The ice started to recede on Two Jack Lake in late April this year. Waterfowl was drawn to the open water as they migrated back to Banff National Park. Some birds were resting briefly before continuing further north. For a small gaggle of Canada geese, they seemed to be planning for a longer stay.
At one point, one goose decided to chase another. The target flew off and was joined by his mate and they landed at another opening. Perhaps this was a territorial “discussion”. For me, it yielded a series of images with the aggressor splashing, flying and skimming across the water. The bird banked around the small cove towards me so I was in a great position to photograph him.
The remaining couple settled down quickly and returned to paddling on the water. A little while later one laid don near a stand of trees while the other went to the edge of the ice that still covered most of the lake.
This black-capped chickadee chirped and sang from the woods beside a small peninsula on Upper Kananaskis Lake. I sat down and waited for a little while to see if it would come into view. They are curious little birds and it didn’t take long for this one to perch among the golden leaves nearby. With a quick check done, it soon flitted off and I continued on towards the windswept side of the lake across the peninsula.
This past summer I spent a lot of time at the Vermilion Lakes in Banff National Park. I was drawn there by a pair of common loons who nested on the third lake this year. This photograph was from May 27th at 5:41 am on a morning when I was alone with the loons and their beautiful, haunting calls to one another. After diving, they preen their feathers and eventually lean back, unfold their wings and vigorously flap them to shed water. This process always fascinates me and I love the way the still images look. It starts slowly, with the bird shifting their weight and then stretching out the wings while raising their bodies off the water. The flapping then starts and builds to a crescendo with the loon’s head pointing straight up, wings blurring furiously and water drops spraying off in all directions. And then it ends with the bird dropping back into the water and carrying on preening, diving or paddling along. The whole cycle lasting roughly 3-5 seconds. The image below is that peak in the cycle where it seems the bird itself might fly apart.
This was easily one of the sweetest moments I’ve seen when this bull moose nuzzled with his calf.
The bull is likely mating with the cow again this year which brings him into the same area as the calf. I didn’t expect them to have a bond but when this tender moment happened on the weekend, I was obviously wrong.
This calf was born in 2016 and still stays close to his mother. The three moose have been hanging around each other again during this year’s rut. I don’t know how long they will stay together as a little family before the bull returns to the solitary life.
When I started watching them, the calf was laying down while the parents grazed separately nearby. Over the next hour they all moved slowly around the small meadow and the edge of the forest. It was a relaxed atmosphere which I think is reflected in the photographs.
Eventually the big fellow laid down and was soon napping. The cow and calf continued grazing. And I headed home.
Forgive the double alliterations in the title! I recently came across one of these pictures in my image library. That recalled the encounter with this grizzly bear and her three cubs in 2012. It was wet morning in June and my friend Jeff and I were out photographing near the Vermilion Lakes. We found the bears under the trees. While mom was sleeping, these two year olds were rough housing with abandon.
Though the bared teeth look fierce no true biting happened. Even the play lost their interest before long and they alternated sprawling across mom and nursing. We left then and it seemed they were close to a nap themselves – although they may have powered up again instead.
When they separated, I was able to grab a couple of individual shots. Truly beautiful animals. Five years on, I wonder how they have made out. Their mother, 64, was well known in the Banff area but disappeared at the age of 25 and was assumed to have died in late 2013. I believe one of these cubs was 148 who was relocated out of Banff earlier this year. That move was due to her increasing encounters with humans but, tragically, she was shot and killed last Sunday in British Columbia. A death, legal though it was, which I am having great difficulty accepting. Particularly when that province will outlaw trophy hunting of grizzly bears starting on November 30th. I’m a bit teary now so I’ll finish here.
Here is one of the last photographs I took of 64.
There were two mule deer bucks nibbling on roadside grass that I came across last weekend. They were between the two Kananaskis Lakes and they ran up the hillside to the forest edge when another car passed by. This brought them into the morning sunshine which illuminated them wonderfully.
One of the stags paused at the top of the hill before disappearing behind the trees. The other walked along the ridge above the road for a few minutes.
He was enjoying the buffalo berries which are ripe throughout the valleys in Kananaskis now. I always think of these berries as being food for the bears but this fellow reminded me that they are a delicious snack for many of the animals in the Rockies.
The smoke from the wildfires in British Columbia and Alberta continues to roll across the west. That morning the resulting haze was quite heavy which warmed and softened the sunlight. Beautiful light to work with – a very small and personal silver lining to a massive issue impacting millions of people. This photo of peaks in the Kananaskis valley gives some indication of the atmosphere on that morning.
The stag kept an eye on me but with little traffic and me staying in my car had little provocation to join his partner in the woods. I left him still grazing and continued my travels around K-Country.
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.
Earlier this year when there was still snow on the ground, my son and I caught sight of a bobcat. It darted out from stand of trees, crossed a small field and then disappeared into the forest. A week ago, my daughter and I saw another bobcat in almost the same location. Maybe the same one but there was no way for me to tell. This one appeared to be a young adult. And this time it was hunched down in a small grassy mound.
We watched for a couple of minutes and made sure we left the side closest to the trees unobstructed so the cat could slip away at any point. At one moment when Kezia and I walked to a different spot, it did just that seeming to evaporate, leaving no indication of ever having been there. It was wonderful to share this encounter with my daughter. And it had been a couple of years since I had last photographed a bobcat so that was fun too.
A couple of weeks ago I took a break from the snowy owls on the prairie and visited some of my great gray owl haunts near my home. I had not seen a gray for several weeks so it was a fishing expedition at best with limited expectation. I was excited when I found this owl perched over the snow. It wasn’t too long before she dove into the snow and quickly swallowed some kind of mouse or vole. Her back was to me when she landed so I didn’t get a good look at her snack. She flew up into a bare tree and continued surveying the small meadow.
She decided pretty quickly that wasn’t the spot for her and she flew into the evergreens after only a couple of minutes.
She landed and then dozed for close to half an hour from a good spot in the trees overlooking another small patch of snow.
I put on my snow boots and took an indirect path to a little hill opposite her new perch. Her eyes watched me a little bit but the lids shut once I sat down on a log. I was happy to wait and see if she would continue hunting after her rest.
With another snack in her belly, she retreated to the trees and I left her shortly after taking this last picture.