunrise and the visibility was not much more than a hundred metres.  I photographed the sunrise from a hill above the fog and then returned to the airport.  This photograph was taken about 20 minutes after daybreak as the line of fog was receding towards Calgary.  I was surprised by the speed that it moved and even more so when it returned again a few minutes later.  This ebb and flow reminded me of the tides and was amazing to be in the middle of.  I will share more soon but wanted to start with this first view of the sun when the fog was rolling eastward.


Bald in eagle in a blue sky

bald-eagle-blue-sky-flight-christopher-martin-3949

A couple of days ago I spotted this bald eagle balanced atop a telephone pole.  He was watching a small conspiracy of ravens gathered on a snow pile on the edge of a field in Springbank.

bald-eagle-blue-sky-flight-christopher-martin-3946

 

After a few minutes his curiosity seemed to get the best of him and we launched towards the group.  He spiralled above them for a moment but must not have seen anything too appealing as he landed on another telephone pole instead of amongst the ravens.

bald-eagle-blue-sky-flight-christopher-martin-3953

bald-eagle-blue-sky-flight-christopher-martin-3954-2

bald-eagle-blue-sky-flight-christopher-martin-3965

Maybe it was just to have a closer look before deciding.  Either way he decided not to stick around for long and flew a couple of hundred metres away and into a stand of trees isolated in middle of the field.

bald-eagle-blue-sky-flight-christopher-martin-3968

bald-eagle-blue-sky-flight-christopher-martin-3970