Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Ice storm images (20131223) Christmas in Ontario

The bride and I went to visit our son, daughter-in-law, and first grandchild for Christmas this year. There were concerns regarding our travel plans as Ontario was being hit hard by freezing rain. We arrived late and could still see the affects as we drove to his place. In the afternoon of the 23rd there was some brilliant sun so I ventured out. Frequent visitors here to the blog will note that you don't get a lot of "landscape" shots but this is a rare opportunity to see this side of nature. A shot of one of his Cedars.
There was ice everywhere, and on everything. The trees were coated most thoroughly.
I was surprized when reviewing my images (I took over 500 in a short walk) to find this fence and the effects of the light and ice. Had I been actively reviewing I probably would have gone back and focuessed more on the fence and take some more shots.
I like how each indiviual pine needle received the "icing" treatment in this shot.
The tops of many trees, like this Maple have been snapped off under the weight of the ice.
It was nice when you could find some colour to emphasis the ice coating it had received. This bench really caught my eye.
The red fruit stocks at the branch ends of this tree looked great, I was very grateful to find some reds to hightlight.
I was able to frind a little fruit still on a tree. Again the reds look terrific (in my humble opinion) so I had to take the shot. This image really shows how much ice was built up on even the smallest of branches.

Some beautiful images of a wicked winter storm here in Ontario. I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  I don't know what I will find here to shoot for wildlife, but you can bet I will be on the hunt:)

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Short Earred, Great Horned and Snowy Owls (20131219) A great afternoon of Owling

With a solid morning of great sightings behind us and our lunch re-fueling our tanks we were all set for an interesting afternoon of Owling.  Our first sighting was a Snowy on a single line pole on an unplowed road. We couldn't get anywhere close to it so we have no shots. Within a mile we found two more Snowy's that were on long distance fence posts.  Things were looking great. Our next spot was a scene that all owl hunters want to find, a GHO in an opening in a building. I think that this is this is the first shot of this nature since my very first Blog post.
After we got our shots and were returning to the truck this bird flew from one window to a second in another old grainery in the area. So it seems that it never rains it pours :)  Just up the road and around the corner we found our fourth Snowy Owl of the day, and it was close and cooperative.  Check out the frost on the bottom of the cross bar and the on the wires. It was still pretty cold outside.
Kerri next spotted our next owl, the third different specie for the day, a Short Earred on a fence post. As we closed the distance on it the owl flushed.  We drove into an area where we thought the owl may have landed. We found it again and it was holding much better this time. Due to the sun location we opted to drive by and bird just jumpedover to another post. We went up the road and turned around and came back slowly and easy and it held while we pulled up right beside and took some shots.
These are very comical birds as they look around and observe their surroundings. They seem to be just a tad hyper as they look around.
While reviewing these shot to prepare the blog I couldn't help bu think that Lucas' character designer used these fabulous creatures as inspiration for the Ewoks :)
We spent about four minutes with this owl and were able to sneak away without flushing this bird again with some great shots. The Snowy show continued as we chalked up number 5, another single line pole bird.
Snowy number 6 was a litle lighter barred. The day was going really really well. The common consensus that we would not be getting any Snowy's this year is proving to be a misconception thankfully.
We next came upon another Short Earred, then two and we believe actually a third. It was starting to get late and the sun was disapearing. This shot was taking after 4:00 p.m. and the birds were quite a distance off, but they were definitely hunting.
I know that Kerri took som ebetter images than I, perhaps she will send me a shot or two of better quality.
We did still find Snowy's here and there, like Number 7 here.
We found another one or two Snowy's and another GHO to close out the evening. so it was record day for me and Kerri as I am not certain if our final total was 13 or 14 owls. This is outstanding considering we find our first until after noon:)   Calgary in the winter, the colours may disappear but there si always wildlife around.  Let me show you when you are in town.

From Kerri: "The Short-eared owl is one of my favourite bird species. I've only had the opportunity to see them twice before in the wild, so I was very happy to see and photograph three or four on my tour with Turbo on Dec 19. 
It was a cold day, so if you look close you can see the frost around the eyes. We came across these two (or maybe three) owls at the end of great wildlife viewing day. 
The light was fading so we didn't have much time, but still had a chance to watch them hunt for a good  10 minutes. It was a great experience and a nice early Christmas present for me."
You can see more of Kerri's great work at her website: 

Sharptail, Goshawk (20131219) A morning out at the Ranch.

Lots of fresh snow over the past day or two so Kerri and I thought about going for a Cougar scout, but the temperature wa -20C and a windchill that dropped the temp another -10 to -15 to make it too unpleasant for an extended walk outside. So we headed to the Ranch, Kerri had never been out there yet. We grabbed some brekkies and tanked up with fuel. It was a pretty light drive in with 8-10 Whitetails. Kerri had never got a good look at a Sharptail Grouse, so we were running my Sharpie areas, when we found this cow moose.
As the sun came up we received the benefit of some terrific light. We made a run  up Sharie Ridge and lo and behold we found this little sweetheart budding in a tree. It was cooperative enough for us to grab a couple of shots.
We made a run into one of my favourite Ranch areas with the hope of spotting some more moose. We stoppped and took a look across the river and found this small herd of elk. 
It was turning into a glorious day and it was a pleasure to be in the woods. We were headed over to High River to do  a Short Earred Owl run in the afternoon. On the way we found this mature Northern Goshawk taking in the sun, he was a long way out in a field so we had to settle for long distance shots. 
After we had our shots and were walking back to the truck this beautiful bird decided to change vantage points. Although he was still a long way off I love how this shot looks with the full blue sky for background.
This wrapped up our morning cruise, which produced two new birds for Kerri, the Sharpie and a mature Goshawk. It has been a couple of years since I have been able to grab a shot of these great predators. We were off to High River to see Albert and Walter for lunch, and a great afternoon of Owling. This is the greatest way to spend time in Alberta when the temperature gets to these conditions:)

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Snowy Owl. (20131217) A look for both Short and Long Earred owls

I had been reading about Short Earred and the spotting of Long Earred Owls in the South, so I had to take a trek out to see if I could find them. I headed out around 7:30 hoping to find them on an early  morning hunt for chow. Just off the the main drag I spotted this young Snowy on the side of the highway.
This particular bird is occupying an area on a paved road sso it is getting comfortable withe the presence of vehicles. I am hoping that if I get down that way again I will be able to get out and get some better images.
As I travelled around the targeted Owl area I was able to spot a second Snowy.  They are always get to find on the lower fence posts.
This was a bird that I was able to appraoch on foot. I love the claws.
I was hoping for bright Blue sky behind, but no luck. The dull day caused for images less than ideal.
Shortly after this my camera started to act up, so I abandoned the search and headed straight to the dealer to see what was up.  The unit has to go back to the manufacturer for warranty repairs, I am glad I still have a back up. Even I cannot take shots, come on out to Calgary and I can find your targetted specie so you can capture the shot.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Great Horned's, Downey, Chickadee (2013121) A quick trip to FCPP

The light was great this afternoon so I thought I would take a quick walk down at FCPP, hoping to see the GHO's and get a couple of shots. I found one right away.
It took me quite a while to actually find the mate as it was quite a distance further up the trail, but a little more out  in the open. This is a very light colouration for this owl, one passerby thought it was a Snowy :)
Having been so successful with the first pair, I thought I would check on the seond local pair and see if they were perched in their normal area.  Sure enough they were there in there regular location. This is the first time this year that I have been able to see them in this spot, but they have been  in this same area for the past several years.
So I was feeling pretty good and the light was holding so I headed out looking for some smaller birds. I had the good fortune to find a spot where someone had left out some seed, and found this beautiful male Downy Woodpecker.
He was a terrific subject, but quickly disappeared. He had a lady friend as well but she would never come out in to the open, so I will post a second shot of him.
There were also a small mob of Chickadees that were flitting in and out. As frequent visitors know I love these little birds.
It can be tough to "catch" these birds as they don't hang around very long. They grab their seeds and vacate.
I love it when I can find a couple of coopertive birds when the sun is out. I hope that everyone has had a chance to get out and enjoy the outdoors this weekend!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Snowy Owl, Snow Bunting (20131213) Off to the north east with Dan

Dan and I had  dry run for Snowy's in early November to the Southeast so we thought we would give them another shot in the Northeast. With our recent successes we were pretty confident we could find something to grab images of. We were bundled up for the -20C  temperature and 20kph winds, but when we got out, it was brutally cold. We found a small group of Buntings and Dan was prepared to do a dump and run on them. We were unsuccessful, but were all set up for the next opportunity. Dan spied a good sized flock of Buntings on a gas line access way, and we decided to see if we could get close.  We grabbed some shots and when we returned to the truck Dan spied a lone bird on the side of the road.
He thought it was injured so investigated, and was actually able to touch the bird, and it flew off. This shot also provides a great idea of porportion, the bird isn't much longer than Dan's finger.
I believe that this is part of the birds defence system when they are all alone.  It was a terrific encounter that I am glad I was part of, I know that Jamie will be wanting the same experience the next time we are out ;)
Our first Owl of the morning was a pure white unit. It had been sitting on the plough line right along the side of the road and was basically invisible to us until it flew. We watched it go for quite a distance, and it once again just disappeared. Our next owl was a "pole bird" which flew over into the field and settled on the ground.
As you can tell from the photo we were dealing with a little ice fog at this time of the morning. We also found an area full of Magpies, Ravens and Coyotes, we investigated and found where someone had disposed of probably 15-20 pigs and piglets for some reason. On our walk to the spot and back we spotted at least 9 and there may have been as many as 10 Coyotes. Our third bird of the day provided us with evidence of the frost that was present everywhere due to the cold weather.
I am confident that this is a "repeat bird" from out trip to this area on December 1 (bird 2) which is encouraging to me as we may be able to find this same bird in this area again.  Here is a different view.
We picked up one more Snowy on the way home, I didn't get any images worth posting. Our drive home was highly anticipatory for me. Dan had asked if I would be interested in accompanying him to a Northern Pygmy Owl release, I was in like Flint! We stopped off to have a bite to eat and met up with Melanie from the rescue centre at Bebo Grove in Calgary. Everyone was very excited to see this fabulous bird returned to the wild.  Unfortunately the bird was not reacting well, and it was determined it should be monitored for another night. Later in the evening I was informed that the owl had died and that an autosy was in order to determine cause of death. I took may images of the petite bird while we were at the release site, but they just seem disturbing now.  Here is a single image to provide you with a good look at the bird, and a sense of how small they are, these are Melanie's gloved hands.
The news put a real damper on my mood for the rest of the evening, it is a real pity as it was supposted to be such a rewarding event!  I'd like to end the post on a more positive note with another terrific image of our friendly Snow Bunting.
I hope all is well with you and yours, have a great wildlife weekend.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Moose, Golden Eagle, Rough Legged Hawk , Muley bucks (20131211) Elk hunting turns into moose hunting.

As I have a late season Elk tag I have been waiting for the weather to warm up a little before heading out to the area we hunt. This morning was looking good until I got on the road and noted the heavy and constant winds blowing snow producing drifts everywhere. I arrived when I expected, but the winds had not abated, I got dressed and headed in for the morning. I soon discovered the depth of the snow would be prohibitative to me getting to where I wanted to go. I had flushed up several Whitetail Does, and after about 40 minutes I turned around. When I go hunting I ususally throw my old camera and zoom lens into the bag, just in case. I thought that I would take a little cruise and see if there were any other critters out. I went just up the road and found these two nice mature bull Moose.
As they trotted off I grabbed some shots and found it interesting to see how low these monsters will drop their head to move through the trees and brush. This is the bigger bull.
After I had gone furthere in the road and turned around and was coming back out, I spotted this cow just before she crossed the road. She was on the trot up the hill to head back into the cover.
It was great to see these great amimals survive this year's hunting season. On the drive home I was on the phone (handsfree) with Dan, and spotted 3 different Bald Eagles, all soaring on the wind.  I had to end the call abruptly as this Golden Eagle came into view, and I wanted to stop and grab a couple of images.
So the day was turning into a cruising success. My next camera target was this Rough Legged Hawk, one of four that I found on the morning, this was the only one that was accessible.
As you can see we are entering our "Black and White" season where colour is at an abslute premium. This is one of the reasons we hunt out those birds in the winter that possess a little red, yellow, or blue to break up the monotony.  Mule deer certainly do nothing to add to the colours, but they are still great subjects.
There were 4 bucks hanging out together here, with 3 or 4 Does not very far away. I thought I would throw in a shot of the future of the herd.
So a morning that started as a disappointment due to weather and conditions, turned out to be a great day for opportunities of photographic subjects. It just goes to show that everyday that you walk your door in Alberta you have significant opportunity to find something to "shoot", come to Calgary and I will show you!