Posts tagged “Springbank

An old bull’s stare down

I found this Highland bull on a fold west of the Springbank airport.  He was scratching an itch along the broken planks in the corral when I stopped.  He raised the horns, huffed and stared at me from under his dishevelled mop.  Seemed like he was the master of his domain and he wasn’t particularly interested in my intrusion into it.  A good character to photograph and then part ways with.


Bald in eagle in a blue sky

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A couple of days ago I spotted this bald eagle balanced atop a telephone pole.  He was watching a small conspiracy of ravens gathered on a snow pile on the edge of a field in Springbank.

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After a few minutes his curiosity seemed to get the best of him and we launched towards the group.  He spiralled above them for a moment but must not have seen anything too appealing as he landed on another telephone pole instead of amongst the ravens.

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Maybe it was just to have a closer look before deciding.  Either way he decided not to stick around for long and flew a couple of hundred metres away and into a stand of trees isolated in middle of the field.

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#83 – a cow in a field

#83 - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens: 1/000 of a second at f/4 on ISO 800

The evening light was soft and warm last night.  I loved the colour in the coats of this small herd in Springbank.  #83 was particularly interested and turned out to be particularly photogenic.


Prairie Hawks in flight

Banking in and looking out - 2013 © Christopher Martin

With spring sprung, there are an abundance of hawks wheeling in the sky over the Prairies now.  Through the winter, the Rough-legged hawks had the air to themselves and now Red-tailed, Swainson’s and Broad-wings have joined them.  This dark morph Swainson’s was beautiful and wheeled around me for a couple of turns.

Red-tailed Hawk - 2013 © Christopher Martin

This Red-tailed hawk screamed at me when I stopped to photograph it flying over the fields.  It flew beside me and let loose one of the shrieks that Hollywood still often uses to dub over the Bald Eagle’s less impressive one.

Red-tailed launch - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Another Swainson’s launched out of this tree and looked beautiful in the warm, evening light.

Curious - 2013 © Christopher Martin

One other Red-tailed watched me out of the corner of its eye as it glided past but saved any vocalizations for another time.  This hawk was one of the few I saw that wasn’t flying.  I did not see a nest nearby so I think the bird was just taking a break from hunting.

Perch - 2013 © Christopher Martin


Snowy Owls in Springbank? Yes!

Over the shoulder - © Christopher Martin-9689

(please click on any image to open a new page with a higher resolution version)

The days between Christmas and New Year’s have involved watching a pair of Snowy Owls in a new location.  Thanks to a sighting near Calaway Park shared by Andrew Hart with the Alberta Bird group, I drove along the back roads in the area looking for one of these majestic owls.  It was near sunset when I found the first one along Range Road 40 on a transmission tower.  The bird was a long way from the road and even with a 500mm telephoto lens plus a 1.4X extender (for a total of 700mm of reach) the two images below are cropped in significantly.  With failing light and a settled bird, I left this one and headed east towards the Springbank Airport.  Across the road from the airport, I saw the white oval of a second Snowy perched as seen above.  This owl was much closer which helped tremendously given how dark it had become.

Pre-flight - © Christopher Martin-9500-2

Despite the title and the pose, the owl did not fly after this shot.  It was readjusting its body by a quarter turn to the east and ended up staying in the position below until sometime after I left.

Attention - © Christopher Martin-9514

My wife and I went past the airport the next day and found one of the owls perched alongside Township Road 250.  The hunt seemed ready to commence but a raven flew by and spooked the owl into a short flight across the field (and beyond my lens’s range).  It was wonderful to see one of the owls glowing in the beautiful winter light.

Launch - © Christopher Martin-0175

Flying away - © Christopher Martin-0178-2

I was unable to go that way today however my wife did and she watched both of the owls perching, hunting and jousting with a raven.  I’m hoping they settle into the area and spend their winter here.  Last spring my searches for Snowy Owls took me out to Langdon and on towards Brooks so it’s nice to save the couple of hours driving there and back for more time photographing these owls (as well as the coyotes, eagles and hawks which normally hunt in the Springbank Airport area).


Autumn with a hawk in Springbank

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.

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A screaming hawk in Springbank

This Red-tailed hawk is often perched on one of the telephone poles which line a gravel road along Highway 8, west of Calgary.  This morning I turned off to see if I could find her.  I did and she wasn’t overly pleased to see me.  As soon as I stopped near her pole-top perch, she took flight.  I felt like I stole this one before she flew further down the road.  I was happy with this image and didn’t want to harass her further so I left her alone.


Prairie Storm: Dark Clouds, Heavy Rain and a Lightning Strike

This location, just west of Calgary, is one of my favourite places to photograph during the winter months when the sun sets behind the southern edge of the Canadian Rockies.  Last night, a massive storm broke free of the mountains and stretched across the prairie.  There were some great holes in the clouds that allowed sunlight to streak through here and there.  A very dramatic scene to work with and create images of.

Behind the ominous forerunning clouds came the heavy rain.  Here the rain is hammering Bragg Creek and moving quickly onto the fields.

As the storm’s intensity built, lightning seemed inevitable and I was lucky to catch this strike hitting along the Elbow River behind a hill in Redwood Meadows.

When the rain did arrive where I was photographing, cover in the car was the prudent option.  It was no exaggeration to say this was a torrential downpour.


Silhouettes: Elk on a Ridge


 The Sibbald Herd is a large group of elk that forage west into the front range of the Kananaskis mountains and east to Springbank near Calgary.  They move within a relatively thin band along the eastern part of their land and are often in the scrub brush that edges the farmland along Highway 22 between Highway 8 and the Trans Canada Highway.  They often graze behind this ridge in a shallow valley but on this morning I found them lined up among the trees and the rocks.  They were quite interested in my for a couple of minutes and then resumed grazing and wandered back behind the hill. 

 I photographed these animals about an hour after sunrise with the sun still below the crest of this ridge.  The strong backlighting made for wider range from dark to light than my camera can capture so I chose to work with the structural elements within the scene.  Reduced to black and white, there is an interesting relationship between the land and the elk highlighted in these pictures.

  Playing around on this last one.  I like how the white bushes look like splatter paint.


Swan floating along the fenceline

There was a storm that burst out of the mountains and settled over the prairies around Calgary in the middle of the week.  With the warmer weather that preceded the blizzard, there are hundreds of shallow depressions currently masquerading as ponds in the fields and meadows.  It serves the waterfowl that are currently migrating to their breeding grounds in the north.  I found this resolute swan paddling in one of these pools in Springbank.  Together with a partner, it was dunking its head looking for food and seemingly oblivious to the angry snow falling.  The Tundra and Trumpeter Swans briefly stop in this part of Alberta, the largest regattas only staying for one or two days.  By the end of this weekend, most will have flown on.  I did not get too close to these birds so I have to guess that this is a Trumpeter as I could not see a yellow spot on the bill which is only found on the Tundra Swan.  However, with the mottled grey plumage, I think it is an adolescent and I’m not certain whether the yellow spot only develops in adults.  Either way, great to see these short-term visitors.


Bald Eagle: roadside over Highway 8

Leaving Calgary on my way home to Bragg Creek, I came across a bald eagle perched on a fence post.  I love to photograph birds of prey, so I pulled off the road and jumped out of the car, camera and long lens in hand.  Some eagles stay year round here but they are not common so I’m always excited to see one.  I was curious to figure out why it was so low to the ground and close to the highway.  Usually they are up in trees and closer to rivers than roads.  As I moved a bit closer to the bird, his choice of location became obvious – there was a deer, victim of an encounter with a vehicle, crumpled in the ditch.  The eagle was in the right spot to swoop down and feed while being able to keep an eye on his prize in between.  There were magpies and a couple of crows nearby but none on the deer, they seemed to be keeping their distance.

I waited for a while to see if the eagle would go back to the deer but I must have come along right after it finished one sitting because it showed no interest in going back at that time.  Eventually it took flight and circled over the road and up to a large tree a bit further up the hill.  I left it there but probably should have set up my field stool and waited for the inevitable return.  Really nice to see one of these impressive birds in our area.


Nightscapes on the Prairie

A snowstorm obliterated the opportunity to photograph the “supermoon” on March 18th but I was out in a field the night before to see how the moon looked.  The moon was impressive and it was really great to be out in the moonlight for a few hours.  In the image above, the pink sky is the result of the city glow and the light from the moon.  With two of the three deer walking slowly during the long exposure, they have a ghostly appearance.

As the last couple of deer trotted past, I panned with them.  Under the moonlight they were dimly illuminated so I raised the ISO, opened the aperture and underexposed a bit to try to capture enough light to show the landscape with the deer moving through it.  Even with the noise in this image I like the motion.

Below, a simple landscape image with the moon as it rises clear of a band of haze laying just above the horizon.

A long exposure looking west towards the mountains was one of the last images from the evening.  The layers in this photograph from the lights, to the hill, the mountains and into the stretched sky are interesting.

As for the moon itself, I didn’t take an image that really showed the scale of it during this close pass unlike some of the incredible photographs I have seen around the web.  This image was taken with a telephoto lens and then cropped in slightly.  It doesn’t convey how close the moon came but it is nice to photograph our lone satellite.