I found this great horned owl on December 20th. She was perched a couple of meters off the ground in a stand of trees along the edge of a farm east of Langdon on Alberta’s prairie. It was just before noon and the day was cool but not frigid. The warm sun was lovely as I walked from the range road to a position with a better view of the owl. I was excited to photograph the bird – especially once I had the sunlight at my back and I could catch the glow of the golden eyes.
She watched the ground intently at times and tracked any ravens that flew overhead. I settled in on a mound and waited for the bird to launch. Despite a couple of shakes and repositions early on, the bird didn’t fly then and soon the eyes were shutting for increasingly long intervals.
For four hours I waited before the owl jumped into the air. I was in a great position but was chagrined when she flew away from me. Hope returned when she alighted on a branch 20 meters away and turned back towards me. A few minutes along and the excitement returned. This time the flight path was towards me and she flew beside me on her way to another line of trees towering over a snow-covered field. This time afforded me a great angle on the owl.
A couple of weeks ago, I walked with a friend down to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. Canada geese were massed along the Bow River in and around the cold water. Flights of these birds came in and out all morning.
I dragged the shutter and panned with the birds as they flew past to create blur and lend motion to the images.
A very enjoyable couple of hours went by and then my friend had to leave. I elected to stay and walked down the iced over path that parallels the Bow along the eastern edge of the bird sanctuary.
A young stag trotted along the rocky beach right in front of me at one point. He stopped for a few seconds out of mild curiosity before skipping around the corner and quickly going out of sight.
An immature bald eagle alighted in a tree across the water a few hundred meters away. It was watching the geese that congregated near the water intently. After half an hour it launched into the air, crossed the river and flew directly overhead. I love eagles so this was a highlight of the morning for me despite the somewhat harsh lighting.
The day was close to noon by then and I headed towards the ponds. A couple of magpies were making a terrific racket which drew my attention. Looking in the dense stand of trees I spied a great horned owl calmly perched a couple of meters off the ground. She stayed mostly oblivious to the angry birds and they soon moved on. I returned to check on the owl a couple of times in the afternoon but she was napping for the most part so I didn’t photograph much. It was unseasonably warm so I enjoyed spending time with the owl with no expectation for more.
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.
I hope that everyone is enjoying a Merry Christmas with those they love. We had an early start with Santa’s stockings for the kids starting the morning off right. Coffee helped the adults wake up, and then catch up, with Kezia’s and Kian’s enthusiasm. A lot of laughs, smiles and hugs – just what this daddy was looking for!
This Great horned owl was a patient subject when I was guiding a new friend and fellow photographer from Colorado around the prairies. We toured the gravel backroads east of High River and this was the first of three owls (two Great horned and one Snowy) we spent some time with. With the very light plumage, I think of it as a Christmas owl. It must be the season!
With warmest regards from my family to yours,
I found this Great horned owl (Bubo virginianus) perched on a long abandoned barn’s window sill. It was a cold day and this spot was out of the wind and facing the sun, which did come out a little later. Pretty smart place to doze the daylight hours away.
I had the great pleasure of seeing a Great horned owl at an old barn east of High River. It is one that I have visited a couple of times over the past couple of years. This window, which faces north, is a favourite daytime perch. The heavy clouds only threatened rain and their midday dimming effect seemed to encourage the owl to make a couple of sorties over the surrounding fields during the time I spent there.
The owl flew along the fence line twice which afforded me a few great in-flight shooting opportunities. I left the barn with my friend perched in the deep shadow of the barn’s interior.
In between the absurdly early snowstorm in September and the first winter cold snap that started last week, we had a great autumn here in the Foothills between Calgary and Banff. I spent a fair bit of time on the prairies and enjoyed some good encounters with their wild residents. The Great Horned Owl above was from a stand of trees west of High River during a great day where I had two separate encounters (one and two) with these beautiful owls. The one below is closer to home being a few miles south of Cochrane.
A beaver in the lake at Wild Rose, west of Bragg Creek, let me watch him swim on an overcast day where the ripples were soft and provided some nice opportunities. On another visit a pair of muskrat preened on the lake’s shoreline before returning to the water.
White-tailed deer are regularly seen in the fields as they stock up for winter. It was cool to see the young stag in the second image that was stag traversing the blackened earth in a much less recovered section of the Sawback prescribed burn that was done in 1993.
Another White-tail on the prairies stood on alert in a field south of Cochrane where I watched two stags rutting.
A Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) brought in the day with me last week. A short while after leaving there, I visited a stand of trees that line a gravel road south of Frank Lake. There is a nest for a pair of these owls which has been used for decades. I photographed the nest last spring and wanted to drive by to have a look. The chicks would have fledged in June and the nest was empty of any residents.
I found this tiger owl a couple of hundred metres away perched about 3 metres off the ground. It was quite alert considering its nocturnal nature and moved to three separate locations in grove over the half an hour that I watched the bird.
I drove to the High River area on the weekend to look for owls. It was still dark when I found a Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) perched to the side of a small pond east of Frank Lake.
I set up on the side of the road and spent almost two hours watching him from across the water. The morning slowly got brighter but with heavy gray clouds diffusing the sunlight, it stayed dark for most of the first hour. The owl alternated between short naps and moments of intent staring at any stray sound or motion. These last were both mostly imperceptible to me but kept my attention, and the long lens, focused on him.
Just before 9 am, he stretched wings vertically and launched into the air. After a couple of quick strokes, he glided over the pond and landed in a bare limbed tree.
The skeletal branches did not suit for long and he crossed to another tree edging the pond. This tree was heavy with autumn tinged leaves and provided a third distinct setting for me to photograph this beautiful tiger owl in.
After a few more minutes, he walked down the branch and settled closer to the trunk and more out of sight. I packed up and while I was putting my tripod away, I watched him fly out and glide over the field behind the pond.