Thursday, 30 January 2014

GHO, Snowy's, falcon (20140130) A run with the "uncle"

It had been some time since I had the bride's uncle out for a cruise and a "chin wag". It was a last minute decision to take him for Owls as I thought he could buy me lunch at the "Rail Car". So we headed out from his place at 7:30 a.m. Forty minutes in we started finding birds like this early morning Merlin.
It was a windy day and everything was jumpy. This bird just "jumped" a couple more fence posts and allowed me a couple of shots. I think it was our fourth Snowy of the morning. The first couple didn't really give me any shots.
By 9:00 we had our 6th bird, and this little sweetheart just let us drive right up. She sat as we took our shots and we left her right where we found her, a terrific encounter.
This next bird was very hard to track with the camera, he just disappeared in the snow. I think you can see that the sky was just brutal from a light perspective.
We popped another bird off a fence line at about 200 yards, it landed on this piece of equipment. It was a long way off, but I always like to capture these birds where ever they land:)
Our next treat was this rather dark Great Horned Owl, it was in a farm yard where we have found other GHO's. It was all fluffed up and huddled down behind a building.
We swung by the restaurant and was disappointed to find the road wasn't open although some one was plowing the driveway. So we swung back for home and picked up this falcon.  I believe it is another  Gyrfalcon due to its size. You cannot tell as this shot was taken at quite a distance.
When we got back to the GHO spot it had moved to this post.
We found several of our morning Snowy's on the return run but nothing was sitting still for photo's. I was home by 12:30, with another successful trip under the belt.
Hope you have a great wildlife weekend where ever you are!

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Bison, Moose (20140128) Moose hot spot.

I was speaking with Jamie on Monday night and he asked me about a phenomenon that he experienced on Saturday morning. He found 20 moose in a very small area on one of our favourite roads. I explained that in the conditions we have right now moose will "yard" just like deer do. The conditions include a deep snow with a hard crusty top. This allows wolves to travel on top the snow and easily overtake a moose having to wade through the impediment. As I mentioned in a previous post, the conditions are also driving moose to stay very close to their food supplies. Shot @ 160 ISO. No crop.
I know I said in the last post that folks are probably sick of seeing moose, but when the opportunity has to be taken right?  Anyway following Jamie's lead I headed out to see if they would be there on Tuesday morning.
While I didn't get to count 20, as they started to disperse as soon as I stopped the truck, I am certain that I found at least 17 different critters:) That last shot was of one of the two best looking bulls in the herd, here is the other.
There may have been bulls present that sported larger antlers earlier in the year, but these boys were the current kings of the hill. Fences are really presenting difficulties for these big critters.
In another area Jamie had told me that he had been spotting a GGO both Saturday and Sunday, so I stopped to see if I could find the bird, but no luck. I did however have a little time to look at this beautiful old homestead building. I thought it wouldn't hurt to throw in a shot for Zel and Tim and the other Landscape folks:)
On the way out it was nice to see the bison out enjoying the sun.
While these are farm raised animals it would be fantastic to see them once again in the wild. There is talk of re-releasing them into the Banff area. I am fully supporting that idea!
I also found a new "route" that holds the promise of grouse, moose, deer, grosbeaks and Orioles come the spring. It has been a fantastic week so far and it is only Tuesday!  Come on out to Calgary and let me show you some of the sights.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Snowy's, Snowy's, Snowy's, Grey, and A Prairie Falcon (20140127)

I am certain that viewers are getting tired of all the moose shots this month so I thought that I would see if there were any Snowy owls to be found. It has been a month or more that I have expended a concerted effort for these birds. Conditions were supposed to be ideal, -18C with a clear sunny sky, so off I headed. 8:45 was the time I found my first bird of the day, a fence line bird.
I found bird 2 just 20 minutes later, this was a pole bird. Unusually this was a three line pole, they tend to like the singles.
A half hour later I finally spotted some of the many Grey Partridge that seemed to be ever present in the air.
Snowy 3 was also a fence bird. This one was quite a piece off the road so I had plenty of time to set up and shoot.
Three Snowy's in 90 minutes it was turning into a great day, I am hoping that it continues:)  Next up was another group of Grey's.
This is turning into a long post, and there is a ton of stuff still to come. At 11:15 I found the fourth bird of the day, my first of several "ground" birds.  When Snowy's are on the ground like this they are even less approachable, so shots of ground birds are always long distance:(

Less than a half hour later I found Bird 5. This was the most cooperative bird of the bird of the day. I really appreciated the willingness of this bird to "sit" for me, particularly with the light and sky available! This shot is not "cropped" at all.

The Grey Partridge were being more accommodating than usual, this is a group of 5 of about 30-35 birds that were in this particular field.
At quarter to one Bird 6 made an appearance, another "pole" bird this was a single line pole which is where I find the majority of these birds.
Finishing up the day it was the ground birds that became more evident.
This is one of two birds that were located in this field. I was going to try and get them lined up to appear in the same shot, but they were too far apart.
One field bird I found was a little too close to the road for comfort, when I stopped to get photo's he vacated the area, so no shots were taken. My last bird of the day was a fence bird. I don't know why but none of my images turned out well enough to post.  I will wrap up this post with a shot that is probably my best Prairie Falcon shot to-date.

That shot was taken just before 2:00 p.m. making a super finish to the day. 12 Snowy owls, and a Prairie, with probably 130-200 Grey Partridge. Come on down and have an exceptional day with me.

Flicker, Downy, Goldeneye (20140126) Another Sunday walk in difficult conditions.

It was a chilly and blowy morning as we headed out, there was rumours that the sun may make an appearance sometime later in the day. As we swung by the river to see the normal ducks, geese, and the odd bald eagle. As we got away from the river and into the trees we started finding Chickadees, woodpeckers and nuthatches. We found this female Flicker just after her mate flew away.
The bushes were very thick but I was able to find a clearer spot after a bit.
Up the trail we found this male Downy Woodpecker, he was flitting around with a female not very far away. Although it is only January, it would appear the sap is starting to run:)
Along the river a Goldeneye presented in the bright sun. I find their eyes to be very difficult to capture properly.
As is always the case, the Chickadees were around although they were not very friendly.
The breeze today never let up and the temperature stayed low. All around a pretty slow day, but it was great to get out and walk! Calgary has a terrific plethora of parks to explore, come on down and we can do a tour.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Moose (20140125) more owl searching with Kerri

She is like an addict, this girl. Ever since she lost her photo's of the NPO, we have been attempting to find another so she can replace her shots, so we are on the road again. So we headed out to a newer area close to before to find the elusive bird but no luck. We did have a little early morning activity with a pileated woodpecker, then a red fox, and a mile later a second red fox. We then found another pileated, but it was a long way off so we were not getting images on electronic devices, just with our "grey matter"! We finally managed to find a pair of moose lying down. With the type of weather we have had, cold and lots of snow, it is not uncommon to find moose bedded right down in the middle of their food supply.
Another couple of miles up the road we found some more of these big herbivores.

As we stood and watch this pair, we were able to spot 6 more moose, some of the bulls still had antlers, indicating a pretty healthy specimen.
Another big cow shot, they move this deep snow like it is not even there, or so it seems.
On a side road we found a single pair of whitewinged crossbills. They didn't hang around very long, so the shot that I am posting is definitely sub par.
It was starting to remind me of Noah and his Ark we were finding two of everything and not a lot else, due to the strong winds that were getting stronger.  We decided to "pack it in" for the day. We swung past the new and old NPO hot spots and decided to take one little detour on the way home. We spied a Northern Shrike hunting in a field.
We were shooting right into the light so the image is poor. Three times it hovered and dove.
On the third attempt it caught a mouse/vole and carried it off. Unfortunately I didn't get any shots of the combination.
On the final part of our drive we found  Rough Legged Hawk being harassed by a group of ravens. That wrapped up up our day, successful overall, but hampered by the wind.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Pine Martin, Moose, Elk (20140122) A second outing with Grayson

I was very please when Grayson got in touch on Tuesday saying he wanted to get out on Wednesday. I prefer mid week as traffic is generally so much lighter and the weather was going to be much better as well. We agreed to meet in Banff so the driving on Grayson's part would be lightened somewhat.  Fresh snow had put him an hour behind schedule but I was ready for him when he arrived. I had spotted a herd of 200 cow and juvenile bull elk, so we headed over to improve on his evidence shots from Sunday.
Here is a shot with the a bull and several cows, the recent snow is evidenced on the backs of the animals.
On our first pass through our favoured road we saw very little, but on the return trip we found a "carnivore" which is what Grayson was looking for. Here for the first time on the blog are a couple of shots of a Pine Marten.

These beauties are usually only active at night so to find one out in the middle of the day was great. They move these pine trees with such ease it is very impressive. This little fella climbed to a spot where he was comfortable and let us get some shots. Love the claws!
We discussed where to head next and decided on one of my favourite summer routes. While Grayson was over shooting some dog sled scenes, I grabbed this Grey Jay with a small speck of snow on his beak.
There were also a group of three Pine Grosbeaks, the deep valley shadow light does not do these birds justice for their colours!
Just up the road we found this large cow moose with her young son. I believe that Grayson really enjoyed how close we were able to get to the large mammals.
Here is Junior stretching his neck to get the tender shoots a the top of the bush. You can see the bumps where his antlers will begin to grow in a couple of months.
So it had been a fabulous day with some great photo opportunities, and we weren't done yet. Grayson spotte 6 mature bull elk on the drive back to pick up his truck. These big fellas are Park elk so they allowed us to get closer than normal to them.
Here are two more of these monsters!  They are big healthy looking males that are enjoying the protections afforded by living in a park.
This a super wrap up to a great day. Once again Grayson was grinning when he left as he realize the type of experience he had all day long. Maybe I can get you your own grin, come on out to Calgary a see me.