Posts tagged “owls

Into the forest with an owl

A great gray owl was hunting across a meadow near Kananaskis Country earlier in the week.  I watched her across the field for a while before she flew to the forest edge and landed in a tree branch a couple of meters off the ground.  Eventually she launched and dove after something in the tall grass.

That proved to be unsuccessful.  And the owl flew across the hillside into a stand of trees to the north.  I was able to watch her work between a couple of different perches until she found one in the sunlight.

The warmth in the sun may have been part of the reason she stayed there for a few minutes.

 

When she moved on, she flew low over the wet grass, then climbed into the trees and disappeared.


A good morning with a great gray owl

This great gray owl was hunting across a field when I was out photographing.  I set up my camera and watched her glide low over the grass scouting for movement.  She caught a mouse and ate it before crossing the field, landing on a fence post close by.

She worked along the fence line for a little bit before returning her attention to the seemingly more productive ground she had started the morning at.  I waited for a couple of minutes, watching while she made short flights and dives.

Inevitably she added to her breakfast count and then returned in my direction.  This time to a weathered wood fence which was directly in front of me.  She flew from fence, to the red pipe and to the fence again in quick succession.

That gave me the opportunity to photograph her in flight up close which was a wonderful gift from this beautiful owl.  Before long she launched once more, crossed the field into the sunshine and landed in a tree on the edge of the forest.


The last of this winter’s snowy owl encounters

 

 

Most weekends in the first couple of months of the year I spent driving the country roads east of Calgary in search of snowy owls.  I had a number of great encounters this year amid some frigid temperatures and heavy snowfalls.  The last of these visits was in early March.

I found this owl perched on a fence post in the middle of a field on a beautiful sunny morning east of Delacour.  I waited for quite a while before the owl chose to fly.  When she did, she caught the wind and rose upwards quickly before she looked my way and banked above me.  She crossed the field and dove into the snow by another fence line.  She was too far to see clearly what she caught but she finished it quickly and then flew off out of sight.

Some people continued to find snowies into April but I have been drawn to the mountains and the waterways running out of them for the last few weeks so I will look forward to next winter when I hope to find these beautiful birds again.  For now, I am enjoying the arrival of spring as I’m sure they are too as they return to their summer range north of the Arctic Circle.


Spring flight – a great gray owl in the evening

I saw this owl perched in the middle of a field of bushes at first.  The sun was getting low so I felt lucky to have found her before it became too dark to photograph.

She flew low over the foliage and dropped into them for a moment – disappearing from view.  A blur of motion behind a line of still wintering trees caught my eye and I followed her as she landed on a branch halfway up the last of these trees.

A few minutes later, she flew across the field once again and disappeared into the forest.

All the while, her mate had been perched at the top of an evergreen in the middle of the bushes and I turned my attention to him for a little while.  The light failed quickly and I headed home leaving the lone owl at his viewing tower.


Great horned owls

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.


A wide-eyed snowy owl

The snowy owls will soon start to head north so I’m trying to get out to photograph them as much as my time will allow before they go.  I found this owl just after sunrise and when she looked backwards at me, her wide eyes caught the sunlight beautifully.  I will miss these gorgeous birds when they return to their summer breeding grounds on the arctic tundra.


Snowy owl flights

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-6090

I started a morning last weekend watching a snowy owl.  When she had a long yawn, that seemed like a good sign to keep moving.  I left the napper and headed along a range road which ran due north.  After a few miles, this owl popped into view as it flew out from behind a small bush.

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-5994

Happily, it wasn’t too upset by the disturbance and landed about 100 metres to the east.  I took a few photos from the roof of my car and then pulled out my longest lens (500mm) and the monopod as it felt like I had time before he might start hunting again.

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-6011

That started a great 90 minute stretch where I was able to move into good positions (the owl, me and the sun in a line) a couple of times while he hunted across the field.  There was a lot of preening, listening and looking around (and the occasional glance my way) in between the three flights he made while I was there.

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-6016

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-6017

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-6024

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-6029

He flew back to the road, and directly past me, on the first flight and landed where a slight rise afforded a view in both directions.  He stayed pretty alert and it did not take very long before a target was found.

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-6083

The owl flew a very short distance and then dropped on the far side of the road.  He grabbed a small mouse that was beneath the snow but not safe from this accomplished hunter.

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-6084

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-6086

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-6088

He finished second breakfast and flew back close to the roadside perch.  The light was amazing and lit up the golden eyes.

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-6152

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-6165

More than an hour later he flew across the field away from me and I headed home.

snowy-owl-in-the-sunshine-christopher-martin-6246

 


A beautiful afternoon with a Snowy

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8330

After a blustery start to the day on December 27th, by 2pm the wind had settled down and the sun then came out making for a much more comfortable time while I watched this Snowy owl.  She seemed to enjoy the change in the weather too as she was very active.  Her hunting ability is exceptional and she caught a mouse on almost every glide low over the snow.

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8329

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8332

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8340

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8349

The two series, above and below, were both successful hunting runs where she caught a field mouse or something similar.

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8352

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8353

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8367-2

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8368

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8369

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8371

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8372

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8375

I have become a regular observer of this bird in particular as she has a large farm field staked as her territory and I’ve been lucky to find her there consistently.   In previous years, I have occasionally been able to repeat time with the same owl but this regularity is really special to me.

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8379

Earlier she flew to a few different parts of the field before settling on the area where she flew over in the photographs above.

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8275

sunny-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-8315


An owl on the other side

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2706

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.

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2695

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2704

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2705

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.

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2718

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2719

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.

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2729

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2737

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2738

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2741

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2742

 


In the presence of greatness

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2606
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.

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2546

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2541

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2679

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.

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2604

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.

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2572

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2584

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2662

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.

a-great-gray-owl-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2629


A gallery of Great gray owls

great-gray-owl-christopher-martin-8200

(Please click on either image to open the Great gray owl gallery)

It has been a while since I put together a gallery of animal images so I worked on one last night.  I chose Great gray owls as they are among my very favourite birds to watch and to photograph.  They have a balance of power and intelligence that always impresses me.  All of these images are from the Bragg Creek area, either in West Bragg or on the edge of Kananaskis that shares a border with it.  I have been photographing some of these owls for six years or more although most of the early images didn’t make this cut for various user operator (me!) issues.  For the 35 images that did, it was fun to look at the scenes I’ve been able to see them hunt, perch and fly in.

A Great gray owl in evening sunlight near Bragg Creek, Alberta

Looking back over these I feel very fortunate to be able to have spent so much time with these beautiful raptors.  At some times of the year, I see them rarely but I enjoy knowing that they are still there.  When are paths do cross, it never fails to be a continuation of my education about Great grays.  I still have a lot to learn… lucky me!


A Great gray owl in Redwood Meadows

Great gray owl in Redwood Meadows - © Christopher Martin-3782-3

I’ve lived in Redwood Meadows for over 9 years and have never photographed a Great gray owl in the daylight here.  A little while ago, I was driving back from Bragg Creek and spotted this owl perched on a fence post.  I watched him in the sun for a little while before he flew.  Then he quickly moved from post to post for a couple of minutes, with short breaks between flights.

Great gray owl in Redwood Meadows - © Christopher Martin-3714

Great gray owl in Redwood Meadows - © Christopher Martin-3730

Great gray owl in Redwood Meadows - © Christopher Martin-3735

Great gray owl in Redwood Meadows - © Christopher Martin-3736

Great gray owl in Redwood Meadows - © Christopher Martin-3737-2

Great gray owl in Redwood Meadows - © Christopher Martin-3738

Great gray owl in Redwood Meadows - © Christopher Martin-3748

Great gray owl in Redwood Meadows - © Christopher Martin-3749

Eventually he flew to the top of a nearby tree for a better view.  That did not last long and he flew directly in front of me as he crossed the road (the first photo int his story) and flew into the heavier forest on the edge of the Tsuu T’ina Rodeo and Pow Wow grounds.

Great gray owl in Redwood Meadows - © Christopher Martin-3780