Posts tagged “flight

Whiskey Jack on the wing

I love Canada jays.  They go by a couple of names (well I guess we like to call them by a few names) – I like Whiskey Jack and Canada jay more than gray jay but those are just my own preferences.  Some people see them as mischievous camp robbers.  I don’t.  For me, they exemplify companionship as I always flitting around in pairs.   I found this one in a tree and waited until it flew off towards the call of its partner.


A close encounter of the owl kind

Almost two months ago, I came across a great gray owl that was surveying a bog from the top of a weathered fence post.  I watched him for a few minutes as he looked around.  Then the big, yellow eyes watched me for a few seconds before the wings stretched out and he flew up the hill towards me.  These owls move quickly when they choose to so I was reacting not thinking when he took to the air.  I was happy to have a few shots of that approach.

I thought he would fly by, but another post a couple of meters away from me was his destination.  He looked around for half a minute, then stared at me while launching into the air again.  This time he passed close by, crossed the path and then flew to a broken tree branch in the forest.

It was early evening and seemed to be supper time as he dove into the tall grass a couple of minutes later.  That yielded a vole or some kind of field mouse.  I couldn’t tell as he swallowed it while on the ground and mostly out of sight.

Reappearing after a short while, he ascended to another branch briefly and then flew deeper into the forest.


Bald eagle rising

Near Priddis, on my way to photograph at Frank Lake, I found a bald eagle perched in this interesting tree.  I waited for a few minutes before the bird took flight.  For me this image is a subtle allegory for choosing to fly above chaos – I like that!


Mallards in motion

As spring takes hold, you can find ducks busy wherever there is water.  Whether it is at a lake still mostly covered with ice or a pond that is not much more than a puddle in a field, a male and female pair are often there paddling, wading, fishing or cleaning.  I found this couple in a shallow depression where snow melt had collected.  The light was warm gold and I thought they looked absolutely beautiful.

As I slowed down, I flushed them into the air.  I was disappointed in myself as I’d prefer to wait until they chose to fly on their own accord.  Still, it was a transitory location for them and one that was close to the roadside so I didn’t carry too much concern away with me after watching them launch and head away.


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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Great gray owl winter flights

Great gray owl's winter flight - © Christopher Martin-6515

I love watching Great gray owls fly – particularly when they launch.  The snowstorm that hit Bragg Creek on Thursday night created a wintry scene that was still hiding spring on Saturday when I went out.  It made for an interesting backdrop to this owl as it took flight.

Great gray owl's winter flight - © Christopher Martin-6516

Great gray owl's winter flight - © Christopher Martin-6517


Autumn Whiskey Jack

Autumn Whiskey Jack - © Christopher Martin-1363-2
I love Gray Jays, also called Whiskey Jacks, and found a pair foraging for stray sides on a path in Kananaskis on the weekend.  You will almost never see a lone jay, they are always found in a pair – I like that.  Here, I caught this little one in mid-flight as it flew off a branch to the ground.


Clutching at grass

Irricana Snowy Owls - © Christopher Martin-1864

One of the Snowy owls that I photographed recently made a dive while I was watching.  She came up without a mouse but had a clutch of grass instead.  I’m sure it wasn’t her preference but it was a bit unusual to see one of these raptors flying around with a talon full of grass.  She gave a couple of good looks around as she looked for another target during the same sortie but had no luck on this flight.

Snowy's stare - © Christopher Martin-1863

Prairie flight - © Christopher Martin-1859

 


Snowy owls aloft in the blue sky

Overhead, underview - © Christopher Martin-2425
A sky free of clouds and a polarizer filter allowed for rich blue sky backgrounds for the flight shots I was able to take from morning through to noon last weekend.  South of Irricana, along Highway 567, there were five owls that I saw.  I was able to have eight separate encounters with these owls as I drove between their respective territories.
Snowy owl mid-flight - © Christopher Martin-1519
Full extension - © Christopher Martin-1517
It was pretty cold, -20°C, so waiting for each of the launches was a bit numbing.  But I like the set of images and the fingers did warm up later in the day.
Shadow wing - © Christopher Martin-2469
With the mild winter, that day excepted, that we have enjoyed so far, I have no idea how long the Snowy owl population will stay before they head north to their breeding grounds.  While they are here, it is great fun to be able to spend some time watching and photographing these most beautiful of birds.
Wings up, landing gear down - © Christopher Martin-1509

Dawn Osprey in Cabo San Lucas

Dawn Osprey - © Christopher Martin-7052One morning while I was set up for sunrise in the rocks on the coastline, one of the resident Ospreys flew low overhead looking for fish.  Her sharp eyes picked me out easily and she looked at me for a couple of seconds before banking back towards the open water.  The pink light from the eastern horizon softly painted the belly and underwing covert feathers.
Dawn Osprey - © Christopher Martin-7060
Dawn Osprey - © Christopher Martin-7046

 


Osprey along the Sea of Cortez

Los Cabos Osprey - © Christopher Martin-7440

There are two ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) who are residents at the Hacienda del Mar resort in Los Cabos.  Ospreys are another favourite animal that I am fortunate to be able to photograph quite often at home.  It is a bit surreal to see them living in a warm, southern climate as I think of them (myopically) as being a bird of the lakes in and near the Rocky mountains where I usually see them.

Los Cabos Osprey - © Christopher Martin-5933

 

If any images appear grainy or pixelated, please click on the image to open a higher resolution version.

 

Los Cabos Osprey - © Christopher Martin-7437

Los Cabos Osprey - © Christopher Martin-7441-2

They own the palm trees that line the pools and sun decks which overlook the beach using them as viewing towers to find fish near the shore in the Sea of Cortez.

Los Cabos Osprey - © Christopher Martin-6159
Los Cabos Osprey - © Christopher Martin-6132
Several times during our stay in Los Cabos, I had great opportunities to watch these beautiful birds fly to and from the tree tops and glide over the beach and rocks nearby.

Los Cabos Osprey - © Christopher Martin-7790

Los Cabos Osprey - © Christopher Martin-6119

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Los Cabos Osprey - © Christopher Martin-6121


Egret on the rocks

Cabo Egret - © Christopher Martin-1481

This Great egret (Ardea alba) stepped around the point and into view from the rocks where I was photographing.

Cabo Egret - © Christopher Martin-1435

After a short pause, she flew across a small gap and began fishing.  The head cocks back and then strikes into the water, rarely coming up without a fish.

Cabo Egret - © Christopher Martin-1445

 

Cabo Egret - © Christopher Martin-1490

Cabo Egret - © Christopher Martin-1492

Cabo Egret - © Christopher Martin-1516

At home I photograph the Great blue herons frequently which is in the same family as egrets.  Their mannerisms are very similar as is their size.  The white feathers are the most obvious difference and I love shooting them against the blues of the water and the warm hues in the rocks.

Cabo Egret - © Christopher Martin-1411

In flight, I find them particularly alluring and this bird flew between several outcrops affording me great opportunities to watch.

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Cabo Egret - © Christopher Martin-1216

Cabo Egret - © Christopher Martin-1480


Red-tailed flights in Turner Valley

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3798

On my return from the two separate visits with Great Horned Owls near High River, I drove past Okotoks, through Black Diamond and Turner Valley and then back to Bragg Creek.  I counted more than twenty five hawks before I reached Priddis.  Along the way, I stopped a couple of times that were in interesting locations.

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3755

 

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3733

One Red-tailed hawk was hunting from a wooden gate and fence dividing a farm from the highway.  This hawk dove once while I was set up – it was great to observe an attack from close range thanks to a long telephoto lens.  It returned to the post empty-taloned but then launched out over the field and grabbed a mouse when it neared the far side.  Too far for a decent photograph but great to watch.

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3786

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3787

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3797

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3799

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3801


A little dragonfly

A dragonfly - 2014 © Christopher Martin

This dragonfly flew by me when we were at a friend’s wedding near Osoyoos.  I took that to be a good sign and was not surprised in the least that it turned out to be a great day.


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A Red-tailed Hawk launches off a post on the prairie west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/2000 second at f/4 on ISO 800

When this Red-tailed hawk launched off the post I had been watching him on for a few minutes, I was really impressed by the power and balance displayed.   He flew closer and then went to the ground after circling back towards the fenceline.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t an attacking dive only an uninspired landing in the tall grass.

ed-tailed flight - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/2000 second at f/4 on ISO 800

 

 


Water skimming Tree Swallow

Water skimming Tree Swallow - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens + 1.4X extender: 1/2000 second at f/6.3 on ISO 1600

I was on the edge of the lake at Wild Rose a week ago watching the three loons who were diving in and swimming on the water.  A few different times a small flight of swallows deftly skimmed the water nearby while searching for low flying and water-walking insects to pick off.  These Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) are swift, acrobatic fliers so trying to catch a sharp image is a fun challenge.  This little one had just hit the water but missed the little creature and was just pulling up when I caught up to him.


Raven flight

Raven flight - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 70-200mm lens at 200mm: 1/6400th of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

I went out for a long walk in Kananaskis this morning.  Along an old road I hadn’t traveled on before, I was kept company by the heavy snow falling and a lone raven that croaked as I was returning to the trailhead.  I stopped for a few minutes and heard another raven further down the valley that was talking with “my” raven.  This one flew off in that direction and I carried on.


Prairie Falcon over… the prairies

Prairie Falcon in golden light - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens: 1/6400 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 800

When I was waiting for my new owl friends to provide a beautiful through-the-window moment, my tripod and I were set up out the open on the snow-covered field that surrounds the barn.  I was not expecting any other wildlife to swing by given my foreign presence but this Prairie Falcon (Falco mexicanus) must have taken pity on me.

Falcon's downstroke -2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens: 1/6400 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 800

More likely, it was scanning the ground for dinner and the sun’s low altitude in the evening kept it from looking in my direction until it was pretty close.  I was happy to see this hunter though as the light was beautiful and the bird even more so.

Silo flight - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm f/4 lens: 1/6400 of a second at f/4 on ISO 200

It was a very pleasant surprise when I ran across another one of these beautiful birds (maybe the same one) when I returned to that same area a couple of days later.  Well we didn’t really run into each other – I was driving and the bird was flying around a grain silo.  It circled around me twice which gave me a moment to get out of my car and track it a bit easier.


Pelican Landing

Dawn landing - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The colors in the sky at dawn have been fantastic during our visit to Los Cabos this week.  The wildlife has been even more enjoyable.  Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) have been a favourite bird of mine to photograph since I first saw them here in Cabo san Lucas a couple of years ago.  On the prairies, we have White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) that will hang out on larger ponds for the summer but for some reason they don’t cast the same spell on me that their multi-coloured cousins do.  I had a great encounter with a pair of pelicans a couple of mornings ago.  This image was of the first one maneuvering in to land on a half-submerged rock pile just before sunrise.  The other pelican joined a little while later.  Probably once I get home, I’ll have more to share from these two.


Seagulls in the Khutzeymateen

Khutzeymateen gull in flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Though named for its bears, the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary shelters a great variety of other wildlife as well.  Seagulls abound in the inlet with several different species mixing in with any one of the flocks.

Symmetry - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Water launch - 2013 © Christopher Martin

With the salmon running up the creeks to spawn, the bears would go into the forest where the water is shallow for easy hunting.  When a bear is feeding upstream, seagulls soon arrive at the river mouth and wait for the scraps.

A sentry for scraps - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Waiting for the bears to feast - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Bears are pretty messy when they are feasting on salmon so a lot of bits float down.  The birds hang in the air and perch along the banks watching for the bright red meat in the water.

A morsel of salmon caught - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The aerial acrobatics as they angle for position, dive for scraps, hold their territory and generally heckle one another are a lot of fun to watch.  The small streams keep the birds packed into a little area which allows for great photography as they fly in the same locations repeatedly.  Even with big lenses, it is relatively easy to track them as they fly up and down, back and forth.

Aerial surveillance - 2013 © Christopher Martin

On the sail out of the inlet, a few seagulls were using a stick of driftwood as there base of operations.  I don’t know if they were on a break from the salmon or if the insects along the surface were more enticing.

Adrift in the inlet - 2013 © Christopher Martin

 

Whether on the rivers or out on the open water, I enjoyed photographing these birds throughout my time in the Khutzeymateen.


An eagle’s easy meal

Fast food carryout - © Christopher Martin

I was out on the ocean with my friend Jeff yesterday.  We are heading into the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary this morning for four days on a boat where we will be looking for the wild bears that own this remote inlet on British Columbia’s Pacific coast.  That’s today but yesterday we were out whale watching leaving from Prince Rupert and cruising the coastline in search of humpbacks.  On the return, there were a pair of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) attracted by fishing scraps thrown overboard in the channel.

Target practice - 2013 © Christopher Martin

I saw it as a rare easy meal for these beautiful creatures.  Seemed like good target practice as well.  They circled around a couple of times for the chunks of fish, chasing off a large raft of gulls that seemed to materialize out of thin air.

Waterbound - 2013 © Christopher Martin

More to come in a few days when I get back.


The emperors of the marsh

Yellow-headed Blackbird in flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The Yellow-headed Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus) is a beautiful marsh dweller.  It also rules many of the prairie marshes it inhabits with an iron fist (or claw, as the case may be).  With smaller birds, like its cousin the Red-winged Blackbird, it will chase them off hounding them well past the edge of its nesting territory in the reeds.  Members of the heron family, gulls and coots will predate the nests and with these creatures the Yellow-heads will defend against very aggressively.

Marsh oration - 2013 © Christopher Martin

On the day I was at Frank Lake most of their activity was spent calling to one another and holding boundaries with other Yellow-headed neighbours.

Neighbourly visit - 2013 © Christopher Martin

A balanced landing - 2013 © Christopher Martin

I think the females are on the nests now as I only saw males flying around.  The babies may have hatched already but if so, I would have expected to see some hungry predators.  The males defending their nests can be very dramatic but I was happy to not see any of these would-be egg thieves around.  They will come at some point so it was nice to see the Blackbirds having respite during a warm afternoon.  I enjoyed photographing them flying around and perching with great balance on the reeds waving around in the breeze.

An intent examination - 2013 © Christopher Martin

A balancing act - 2013 © Christopher Martin 

Call from the post - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The nests are built over deeper water which helps keep curious creatures (animal and human) away.  I have seen the occasional person wading into reeds, presumably to look for nests and more reclusive birds, however the potential for disturbance is enormous and I am not comfortable with seeking out the next great photograph that way.  It is a personal choice but if you go in, learn all you can about the birds residing there beforehand so that you don’t inadvertently cause a nest to be abandoned, trampled or exposed to predators that come along afterwards.  I didn’t see any signs of people tramping through the large marsh around the Ducks Unlimited blind at the lake so I’m hopeful it will stay undisturbed through the nesting season.

An evening flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin


Owl flights in Bragg Creek

Evening launch - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII camera with Canon 500mm F/4 IS lens: 1/1250 second at f/4 on ISO 2500

Kezia and I drove out to see the owl the other night.  This visit was a real treat.  The Great Gray Owl was very relaxed and flew towards us in two short glides separated with twenty minutes of perching on a fencepost.

A golden flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII camera with Canon 500mm F/4 IS lens: 1/1250 second at f/4 on ISO 2500

Fence launch - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII camera with Canon 500mm F/4 IS lens: 1/640 second at f/4 on ISO 4000

Kezia was delighted watching the owl’s swooping flight and she whispered to the owl urging her to keep flying.  As it got darker the owl got more active so Kezia got to watch it flying every couple of minutes.  It moved into the forest, came back and then crossed the road, perched nearby and then we left for home.

Forest flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII camera with Canon 500mm F/4 IS lens: 1/640 second at f/4 on ISO 4000

It was a great evening to be out, especially with Kezia and I having so much fun.

Night watchmen - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII camera with Canon 500mm F/4 IS lens: 1/320 second at f/4 on ISO 5000