Posts tagged “nature photography

A fight over a fish

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The pair of Ospreys who summer on the Castle Junction bridge’s nest raised two chicks through adolescence this year.  When I spent a day watching them in August that meant there were four of these raptors, now all very close to the same size, interacting with one another on and around the bridge area.  Flying, fishing, chasing and fighting over fish dominated the moments of action amid a lot of time spent perching over the river up in the trees that line that stretch of the Bow River.

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I spied this Osprey when it alighted on a weathered log with a freshly caught meal.  By the time I walked a few hundred metres so that I was directly across the river from the bird, it was no longer alone.  Ospreys have excellent vision, roughly twice the distance capabilities of humans, so it was no surprise that company arrived quickly.  Another Osprey landed close by, shrilly announcing its arrival and crying out for a share of the sushi.  The successful fisher had no interest in sharing and resisted all advances from the other to do so.

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Over the next four hours, I watched this bird defend its prize from sneaky grabs for a scrap, frustrated attacks, a couple of near dive-bombs and outright theft!  Throughout, the Osprey nibbled away on the fish – whether another bird was nearby or not.  The other Osprey never ganged up on their family member but I’m pretty sure two of the three made individual advances.

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With the repeated flybys the interloping Ospreys gave me some great opportunities for in flight shots that were interesting and new for my library.  The low to ground shots in particular.

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The birds were aware of my presence, I didn’t blend in with the rocks on the shoreline.  I didn’t move around much and, with the river between us, I felt confident that I was not impacting their behaviour and so I enjoyed the opportunity to watch the family dynamics play out.

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Several times the Osprey clutched the fish in one talon and looked to be getting ready to fly.  That didn’t happen – the bird didn’t stray more than a couple of metres from the log and stayed on it for most of the time.  That made me suspect this was an adolescent with little experience flying with fish but given the size, and the fact that it had caught the fish in the first place, I’m definitely not sure.

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Steadily the Osprey worked away on dinner, despite the numerous distractions, and finally finished all but the smallest scraps.  Shortly after finishing the Osprey flew off down the river.  It flew across my sight line affording me a nice flight series – a fun little reward after four hours crouching among the rocks.  I watched it all the way back to the nest where it few around a couple of times before I lost sight of it.  I hiked back to the bridge and came back to the shoreline a short stone’s throw from the Ospreys new perch.  Again, it took note of me and then continued looking down the river and up at the nest.  Several minutes went by before the bird launched and flew up to the nest.

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A coyote’s stroll across the fields

Coyote on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-2016

The warm February in southern Alberta has melted most of the snow on the Prairies.  This has made traveling over the fields much easier for wildlife.  Over the past couple of weeks, I have seen deer, elk, moose and coyotes on the grasslands near my home west of Calgary.

Coyote on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-1966

This coyote was hunting a little bit as she paralleled the TransCanada Highway near Springbank.  I hoped for a pounce but she was more focused on distance than hunger it seemed.

Coyote on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-2033

Coyote on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-2026

After she crossed an off ramp, she paused to stare in my direction before moving on.

Coyote on the Prairie - © Christopher Martin-2000

I left at that point, not wanting to spook her and make her hurry across Highway 22.  I stopped a kilometre or so down the road and watched her wait for a quiet moment.  When that came she ran across the pavement and into another field.


Autumn leaves in Shangri-La

Red leaves at Shudu - © Christopher Martin-9907

Autumn is nearing its end this year in my part of the world.  When I was in Shangri-La, China last month fall colors had just started to appear in the forests.  In the Puducao National Park, I found these brilliant leaves among the deep greens dominating the foliage along the southern shoreline of Shudu Lake.  If you are interested in seeing other images from my trip, please click this link.

Red leaves at Shudu - © Christopher Martin-9671

 


Summer residents at Frank Lake

Singing from the grasstops - © Christopher Martin-6632

Frank Lake is just east of High River in southern Alberta and is a great location for birding throughout the year.  In the summer, ibis, herons, avocets, blackbirds, ducks, pelicans and a menagerie of other avians congregate there for their summer residence.

A Black-crowned night heron stalks along a fencepost.

Black-crowned night heron at Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-7854

On a recent visit, I enjoyed watching and photographing a number of these birds.  The Black-crowned night heron above was of particular interest to me as it stalked along this fence above a stream where it emptied into the lake.

A shorebird at Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-6819Summer among the reeds in Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-6593
Flight over Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-7036

White pelicans at Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-7668

Avocet reflected in Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-7175

Ibis at Frank Lake - © Christopher Martin-6637


A truly lone wolf

Highway 93 Wolf - © Christopher Martin-9050

I left Jasper early in the morning heading south along the Highway 93, enjoying the empty road given the time of day.  I had hopes of finding a bear or two along the forest’s edge during my drive through the park (and did sight a very handsome fellow a little later).  I had gone about ten kilometres out of town and then felt compelled to retrace my path, thinking I would drive back to last bridge before town and then head south again.  Turning back, I went a couple of kilometres and then saw an animal quite a distance straight ahead.

Highway 93 Wolf - © Christopher Martin-8963
I pulled off to the shoulder and levelled my long lens quickly.  I was happy to have a composition with the wolf in the middle of the road with the surrounding landscape visible.  I watched the wolf trot steadily down the middle and shoulders of the highway for several minutes.

Highway 93 Wolf - © Christopher Martin-8978
She had a route in mind and stayed on it.  She paused near an opening to the river, and I had thought she might go down to the water.  That wasn’t her path as she carried along the road, passing me on the other side and stopping to give me a stare before moving on.  At close range I noticed her tracking collar and it seemed like she had been freshly shaved around the neck so I wonder if she had been fitted with a new collar and was now catching back up with her pack.

Highway 93 Wolf - © Christopher Martin-9010
Highway 93 Wolf - © Christopher Martin-9007
Highway 93 Wolf - © Christopher Martin-9038

Wolves are one of my unicorn animals.  That is to say that I don’t see them anywhere near as often as I would like.  So it is very special when I do get to spend time with one.  Especially one as pretty as this wolf!

Highway 93 Wolf - © Christopher Martin-9054


A backscratching bear’s dance

Backscratching bear dancer - © Christopher Martin-9297

I visited Jasper National Park for a couple of days over the Victoria Day long weekend.  The park has a different feel (both are great – just different) from Banff and I always look forward to spending time there.   I plan to share a few stories of time I spent with some of the magnificent wildlife there but will start with a really fun moment.

Black bear shuffle and stare - © Christopher Martin-9121

This black bear was grazing in the ground cover of a stretch of open forest when I found him.  I watched him scratch, sniff and chew on shrubs, flowers and roots for several minutes and then he sauntered over to this small tree.

Backscratching bear dancer - © Christopher Martin-9279

Rearing up on his hind legs, he seemed really happy to rub his back up and down against the spiky needles.  I’m not sure how much scratching he felt with his thick coat so maybe it was more for the scent or to shake off some insects.  No matter the reason, it was cool to see a bear dancing for his own reasons.

Backscratching bear dancer - © Christopher Martin-9286

Backscratching bear dancer - © Christopher Martin-9287

Backscratching bear dancer - © Christopher Martin-9300

 

 

 

 


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


An owl and a weathered tractor

Great gray owl in the trees - © Christopher Martin-7538

I have loved photographing one old, weathered tractor for years.  It sits in a field that is home to horses now and I think it has been enjoying its retirement there for many years before I ever found it.

For the first time, I met the gentleman who owns this tractor, the horses and the land this past weekend.  We had a pleasant conversation while we enjoyed watching this Great gray owl hunting along his fence line.  Peter was very familiar with this owl and it was great to learn some new things about it.

Great gray owl in the trees - © Christopher Martin-7434

Shortly after he left, the owl flew off the fence line and into a stand of trees near the tractor.  I set up for a dive I hoped would come but was very happy when the next flight was not into the grass but over to the steering wheel on this much admired, at least to me, tractor.

Great gray owl on a tractor - © Christopher Martin-7448

From this perch, the owl’s glowing eyes scanned the surrounding grass.

Scouting from the steering wheel - © Christopher Martin-7534

After a few minutes it hunched down, signalling that it may fly.  It paused for a couple of seconds and then launched.

Great gray owl in the trees - © Christopher Martin-7539

This bird is an excellent hunter so it was no surprise that the strike was successful.  As they like to do, after the pounce the owl looked around to check his surroundings as they are vulnerable when down on the ground.  It stared at me to check that I hadn’t made any moves or movements that signalled a change in my intent.

Great gray owl on the field - © Christopher Martin-7550

It swallowed the mouse on the ground and then flew back to the same perch on the tractor.

What's up? - © Christopher Martin-7630

It idled on the wheel for a couple of minutes, preoccupied for a moment with something it noticed in the sky above, before heading into the trees.  These were the trees where I had gone into when I was photographing him on the tractor so I had a front row seat to the forest hunt and three different perches before he flew uphill and out of sight.

Great gray in the trees - © Christopher Martin-7712

Great gray in the trees - © Christopher Martin-7769

Great gray in the trees - © Christopher Martin-7800


Snowy owl on the hunt in Irricana

 

Spring Snowy Owls - © Christopher Martin-1653-2

This Snowy owl’s dive into the grass directly below was a great moment to watch.  The bird’s intense focus when it started tracking the prey from the perch on the fence through to the awesome descent to attack were welcome rewards given the time invested.  I found this Snowy on this fence post a little after 9 am and quickly set up my camera and lens across the field from her.  For the next 2 1/2 hours, she shuffled, scratched, preened, and dozed.  She seemed to have little interest in me, the field mice or in flying for most of that time.  She kept watch of everything going on around her but her talons may have been nailed to the wood!  I was hadn’t expected to wait that long but with her relaxed manner, I hoped when she did fly it would be in the direction she faced when I first stopped.  That direction was facing towards me and in the end she did do that.  I thought if she flew that way, I would have a few in flight opportunities but this dive was short in both time and distance.  I was happy to have captured a couple of frames before she disappeared into the grass.

Spring Snowy Owls - © Christopher Martin-1654-2

I waited for about 10 minutes for her to climb out of the tall grass and when she did it was heading away from me.  Given the time on the ground, I would wager that she did catch the prey and spent the time out of sight enjoying the meal.


A Snowy owl’s elusive smile

A Snowy cry - © Christopher Martin-1524

This Snowy owl had been chirping at some ravens nearby when it was perched on a telephone pole and they were flying above.  Eventually one came too close which prompted the owl’s leap into the air.  She looped around the pole once before settling on another one further from the mischief makers.  While banking in the turn photographed above she cried out again.  This time proved an excellent opportunity to photograph her “smile”.


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 Tiger Owl on the Prairies

 

Autumn Tiger Owl - © Christopher Martin-2733

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.

Autumn Tiger Owl - © Christopher Martin-2438

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.

Autumn Great Horned Owl flight - © Christopher Martin-2735

Owl over water - © Christopher Martin-2738

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.

Autumn Tiger Owl - © Christopher Martin-2809

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Autumn Tiger Owl - © Christopher Martin-2751

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.

Autumn Tiger Owl - © Christopher Martin-2969

Autumn Tiger Owl - © Christopher Martin-2859

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.

Autumn Tiger Owl - © Christopher Martin-2834