Posts tagged “spring

Backyard isolation

The squirrels continue to race around the trees in our backyard.  Social distancing and self isolation obviously have no meaning for them. Still, I did identify with this one for a minute when it perched alone. Soon it resumed scrambling up the trunks and leaping across branches.  It drew a little closer to the balcony in short order.

 


Avocets at Frank Lake in May

I went to Frank Lake in early May.  A short drive east of High River, this is a wetland controlled by Ducks Unlimited Canada and is designated as an Important Bird Area.  The migratory and summer populations both have a large variety of bird species.  I enjoy photographing there – it’s a beautiful location on the prairies, has abundant wildlife and offers a wide area across three basins to explore.

American avocets are one of my favorite shorebirds.  On my last visit, I had great opportunities to photograph them from mid-afternoon through dusk.  These are a few of those images.  Thank you for having a look.


A moose on the loose…

This moose was grazing in a marsh west of Bragg Creek when I drove by.  She stared at me for a minute, trotted through brambles a bit and then stared back to me again.

April 24th update: Thank you to The Mysterious Blogger for suggesting the title of this post – now updated.  And, to P.grover for improving my/our understanding of moose and threats to their health.


American robin in a watercolor

 

Spring has returned the robins the fields and forests around Bragg Creek.  I found this one stirring up the leaves below these trees. She darted between the trunks and then flew up into the branches.  The diffused background from a narrow depth of field reminded me of a watercolor painting.  The monochromatic palette in the bark and dull yellow grass both warmed a little with the morning sun.  Her orange belly was a welcome splash of bright color.


Spring equinox and the supermoon

I was happy to miss the moonrise on March 19th.  My daughter was performing one of her dance routines – where she sings too so I was in no rush to leave that.  Quick shout out to the Moto Café in Bragg Creek – thanks for hosting the recital – wonderful coffee, scones and atmosphere!

When the performers had all finished, I headed east towards the prairie and found the full moon still fairly low with the alpen glow hanging in the sky above it.  I knew this stand of trees and thought it’s silhouette, along with the color in the sky, would frame the golden supermoon well.  It felt like a great start to spring!


Signs of spring – mountain bluebirds

A pair of mountain bluebirds were flitting around a bird house west of Calgary a few days ago.  They caught my eye when I was driving past the farmland on the way to my daughter’s dance studio.  I stopped for a few minutes, watching as they appeared to be moving into their summer home.


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.


Welcome to the first day of spring

My children reminded me last night that today is the vernal equinox which marks the first day of spring.  It has been a severe winter here in southern Alberta so it is a little hard to believe spring could be arriving soon.  Last Sunday I was photographing at Carburn Park – one of Calgary’s beautiful parks along the Bow River – photographing ducks, geese and gulls along the water.

Snow fell through the day, wind blew in from the north and clouds slid low over the city.  I enjoyed the inclement weather for its photographic potential but I had no thoughts of spring as I went along for a few hours.

When I spied an American robin among the rocky shoreline, I have to admit I was surprised.  It looked and felt like winter – particularly on this day – but robins are wonderful harbingers of spring and I happily welcomed their presence as a sign of that change.  I dropped down to the ground and soon found that robin and seven others flitting about the rocks.  They know more than I do about season change or else they wouldn’t be here.  I hope you enjoy a beautiful spring!


Grizzlies spring foraging in Kananaskis

The first grizzly bear I saw this year was along the Kananaskis River in May.  I was watching ground squirrels playing around the field in the Opal picnic area.  Then they started standing up alert and chirping to one another.

Looking towards the river, I couldn’t see anything.  Then from out of the forest first one, then a second bear arrived.

They hadn’t noticed me, or maybe more likely, they had but did not have any interest in me.   Happily, they padded across the parking lot behind my car and continued on to cross Highway 40.

Their interest was in foraging on the hillside and I watched them for a few minutes until they slipped back into the woods.







A heron’s portrait

There are a couple of great blue herons near Exshaw, east of Canmore.  In late April, before the greening up in the grass and the trees, I found this stark and beautiful scene with one of them pausing within it for a moment.


Loons on the lake in Banff National Park

I found a pair of common loons on the third Vermilion Lake in the Banff National Park on the weekend.  They were diving and skimming the water surface for food, enjoying the sunshine and paddling close to each other at different points.

The sunlight caught the iridescence in their feathers.  It is beautiful when the red eyes glow and the silky greens shimmer along their necks.


Palouse – through the day


I really enjoyed photographing from sun up until deep into the night when I visited the Palouse in April.  The patterns in the fields, character in the sky and range of colors in both can blend wonderfully at anytime of the day.  These are a few of the ones that stood out from a couple of days on the backroads.


Shadows and light dancing in the Palouse

When I planned my Easter trip to the Palouse, I knew that I would make a couple of visits to Steptoe Butte.  It rises roughly 300 meters above the countryside allowing for an unobstructed view of the entire area.  That elevation gain provides a great perspective on the waves of farmland below.

The first morning that I drove up, when the butte came in sight I found it capped by a loose shroud of cloud.  After stopping to photograph that I headed up and was soon inside the cloud looking out at the sun rising over the clouds that had stacked up low along the horizon.

When the sunlight gently skipped across the rolling hillsides you could almost watch the color warm.  I enjoyed almost an hour of truly amazing light dancing with the shadows it created over the fields.  Those fields adding significantly to the views owing to their flowing lines, gentle patterns and earthy tones.

It was so beautiful that I had little hesitation choosing to return the next day.  The second visit had a subtly different feel but I enjoyed shooting that morning just as much as the day before.


Fight or flight?

On a snowy day in early April these two geese charged each other repeatedly as I watched them on the edge of the ice at Wild Rose Lake.  Here the one Canada goose looks bemused by this emphatic display.


Robins in Tillebrook

A visit east included a short visit to the Tillebrook Provincial Park.  A few American robins were hunting the trees for winter berries.  The branches split up the sunlight and shadows into shafts and streaks that the birds danced through.


A spring aurora on the prairie

A red alert from the Aurora Watch website late on the 27th prompted me to head north in search of the Northern Lights.  I traveled around for a while on either side of midnight – the sky was clear but the lights were very soft.  Eventually the sky’s glow began to build and I stopped on Jumping Pound Road south of Cochrane to watch the Aurora Borealis as it rose up.   There was a great arch that developed and sprites pulled away at different times throughout the show.

 


Signs of spring: mountain bluebirds

Less than a couple of weeks ago, it was close to -30ºC and there was a thick layer of snow across the prairies.  A couple of days ago it was just above 0ºC with only small patches of snow left on the fields near Mossleigh.  I spent the afternoon on the backroads to see what I could find.  Snowy owls were nowhere that I could see so I suspect the majority have now headed north.  Wedges of Canada geese flew overhead steadily as the sun began to sink lower.  These were joined by the occasional small bevy of swans which were great to see and I will share some of those pictures soon.
Early in the afternoon a blur of blue zipped past where I was photographing a stormy cloudscene to the east.  A mountain bluebird landed on a barbed wire fence a few metres away and quickly flitted around the posts and in the tall grass for a few seconds.  This male was joined by two others and two females and they flew off across the road and quickly out of sight across a field.  These birds are usually early spring migrants so I took it a definitive sign that winter’s grip is releasing now.

Great gray ascension

Great gray owl's ascension - © Christopher Martin-6677-2
This Great gray owl was hunting for field mice in West Bragg yesterday.  It dove a few times, easily punching through the thin covering of snow left by Friday’s snowstorm.  I watched it fly between fence posts before it flew up to this branch.  It turned out to be a good vantage point as it caught a mouse on its next dive.

I do want to also wish everyone a Happy Easter!  I hope everyone enjoys time with family and friends over the weekend.  We started the morning with a fun hunt with yarn that led the kids to their respective jackpots.  While we were outside, I looked for our resident rabbit but he was nowhere to be found – so no Easter Bunny photographs this year!


A spring snowstorm in Bragg

White-tails in the snow - © Christopher Martin-6321

The snow fell heavily last night after an initial hailstorm started things off.  This morning there was two inches (~5 cm) of snow on the ground.  I went out for a short drive into West Bragg.  I missed the Great gray owl that a couple of photographer friends watched this morning.  This mother White-tailed deer and her two fawns along the edge of the snowy forest made up for that though.


Snowy cattails

Snowy cattails - © Christopher Martin-9421
A storm overnight cooled off the Greater Calgary region considerably on Tuesday morning.  Even then I was still a little surprised to drive into a heavy blizzard on my way into town around 8 AM.  I didn’t want to waste a good snowfall so I pulled into a little pond where a few ducks spend a part of their summers at.  A Blue-winged teal and three Northern shovelers were paddling around the water while the snow fell.

Snow, ducks and cattails - © Christopher Martin-9412-2

 


Spring back into winter

Spring snow in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-6776

At some time in the middle of night, clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped.   This morning there was a couple of inches of heavy, wet snow covering Bragg Creek.  I drove and walked along a couple of the country roads in West Bragg to photograph the landscape after what should be a short visit by the winter spirits.

Spring snow in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-6784

Spring snow in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-6836

 

Snow and a spring Robin in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-6828


Dawn hunter

Morning owl in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-6402

I was out early on two consecutive mornings to greet the Great gray owls as they continued their hunting.  After dawn breaks, and before the sun gets too high, they often catch a couple more field mice and then retire to their nests for the day.  This owl was working the same area at the same time both days.  There was no trouble catching the rodents so it seemed like great hunting grounds which may explain the repeat efforts.  The second day the owl flew into shafts of sunlight which added to the quality of the images.

Morning owl in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-6445

Morning owl in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-6449

Morning owl in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-6458

Morning owl in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-6493

Morning owl in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-6411

Morning owl in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-5365


Spring Robins

Spring Robin - © Christopher Martin-3454

Robins are heralds of spring where I live.  Our weather can be 20°C in the middle of winter or have a snowstorm in July so we have a lot of fits and starts between each season.  I know that winter has mostly retreated when the robins return to our backyard.  This one showed up with its partner about a week ago and I photographed him having a drink in the pond over the weekend.  It was a mild winter but I’m still very glad to be enjoying spring now.

Spring Robin - © Christopher Martin-3448-2


Swainson’s Hawk in Springbank

Swainson's launch - 2014 © Christopher Martin

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.

Field hunting - 2014 © Christopher Martin

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.

Swainson's Hawk extended - 2014 © Christopher Martin