Posts tagged “Great Gray Owls

Great grays in Grand Valley

This August, I’ve taken a couple of afternoon drives along Grand Valley Road north of Cochrane.  The rolling hills and farmland is beautiful and is home to a variety of birds and other wildlife.  I have been missing great gray owls so that was my specific draw to the area.  I was fortunate on both occasions to find them; three on the first trip and one on the second outing.

This one I watched in the forest from a gravel road.  She perched on a few different branches over a half an hour before diving down into the grass.  She caught and quickly swallowed something – my view obscured by the grass and the trees but likely a vole or some type of field mouse.

The solitary owl from my most recent drive was perched in a more open area.  I was able to string together a nice flight sequence when he launched after a few minutes of watching him.


I love owls but…

Great gray owl's meadow flight - © Christopher Martin-7050
The Great gray owls are a favourite animal of mine.  No surprise there for anyone who visits my site.  This time of the year is great for photographing them near where I live so I often don’t travel too far afield – content to spend my time watching this beautiful birds.  This weekend, I’m breaking with habit and heading to Yellowstone National Park.  For all kinds of reasons I have not yet been there so I’m really excited.  The wildlife and the landscapes there have filled my dreams for years so I can’t wait to get going later this afternoon.  Wish me luck – I will share what I am fortunate enough to see when I return.

Great gray owl's meadow flight - © Christopher Martin-7049

And, they have Great grays down there so maybe I’ll get to see some of the Yellowstone family too!


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


First owl flights in May

Great gray in May - © Christopher Martin-7873

Owls don’t care about what day it is, but, on some level I guess I do.  I went out this morning when the sun was shining and the day was quickly warming up.  I was happy that the first day of May picked up where April left off as I was able to continue spending time with owls.  This owl was hunting around a farm field and a horse meadow in Bragg Creek.

Great grays in May - © Christopher Martin-7874

This Great gray owl was landing on some strategically placed posts in the middle of the field and successfully grabbed a couple of mice over a short span.  I haven’t watched owls hunt on this field before but I will be back as it appears to be a very productive spot for this owl.

Great grays in May - © Christopher Martin-7881

Great grays in May - © Christopher Martin-7917

Great grays in May - © Christopher Martin-7939

Great grays in May - © Christopher Martin-7951


Forest owls in flight

(Please click on each picture for high-resolution versions of each image)

My friend Jeff Rhude came out to Bragg Creek to photograph along the back roads with me this morning.  We struck out for West Bragg around 6am with the sun fighting valiantly to burn off the haze.  The resulting soft light was wonderful and stayed with us through our first meeting with one of the owls I have photographed a couple of times recently.

We found this owl a couple of hundred metres down the fence line running at a right angle from the road.  It flew to a couple of posts and we photographed it from the field facing the forest.  It moved back towards the road and we went ahead of the bird to try to guess where it was going to fly next.  Moving off the road, we walked into some open forest and had great views to a couple of the flights in the trees.  The owl went to a stump overlooking another field and we walked up the hill to have a higher point of view.

Flying up to a knot in a tree the owl was looking past me and after a bit of shuffling it launched… straight towards me.  It happened fast but the autofocus was up to the task and I kept the lens on the bird as it flew right over my head.  Having that experience and some great images, we agreed to head back to the road and leave the owl to continue its hunting.

We covered a few more productive spots and we found two separate Great Grays.  The last owl spent most of its time in the trees near the road but then made a great set of dives.  The third attack was successful (for the owl, not as much for the mouse) and completed a good morning.  If you are interested in seeing these and a few others from the day, I invite you to visit this web gallery.