It was May of this year when I saw my first Barred owl in Bragg Creek. I’ve lived here for ten years and spent a lot of time in the forests so it was a real thrill to find a new (to me) species in the area. In late October, another one was waiting for me as I was walking in the woods along the edge of Kananaskis Country. This time, the owl watched me intently for a few seconds, scanned the ground for prey for a few more and then repeated that for a couple of minutes while I watched and snapped a few images. Eventually the owl flew a short distance away but they blend into this type of forest so well that I lost sight with the next glide that followed. A beautiful creature.
To start the long weekend, I went looking for the Great Gray Owl pair who have been very active over a field of tall, green grass for much of the summer. I had a relatively short visit with one of the owls on this encounter. The bird stayed across the field for most of the hour I watched him. He did fly across, land nearby and stay for a few minutes at one point. However I got there a little bit later than usual so the morning hunt was winding down.
There was one particularly good dive that I pulled a nice sequence from. I love the wing positions in these shots and the intention in the focused stare.
It was good to see the owl again after being away for a couple of weeks. When he headed back towards the forest edge and their nest, I headed back to my home too.
A Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) launches over the fields near the town of Turner Valley in Alberta, Canada.
Driving with the kids along Lower Springbank Road, I was hoping there would be some hawks hunting along the freshly tilled fields out that way. On the second or third field my son spied a light morph Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni) standing on a fence post.
We watched it make a few short flights over the soil before heading continuing on. Spring is a great time for driving, and photographing, on the prairies.
When this Red-tailed hawk launched off the post I had been watching him on for a few minutes, I was really impressed by the power and balance displayed. He flew closer and then went to the ground after circling back towards the fenceline. Unfortunately, it wasn’t an attacking dive only an uninspired landing in the tall grass.
I have been able to spend a couple of evenings with the two Snowy Owls since my first encounter with them near the Springbank Airport just before New Year’s. These are a few of the images that have stood out from the growing collection. I absolutely love watching these birds and with more time I’m learning some of their habits and behaviours.
The images below are from a drive I made east of Calgary on the weekend. I had good luck finding Snowies around Langdon and Gleichen last year and the success continued when I spotted this beautiful owl flying around one of the fields.
The crops around the Springbank airport have all now been harvested. This leaves the fields shorn bare except for the uncollected bales of hay. The attraction drawing hawks is the exposed ground which presently offers little protection for field mice and the like. I have spent a fair bit of time walking and driving along the range roads to photograph some of the activity while it lasts. This Red-tailed hawk, one of the light morphs, was absolutely beautiful. It flew between a couple of posts before launching out across the meadows.
(please click on any image to open a higher resolution version)
(please click on any image for a higher resolution version)
This adolescent osprey’s nest is along the Bow Valley on top of the Castle Junction bridge. Its sibling had not yet fledged and the two of them spent the whole two hours I watched them screaming at one another. Screaming may be too strong, but if they were just calling back and forth, it seemed to have considerable emotion behind it.
Maybe the one who was flying was urging the other one to try, maybe the nest-bound bird was telling the flier to go away. With other nests I know of emptying as their summer residents head south, I wonder how much longer the one will wait for the other.
Watching this bird circle around was incredible, it always is. After this flight it landed on a bushy tree nearby and at one point it stared down at me reminding me of an inquisitor.
My favourite one from this vantage point was when the raptor cocked its head in the direction of a sound and I caught this look.
(Please click on each image for higher resolution versions)
My friend Jeff came back out to Bragg Creek to photograph with me again last weekend. We found a female Great Grey Owl hunting over one of the fields in West Bragg.
She was covering large areas of the field with each flight and it was fun trying to anticipate where her flight path would go as she crisscrossed the meadow.
The intensity of expression of these owls always holds my attention. That coupled with the power in their flight motion make them so interesting to watch. This encounter was no exception to that rule.
The talons are amazing too. I have heard of people being attacked by Great Grays when they strayed too close to a nest – I continue to believe that is something to be avoided.