Posts tagged “wildlife

Bald in eagle in a blue sky

bald-eagle-blue-sky-flight-christopher-martin-3949

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.

bald-eagle-blue-sky-flight-christopher-martin-3946

 

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.

bald-eagle-blue-sky-flight-christopher-martin-3953

bald-eagle-blue-sky-flight-christopher-martin-3954-2

bald-eagle-blue-sky-flight-christopher-martin-3965

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.

bald-eagle-blue-sky-flight-christopher-martin-3968

bald-eagle-blue-sky-flight-christopher-martin-3970

 


A long, cold (and worthwhile) wait

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3769

The photograph above of the snowy owl in flight was taken late in the morning on February 11th.  This flight followed a long wait after some good early action.  The wait started with a feather cleaning session on an entrance gate which was interrupted by the approach of this truck which prompted the bird to fly to a more isolated spot.

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3375

When the vehicle drew too close for the owl’s liking, she launched and flew along the fence line towards the sun.

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3380

She didn’t go too far – landing on a post roughly 100 metres away.

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3389

We were separated from the owl by a fence line of our own which ran parallel to hers and they were about 80 metres apart.  That distance was just fine for me and with a 500mm lens made the subject a reasonable size in the frame.  From where I was, the sun angle and the background were both far from ideal.  I walked along the fence line and found a new location which allowed for improvements in both areas.  I kept moving around now and then to change the scene.  The owl did not – she settled in and did not leave the post for a long time.  There was no way to know at that point, but it would be 2 hours and 38 minutes before the snowy would return to the air.

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3562

The potential for a special moment – maybe a dive close to our line or a flight with the sunlight catching her eyes – kept eyes glued on her and fingers resting on the shutter buttons.  At a few different points, a drift of snow buntings buzzed past the owl as they flew to different spots around the field to forage.  For her part, the owl watched these comings and goings with minimal interest.  For me, these sorties were welcome bits of action.

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3706

Along the way there was more preening, dozing and the occasional stretch.  The one below seemed like a yoga position and was one that she held for several seconds.  Maybe this was all a part of her morning meditation?

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3675-3

Just before noon, the wings opened and she pulled her body down into a crouch.  She paused for a second and then pushed off into the air.

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3719

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3721

The snowy flew along her fence line which allowed for a few nice photographs before she passed us, crossed the road and landed in the snow near the top of a small rise that was a couple of hundred metres away.  My fingers were aching from the cold so this was one of the rare times where I was no longer interested in continuing to shoot.  I was happy to get in the truck and get the heat going.

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3742

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3748

a-snowy-owl-perched-christopher-martin-3770


Flying low on the prairies

snowy-owl-north-of-langdon-christopher-martin-99

I spent a morning on the prairies between Irricana and Langdon this weekend.  I met up with my good friend, and fellow photographer, Jeff Rhude in Delacour and continued east from there to see what we could find.  We were looking for owls and an hour before sunrise, we made out three individuals perched in different locations.  It was much too dark to photograph with any reasonable expectation of making a good image.  To us, their presence boded well for later, when the day was much brighter.  A glowing sunrise welcomed the day and after photographing that for a little bit, we began combing the fields and fence posts for snowy owls.  The ones seen in the pre-dawn gloom were nowhere to be found but several kilometres away we did find this one standing on the snow in a field.

snowy-owl-north-of-langdon-christopher-martin-78

The snowy took flight and let the wind push her eastward, across the road in front of us, until she landed on a fence post.  She did not stay there long before diving into the snow on the far side of a frozen pond.  That was a bit too far to see if she caught something but it looked like she did.

snowy-owl-north-of-langdon-christopher-martin-85-3

Soon after she jumped off the snow again and flew low over the ground before rising up enough to clear the fenceline.

snowy-owl-north-of-langdon-christopher-martin-98

snowy-owl-north-of-langdon-christopher-martin-100

snowy-owl-north-of-langdon-christopher-martin-3307

snowy-owl-north-of-langdon-christopher-martin-3308

That flight took her up to the gate of a compressor station.  We photographed her for another three hours afterwards.  I’ll cover that in my next post.

snowy-owl-north-of-langdon-christopher-martin-105


Wildlife during a winter blizzard

blizzard-chickadee-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2681

The snow started to fly on Friday and has kept falling through the weekend.  And, it’s cold!  I went touring west of Bragg Creek yesterday but saw very little – even when the sun came out for a couple of hours.  Today was a different story and I saw a couple of moose, some white-tailed deer and a small banditry of chickadees.

blizzard-moose-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2622

Moose love the cold so I hoped to see them in one of their regular haunts.  I found this young bull grazing in the bushes.

blizzard-moose-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2656

These chickadees, mostly black-capped with a couple of boreals, flitted around a fence line that’s long been fighting to hold back the bushes behind.  I’ve always liked watching these little birds – they move very quickly so it’s a nice challenge to photograph them.

blizzard-chickadee-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2803

blizzard-chickadee-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2738

blizzard-chickadee-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2708

blizzard-chickadee-in-bragg-creek-christopher-martin-2810


Three Snowy owls on the 30th

snowy-owl-in-flight-christopher-martin-8802

Just before New Year’s Eve, I headed east and ended up spending all of the daylight hours on the prairies.  During the day I came across three Snowy owls in separate locations.  The first was perched on a telephone pole keeping an eye on the coming dawn and the snow below.  She flew in front of me when a loud truck passed by which afforded me a great angle to photograph her.

snowy-owl-in-flight-christopher-martin-8803

She glided to a fence post in the middle of a nearby field. On her way she crossed the eastern sky which framed her wonderfully.

snowy-owl-in-flight-christopher-martin-8815-2

With a great start now in hand, I carried on and ended up returning to the field where I have been fortunate to photograph one Snowy a few times (one, two, three and four) already this winter.  I found that owl about an hour after sunrise.  She was comfortably resting on another telephone pole.  I say comfortably because she stayed in the same spot for the next 85 minutes.

snowy-owl-in-flight-christopher-martin-8928

Happily for me, it was not the deep freeze we have had regularly so far this winter so I was relatively comfortable while I waited.

snowy-owl-in-flight-christopher-martin-9145

A couple more hours went by after that, punctuated by three flights between high points around the field.  That’s a lot of waiting for a little action but I don’t mind.  I certainly have a lot of time to let my mind wander and to think about things at length – a luxury these days.  And, when the launch occurs, I love watching Snowy owls in flight.  Especially when they are framed against a clear blue sky.

snowy-owl-in-flight-christopher-martin-9379

I hope for a look from the owl during these flights – eye contact makes for more compelling images but often that doesn’t happen as they fly in the wrong direction or have their eyes focused on something else.   Look or no look, I enjoy watching and click when I see an interesting wing angle, body position or something else that seems interesting to me.

snowy-owl-in-flight-christopher-martin-9529

snowy-owl-in-flight-christopher-martin-9530

The days are short at this time of the year so it felt like late afternoon came quickly.  Along with it came some wonderful light and I found the third owl perched on a fence post a mile or so from the other Snowy.

snowy-owl-in-flight-christopher-martin-9709

I do not think I have seen this one before and she stared intently at me for a minute like I was a stranger.  Then she went back to scanning the field behind her in the image above.  Soon after she flew, glided across the field, caught something in the snow and flew up to tree to dine.  That all happened far away from me so I carried on to try to take advantage of the warm sunlight.  I didn’t find anything else before the sun went down but enjoyed watching the color rise up into the sky.

prairie sunset -christopher-martin-9834

Eventually I returned past the last owl’s field and now she was perched in a tree closer to the road.  I got out hoping to photograph her silhouette against the sunset.  Her profile in the tree was not great from my position so I waited to see if something would fall into place.  After a little bit she leaned forward and then dropped off her perch to fly over the field.  That was my last photograph of the owls and tied off a pretty good day on the prairies.

snowy-owl-in-flight-christopher-martin-9912

 


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


A Snowy in another snowstorm

overcast-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-7708

A couple of weeks ago I went out on the prairie looking for Snowy owls.  North of Langdon, I found this owl in a familiar locale.  It was a cold, blustery wind that accompanied the sunrise.  The snow blew into the air throughout the morning and made it feel like we were much closer to the Arctic Circle.  It was pretty dark with a bluish cast in the morning which only added to the wintry feel. At one point, the owl flew directly overhead and then around me which was a highlight for sure.

overcast-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-7702

overcast-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-7694

The rest of the morning was spent watching the owl sitting with making the odd hop/flight around the field.  Another good morning with this Snowy owl.

overcast-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-7734

overcast-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-7649

overcast-snowy-owl-flight-christopher-martin-7636


Happy New Year’s Eve Deer

new-years-eve-deer-christopher-martin-7408

This White-tailed stag was found during a short drive into Bragg Creek on Christmas day this year.

We are slowly warming up to New Year’s Eve and looking forward to the fireworks that our local community of Redwood Meadows puts on.  Always a great show – and they go early so the children get to enjoy them too!

I hope everyone has enjoyed, or is enjoying the last day of 2016.  It has been a winding year for our family, as it often goes, but still filled with a lot of laughs and the continued wonders of rearing my two children.


Merry Christmas… with a Dancing Elk

We enjoyed a great Christmas day around our home today.  Outside, the sun was bright, the sky was blue and the snow draped everything in a blanket of white.   Inside, we played games, built toys, laughed a lot and had a really good time.

I showed my family this video embedded above of a dancing elk that I had taken a couple of winters ago up in Jasper.  My mom thought that would be a good one to share online today – the kids agreed so I worked on that this evening (and here is the Youtube link as well).  It was a fun encounter with a young female elk who separated from her herd for a few minutes.  At several points, she broke into a dance, or rodeo bull impersonation, while I watched.

I hope you and yours have enjoyed a merry Christmas and I wish you all the best throughout the holidays.


First Snowy owl of the season!

A Snowy owl on the Albertan prairie © Christopher Martin-5839

For the past couple of years, every November I start getting excited to see Snowy owls. That is the time that they start to return to southern Alberta after their summer nesting season in the Arctic.  This year, Great gray owls and mountain landscapes kept me away from the Prairies until December.  When I head out to the open fields east of Calgary, I crossed paths with three separate Snowies and a Red fox – truly a windfall of good fortune!

a-snowy-owl-christopher-martin-5806

The first Snowy owl was perched on a telephone pole overlooking a farm field where the fox was hunting.  She was content to swivel her head around to keep eyes on everything around but not very excited by me, the traffic passing by, the farm dog that barked now and again at the fox nor the fox herself.  So relaxed, that she stayed put for almost two hours.  It was -22°C and the wind made it feel cooler than that.  I couldn’t blame her for not moving around too much but it was quite a while to wait.  I maneuvered my car to the far side of the road so that I could keep a lens on her from my seat and waited.  The light flattened out and the clouds formed a white sheet behind her but I didn’t mind too much – I was happy to spend time with my first Snowy this winter!

a-snowy-owl-christopher-martin-5833

When she did launch off the pole, it was to glide down to the field.  She skimmed low over the snow and grass before disappearing behind a small rise.  I hopped out and walked along the fence to a vantage point where I could see the owl again.  She looked like she was preening after eating a mouse but I didn’t see the attack if it did happen.  She sat and watched some more, staring at me lazily a couple of times – and once with the focused laser beams as seen above!  After a few minutes, she stood up and quickly took flight again.

a-snowy-owl-christopher-martin-5838

I love watching owls take off – they have strong wingbeats that have a clipped range of motion which seems effective to get them into the air fast.  The Snowy owls, along with the Great horned owls, are enormous as far as North American owls go so it is impressive how much power they generate.  She flapped hard and then levelled off about 2-3 metres off the ground as she retraced her flight plan back towards the road.

a-snowy-owl-christopher-martin-5843

Near the fence line she climbed up to perch on a new telephone pole’s insulator.  Once settled, she puffed up her feathers – the one acknowledgement to the cold I saw from her this time out.

A Snowy owl on the Albertan prairie © Christopher Martin-5856

 

 

 


Afield with a fox on the hunt

langdon-fox-on-the-hunt-christopher-martin-5710

(Click on the image to open a larger version)

I found this Red fox last weekend in Langdon, Alberta.  She was hunting mice in a farm field. alongside the highway.  A couple of times she came relatively close to the fence.  I really liked this image from one of these nearby encounters.  I’m heading there this afternoon to see if I can find her, or one of the three Snowy owls I saw last Sunday, again.


A Pileated evening in Bragg Creek

pileated-woodpecker-christopher-martin-1963

About a month ago, I was looking for one of the Great gray owls I sometimes find along the backroads in Bragg Creek.  The owl was nowhere to be found, but I did find a shock of red amidst the autumn yellows turned gold in the late afternoon.

pileated-woodpecker-christopher-martin-2015

pileated-woodpecker-christopher-martin-1832

pileated-woodpecker-christopher-martin-1982

Descending from the trees, he landed in a long abandoned pile of cut wood and set to pecking and probing for insects.

pileated-woodpecker-christopher-martin-1505

pileated-woodpecker-christopher-martin-1696

pileated-woodpecker-christopher-martin-1775

After a few minutes, he moved to a stump that was disintegrating into sawdust.  Snow was hidden from the sun in the depression he was hammering and a few crystals stuck to his beak.

pileated-woodpecker-christopher-martin-2131

Whether it was a full belly, boredom or the evening’s fast approach, he jumped up on to a tree and circled the trunk while moving upwards.  He pecked here and there but soon took flight through the forest and out of sight.

pileated-woodpecker-christopher-martin-2172