Posts tagged “Canada

A Steller’s Jay in Lake Louise

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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.

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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.

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Barred owl: a little curious, a lot shy

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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.

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A Pileated evening in Bragg Creek

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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.

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Descending from the trees, he landed in a long abandoned pile of cut wood and set to pecking and probing for insects.

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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.

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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.

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Winter in Lake Louise: snow, ice and water

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Last weekend I spent the morning looking for wildlife along the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park.  I drove along, stopping several times for short hikes to get a view over the river valley or along a creek into the forest.  None of the animals graced me with their presence but the land made it a good morning nonetheless.  In Banff, the lakes are frozen but there was very little snow on the ground.  Halfway towards Lake Louise, the snow was more prevalent and when I got to the lake, the trees were heavy with snow, the ground was well-covered and winter was firmly set.  It has been a couple of years since I wandered along the lake shore in winter with camera in hand.  I enjoyed the time, working to create some images while listening to the multilingual hum from the other visitors as they came and went.  It was a good time to be up there to photograph.  The snow was falling gently, the river that drains out of the northeastern end of the lake was yet to freeze over and the clouds were moving fast so the peaks were in and out of view.  Lot’s of dynamic elements to weave together into a variety of images.  This was my favourite from a relaxed morning doing what I love.


A wander up to Boom Lake

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On the suggestion of a reader (thanks Jo Ann!), I hiked up to Boom Lake on the western edge of the Banff National Park near the British Columbia – Alberta border.  The trail is a gentle ~5km hike complicated only by a bit of snow, ice and mud given the time of year.  I enjoyed the walk through the trees and over the numerous streams.  The lake appears suddenly and is walled in on the far side by Boom Mountain.

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I would have thought the name came from the sound of the avalanches whose tears down the slopes can be seen in several places.  However, I found that the lake was named Boom owing to the driftwood created by the trees that are pushed into the water by the avalanches.

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Many of these logs are submerged but a large number have collected at the eastern end and where they poke out of the water suggested a logger’s boom to the person who formally named the lake in 1908.  I found that interesting as I did the lake itself.

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I scrambled over the rocks along the shore for a couple of kilometres while the wind, snow, sun all wrestled overhead, as they often do in these mountains.

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Winter’s teeth have yet to be bared with any sincerity so it felt more like mid-October than mid-November.  This little patch of vegetation drew my eye on the way down, the shock of color seemed a direct challenge to colder weather while the ice frozen over the leaf suggested its inevitability.  Needless to say, I enjoyed my random thoughts and musings as I strolled back down the trail.

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An owl on the other side

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On the other side of the road, this Great gray owl continued hunting after it flew across.  She left the open forest for the denser evergreens on the southern approach which provided a completely different look from the images that I shared yesterday.

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She flew between a couple of posts before gliding between a couple of trees.  I was lucky to be in position for some great opportunities.

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The owl flew into the middle of this large tree, beside the trunk, and I thought she might choose to rest there for a while.  She did for a few minutes, but soon grew restless and began scanning the ground for activity.  She turned around, saw something and then shot out of the tree.  I lost sight of her almost right away but heard a lot of squawking and commotion before things went quiet again.  I assume the owl struck successfully but did not go into the woods to check – either way the cycle of hunter and hunted continued with one coming out successfully.

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In the presence of greatness

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A couple of weeks ago snow had fallen overnight and I went into Bragg Creek to see what I might be able to photograph in this prelude to winter.  I was thrilled when I spied this Great gray owl flying along an old fence line.  She looked amazing against the lightly blanketed grass and trees.  Her colouring made her appear as a piece of the forest in motion.

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This owl has a well-defined hunting ground that I’m familiar with.  That said, I hadn’t seen her in over a month until the week before this encounter.  That time it was dusk and my camera and I both had trouble focusing as she flew past.  She stared at me for several wing beats which looked fantastic.  However the images were soft and I came away disappointed for missing some great shots.  Persistence paid off, as it often does given enough of it, and she was even more engaging this time around.

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Keeping an eye on my whereabouts was a minor distraction to her hunting and she made three separate attacks over the half hour that I watched her.  One was successful and a fourth, when she disappeared into the deeper woods, seemed successful given what I could hear.

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She hunted on the north side of the gravel road for most of the time I was there.  This forest is open with relatively wide spacing between the mostly Aspen trees and tall grass filling in between.  On the south side, the forest is dominated by evergreens and is much denser.  I will share some more images of this owl from the other side tomorrow.

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A streak of light below dawn

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The headlights of a car driving on Highway 66 draw a line of light under the pre-dawn sky during a long exposure in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.


An autumn sunset in the sky

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The sky in late October near the Rocky mountains often serves as a fantastic canvas for clouds, wind and sunshine to paint as they mix, blend and tear apart.  I live on the eastern flank of the Rockies and am fortunate to be able to see a fair number of these beautiful collisions.  This one was just before sunset in the third week of October on a recently paved country road off of Highway 8 between Bragg Creek and Calgary.


Alces alces in a Kananaskis snowstorm

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As dawn broke on a recent morning when I was up in Kananaskis, the skies were leaden and threatening to drop some form of precipitation.  It was cold and windy so it seemed an open question whether it would be rain, snow or a frozen mix of the two.  The weather foiled my plans for a sunrise shoot of Mount Kidd but made it an easy decision to drive further up the valley into the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.  I passed a few White-tailed deer but did not see much else on the way up.  Apparently I had an appointment (unbeknownst to me at the time) with this wonderful family of moose.  They were standing around this marsh in plain view beside the turn off of the Kananaskis Lakes Trail up to the Upper Lake’s parking lot and trailhead.

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The calf stayed close to her mom but was not very shy.  Staring at me several times to satisfy her curiosity about what I was and whether I was something of interest or not.  The bull was hidden within a few trees at first so it was a great surprise when I saw his antlers first come into sight.

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When a snowplow passed by, its scoop loudly grinding against the asphalt, the young one was startled and ran a little ways off from the roadside.  Mom followed and they munched along as they slowly headed into the forest.

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The bull was a magnificent creature.  Healthy and very confident, neither the vehicles nor my presence made any impression on him.  He kept his eyes on any activity around him but was focused on grazing.  I watched him for the next hour as he moved between trees, bogs and little fields.  Their ability to blend in and disappear, despite their size, was observed many times and always surprises me.

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The storm’s intensity ebbed and flowed through the morning and the snow followed accordingly.  At times falling hard, at times almost stopping completely.  Along with adjusting the camera settings to drag the shutter and blur the snow’s motion or freeze the flakes in action, it was a great setting to photograph these moose in.

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The bull kept an eye on the family as they went into the trees and eventually followed them away from the marsh.  The encounter ended shortly thereafter but I would not ask for anything more.  It was a great day in Kananaskis.

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A gallery of Great gray owls

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(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.

A Great gray owl in evening sunlight near Bragg Creek, Alberta

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!


Catching sunrise in the clouds

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I spent a morning up at Elbow Falls in Kananaskis Country a few days ago.  The sky was dark when I showed up there but I could make out the clouds as they ran eastward.  Dawn came quickly as it often does at this time of the year and I was pleased that a loose knot of these clouds had not yet disappeared behind the silhouetted tree line.  They caught the early light and spun it into reds, purples and oranges for a couple of minutes before the sunlight turned to gold and they continued the journey towards the prairies.