Posts tagged “flying

Forest flights in a snowstorm

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-4970

A snowstorm hit Bragg Creek last weekend quickly draping the area in white and pushing the temperature way down.  I caught sight of this owl along a familiar stretch of open forest divided by a gravel road.

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-4954

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-4968

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-4972

It was a steep challenge keeping sharp focus as she flew through the trees and with the heavy snowfall but I had a great hour or so watching her and trying to keep up.  I ended up with many in-focus tree, out-of-focus owl shots but when it worked out the other way around there were some interesting images.

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-4916

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-4914

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-5159

When I did return to my car, it did take a few minutes for my fingers to thaw – that’s always painful but quickly forgotten.

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-5244
She was very successful during the time I watched her.  Three field mice were the first courses for breakfast from five silent descents into the tall grass.  When time allows, I will share a few of those action shots in another photo story here.


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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Eagles flying at the Mount Lorette Ponds

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This year I have photographed a pair of Bald eagles who nested at the Mount Lorette Ponds.  These small lakes in Kananaskis are stocked with Rainbow trout most years so these eagles have obviously found an excellent location to summer.  On this morning in mid-August the day took a little while to warm up which saw both birds perch in the trees nearby.  I waited for a couple of hours for a fish catching run with no luck.

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The luck I did have was watching these two beautiful animals as they surveyed their land below.  One eagle was more active early and flew to different trees a few times before disappearing into the forest above the water.  I hiked around for a bit before returning and finding one over the water again while the other perched on the edge of that forest.

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Eagle fishing in the Banff National Park

Eagle fishing in Banff - © Christopher Martin-5085

I watched this eagle glide across the Vermilion Lake from its nest on the far side.  Ahead of his arrival on the shore in front of me, waterfowl and a couple of Great blue heron scattered in all directions.  The eagle flew higher and circled a couple of times, staring into the water.  He dove, his claws slicing the water, but finding no joy.  The raptor pulled up into a branch of a dead tree to reconsider its approach.

Eagle fishing in Banff - © Christopher Martin-5077

Eagle fishing in Banff - © Christopher Martin-5078

Twenty minutes passed before his second flight.  He flew in a wide arc, gaining a little more altitude.  The birds that had been on the water, had not returned so the eagle had a clean line this time.

Eagle fishing in Banff - © Christopher Martin-5086

He dove, again, and this time his talons came off the surface with a fish in their grasp.

Eagle fishing in Banff - © Christopher Martin-5089

The fish was quickly moved from talons to beak and then swallowed mid-flight.

Eagle fishing in Banff - © Christopher Martin-5093

The eagle flew back up to the same tree and settled on a branch near where it had been pestered by the blackbird earlier.  From there, I hoped he would fish again and I waited for more than an hour.  Along the way, he called out a few times which gave some interesting head and beak positions to photograph.

Eagle fishing in Banff - © Christopher Martin-5253

Eagle fishing in Banff - © Christopher Martin-5420


A forest hunter

Great gray owl's forest hunt - © Christopher Martin-2969-4

On a warm summer evening, down a country road leading nowhere, I found a pair of Great gray owls.  One was hunting actively near where I set up while the other was perched deeper in the forest.

Great gray owl's forest hunt - © Christopher Martin-2966

The shadows lengthened and I hoped for a special moment before the sun slipped below the ridge to the west.  She flew over me and I thought that would be the end of the encounter as she flew into the trees.  Instead, she alighted on this small branch and stared intently at a couple of spots in the grass.  Shortly after she dove headlong into one of those spots and disappeared.  

Great gray owl's forest hunt - © Christopher Martin-2970

Several seconds ticked by and then she leaped into the air – with a field mouse secured in her beak.  It was my good fortune that she flew directly towards me as she gained altitude before banking to her left and heading further uphill towards her nest.  The first image and the ones directly below are the series as she flew through the trees towards me.
Great gray owl's forest hunt - © Christopher Martin-2971
Great gray owl's forest hunt - © Christopher Martin-2972
Great gray owl's forest hunt - © Christopher Martin-2973
Great gray owl's forest hunt - © Christopher Martin-2974
Great gray owl's forest hunt - © Christopher Martin-2975

 These were a series of moments well beyond what I was even hoping for.


Great gray owl on frost and in gold

Great Gray Owl in the frosty meadow - © Christopher Martin-6695-2

Last week’s dropping mercury and precipitation allowed the fields around Bragg Creek to be encased in frost on the weekend.  I spent the morning watching birds of all sizes waking up – with most waiting for the sun to warm things up a bit.  This Great gray owl was more interested in breakfast and I watched him hunt for a couple of hours taking his catches back to the nest hidden somewhere in the forest nearby.  These images of the owl just lifting off the grass with a field mouse in its beak really captured the tone of the morning – frosted grass, shafts of golden light, a spectacular bird in flight.  It was another wonderful morning spent in awe of the natural world.

 

Great Gray Owl in the frosty meadow - © Christopher Martin-6646

Great Gray Owl in the frosty meadow - © Christopher Martin-6692

Great Gray Owl in the frosty meadow - © Christopher Martin-6647


Wild Rose’s Common Loons

Wild Rose's Common Loons - © Christopher Martin-4474

There have been three Common loons that spend each spring on Wild Rose lake in Bragg Creek.  Last weekend, I found them for the first time this year and watched them for swim, dive, call and chase each other around for an hour.  The morning light on the water was beautiful and made a great backdrop for these lovely birds.

Wild Rose's Common Loons - © Christopher Martin-4510

Wild Rose's Common Loons - © Christopher Martin-4587

Wild Rose's Common Loons - © Christopher Martin-4476

Wild Rose's Common Loons - © Christopher Martin-4498

Loons need a long stretch of water to use as a runway to get airborne.  When this trio decided to leave, two flew along the far end of the lake away from me.  The third, fortunately for me, flew towards me and lifted into the air right beside me.

Wild Rose's Common Loons - © Christopher Martin-4625

Wild Rose's Common Loons - © Christopher Martin-4631

Wild Rose's Common Loons - © Christopher Martin-4643


Hanging out, flying around

Great horned owl near High River - © Christopher Martin-3980

These two Great horned owls flew between various perches among the strip of trees I found them in east of High River.  I watched them for two hours as the morning’s overcast sky brightened.  They were unsettled by ravens a couple of times but mostly seemed to be resting while keeping eyes on the fields they looked over.   When they did fly it was worth the wait.

Great horned owl near High River - © Christopher Martin-3803

Great horned owls near High River - © Christopher Martin-3922

Great horned owl near High River - © Christopher Martin-3809-3

Great horned owl near High River - © Christopher Martin-3464

Great horned owl near High River - © Christopher Martin-3802-2

Great horned owl near High River - © Christopher Martin-3540

Great horned owl near High River - © Christopher Martin-3517


A Great horned owl’s flyby

High River Great Horned Owl's flyby - © Christopher Martin-3721

I found this Great horned owl and her mate flying around a long line of trees on the edge of a farm field east of High River.   On this flight she flew at eye level, very close to where I had my camera and lens setup on a tripod.  Too close to fit the whole bird in the frame but I was happy to get a sharp image.


Ospreys in flight

Banff Osprey - © Christopher Martin-3031

There was a lot of flight time during the afternoon that I spent watching a pair of Ospreys last weekend.  They flew along the Bow River fishing, perching and collecting branches for their nest.  I enjoyed watching them and having the opportunity to photograph them flying.

Banff Osprey - © Christopher Martin-2884

Banff Osprey - © Christopher Martin-3243

Banff Osprey - © Christopher Martin-3004

Banff Osprey - © Christopher Martin-3092

Banff Osprey - © Christopher Martin-2652


Bald eagles flying around their dinner perch

Bald Eagles in the Crowsnest - © Christopher Martin-5968

Watching these two eagles for an hour back in March, I am convinced they are the pair who will occupy the large nest perched in these trees over a pond on a farm on the high prairie east of the Crowsnest Pass.

Bald Eagles in the Crowsnest - © Christopher Martin-6157-2

 

Both had no difficulty catching the ground squirrels in the fields surrounding the pond.  When they did, they returned to this branch to eat – possibly for the company.  It was very cool to be a stone’s throw away from the wonderful creatures.  At close range, I was reminded how big these birds are.

Bald Eagles in the Crowsnest - © Christopher Martin-6153

Other eagles circled the water as well but none seemed paired up like these two which leads me to believe they “own” the nest.  I’ll get back there soon and see where things stand now!

Bald Eagles in the Crowsnest - © Christopher Martin-6210

There were a lot of fun shots to choose from which I whittled down to these few here.  It was, obviously, a well spent afternoon by my standards.

Bald Eagles in the Crowsnest - © Christopher Martin-6203