Late October provided a window of warm weather that gave farmers the opportunity to finish their harvesting. Driving near the Springbank Airport, I saw the dust plume generated by a combine on one field and went to have a look. Often, birds and coyotes can be drawn in looking for any dazed or dead rodents resulting from the harvester passing over their burrows. These ravens were four of a much larger group that were following behind the tractor. I watched these ones as they hopped and flapped around, cawing at one another while searching for food.
Wood ducks are one of my favorite species of waterfowl (side note: that is a weird word!) I love the plumage of both genders. To me, they are among the most beautiful birds. Beyond that, I like watching them paddling around, chasing one another and most of all splashing during their cleaning routine.
Last weekend I spent a couple of hours watching them carry on about their day. Every now and then, one would separate from the raft of ducks, presumably to get some space, before dunking their head under the water several times, shaking the water off, flapping wings, rising out of the water and then repeating it for as long as they saw fit. I didn’t tire of watching the water drops fly!
This August, I’ve taken a couple of afternoon drives along Grand Valley Road north of Cochrane. The rolling hills and farmland is beautiful and is home to a variety of birds and other wildlife. I have been missing great gray owls so that was my specific draw to the area. I was fortunate on both occasions to find them; three on the first trip and one on the second outing.
This one I watched in the forest from a gravel road. She perched on a few different branches over a half an hour before diving down into the grass. She caught and quickly swallowed something – my view obscured by the grass and the trees but likely a vole or some type of field mouse.
The solitary owl from my most recent drive was perched in a more open area. I was able to string together a nice flight sequence when he launched after a few minutes of watching him.
I spent Sunday morning watching a great blue heron hunting for fish in the shallows of a small lake near Bragg Creek. Early on it was just above freezing which led to mist rising off, and swirling across, the water. The heron was on the far side when I first spotted him so I took turns watching the weather and the fishing.
The day slowly warmed up a little as did the heron to me. I stayed put in my lawn chair and around 10:30, he crossed the lake landing about 60 meters away from me.
Herons are excellent hunters and this fellow caught fish steadily while walking in the shallows.
One more flight a little while later put him back on the far side but still quite close.
He continued hunting along the shoreline there for another 45 minutes.
Towards noon, I wanted to get home and when he flew back towards the first location I’d found him, I thought that was a sign that our encounter was completed for the day.
This fox was trotting down the road on a sunny morning in the Mont-Tremblant National Park in early July. She stayed ahead of me when I pulled over and then crossed into the forest. I watched it through the trees and was able to catch a nice look when she stood in a pool of sunlight. A little further along she came back onto the road again for a minute.
This blackbird’s flight from earlier this morning was an interesting one. He crouched low on the branch for a few seconds, longer than I was expecting, before it launched. When he did, there were a couple of quick wing beats before diving out of sight into the brambles.
Most weekends in the first couple of months of the year I spent driving the country roads east of Calgary in search of snowy owls. I had a number of great encounters this year amid some frigid temperatures and heavy snowfalls. The last of these visits was in early March.
I found this owl perched on a fence post in the middle of a field on a beautiful sunny morning east of Delacour. I waited for quite a while before the owl chose to fly. When she did, she caught the wind and rose upwards quickly before she looked my way and banked above me. She crossed the field and dove into the snow by another fence line. She was too far to see clearly what she caught but she finished it quickly and then flew off out of sight.
Some people continued to find snowies into April but I have been drawn to the mountains and the waterways running out of them for the last few weeks so I will look forward to next winter when I hope to find these beautiful birds again. For now, I am enjoying the arrival of spring as I’m sure they are too as they return to their summer range north of the Arctic Circle.
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.
I like photographing birds – no surprise to those who follow this blog. I’m not a birder with a long list of life birds but I really enjoy watching almost every bird I see, particularly when they are in motion. Several days ago at Carburn Park the sky was overcast, snow fell and wind out of the north had a bit of a bite to it. A great day to watch and photograph along the Bow River.
At one bend there was a small colony of California gulls. A few flew off in the time I watched them. Although these gulls are common around Calgary’s rivers through the winter, and can be easily found at any time, I had fun watching these ones fly by.
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!
Through the winter, there are chickadees that hang out in my backyard. On Sunday afternoon, I found a few of them pecking seeds out of the fresh snow below the feeder.
I took a few minutes to photograph them when the sun had dropped low enough to backlight them and the speckles of snow their pecking threw into the air.
A boreal chickadee came at the last and flitted about for a few seconds before flying off in a spray of glistening snow.
A couple of weeks ago, I walked with a friend down to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. Canada geese were massed along the Bow River in and around the cold water. Flights of these birds came in and out all morning.
I dragged the shutter and panned with the birds as they flew past to create blur and lend motion to the images.
A very enjoyable couple of hours went by and then my friend had to leave. I elected to stay and walked down the iced over path that parallels the Bow along the eastern edge of the bird sanctuary.
A young stag trotted along the rocky beach right in front of me at one point. He stopped for a few seconds out of mild curiosity before skipping around the corner and quickly going out of sight.
An immature bald eagle alighted in a tree across the water a few hundred meters away. It was watching the geese that congregated near the water intently. After half an hour it launched into the air, crossed the river and flew directly overhead. I love eagles so this was a highlight of the morning for me despite the somewhat harsh lighting.
The day was close to noon by then and I headed towards the ponds. A couple of magpies were making a terrific racket which drew my attention. Looking in the dense stand of trees I spied a great horned owl calmly perched a couple of meters off the ground. She stayed mostly oblivious to the angry birds and they soon moved on. I returned to check on the owl a couple of times in the afternoon but she was napping for the most part so I didn’t photograph much. It was unseasonably warm so I enjoyed spending time with the owl with no expectation for more.