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 owls have been a focus of mine this winter. Last Saturday I was east of Calgary again – touring the back roads, looking for owls and, when they were found, working to not spook them. A few of my earlier visits to the prairies have been frigid experiences. That day was pleasantly different – the sun cut through the clouds early and they moved on altogether by mid-morning but did so without a heavy wind pushing them. The relatively mild and calm weather was welcome indeed.
The day was productive in every sense. I found two owls just after daybreak near Gleichen. I spotted the first one as she flew parallel to the road I was traveling down. The second was perched on this fence line but he took off as the first neared. The displacer landed and fussed with her feathers while scanning the ground. The sun lit her up a couple of times which was special. She eventually glided over the fields behind her and landed on a rise after catching an unlucky creature for breakfast. I drove below the rise and caught her yawning before she rested and dozed for a bit.
Note: this snowy is mottled with dark and light feathering and that used to be thought to be exclusively females and the almost pure white owls were males. Over the last few years, that has been disproven (some females are all white and some males are not). There is no visible way to confirm the sex that I am aware of so I still refer to a white one as “he” and the others as “she”. That is a bit of anthropomorphization but I really dislike calling animals “it”.
I had an encounter with a beautiful almost solid white snowy owl an hour later a little further north of this spot. I will share that story with him soon!
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.
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.
Soon after she jumped off the snow again and flew low over the ground before rising up enough to clear the fenceline.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.