Sunday, 23 March 2014

Moose, Sharptail, Tree Sparrow (20140322) A Saturday morning run out to the Ranch

With the potential of Golden Eagles in the area, Jamie and I decided to head out to the ranch to see what was going on out in that area. We headed out bright and early and were right where we wanted to be at the time we wanted to be there. A moose was our first sighting and she just stood and watched us.
Just up the road we found this bull with an unusual "booty", it won't be long now and we will start to see handlebars popping out the tops of their heads.
We found three more moose in an area where I used to see them all the time, then another, and this cow was feeding close to the road.
Our frosty morning luck continued to hold as we found this Sharpie on "the ridge".
This is the first time that I have heard one "call". I have heard them when they flush and they use their warning call, but this was a very different little yelp that this bird was using.
Headed into one of my favourite "dead end" roads we spied these little birds and stropped to investigate. We came to the conclusion that they are American Tree Sparrow.
They were flitting around and very difficult to grab a good shot. We are really looking forward to some more colour to show up soon so we cna get out of Black and White mode.
As we made our way through a very dark area, I spotted fresh grouse tracks, which always get my attention.  Here is a little story shot that shows the tracks coming out of cover and then jumped into the air to fly off.

We grabbed a cup of tea at the back of the road hoping that the sun would burn off some of the low fog hanging around. It was worth the wait as we soon spied this herd of Elk on the other side of the river.
An just a short mile or two to the east we found this group of Bighorn Sheep soaking up the sun and grabbing a bite to eat.
We found a few more moose when we next stopped for tea, but the rest of the morning was a little slow. We were back home by 1:30 and had the rest of the day to tend to chores.  Come on out to Calgary so I can take you out for track and avoid the chores:)

Ducks, GHO's, Merlin Red fox (20140321) An annual trek with Dan down to Frank Lake.

Well the spring Equinox is a time for Dan and I to head down to Frank Lake to see how the migrations are going. With our extended winter and recent cold spell we were interested in what we would find. The lake itself did not disappoint but the sun, light, and clouds were not cooperating. We found thousands if not tens of thousands of pintails.
We were also please to find hundreds or thousands of Scaups. Here are a small group.
A typical year round bird are the Goldeneyes, but they were abundant at the lake, so it looks like they too are coming back to the north.
I managed another attempt at a passing group of Pintails.
The perennial favourite Mallards were also there in the multitudes.
There were also probably 10-2000 Canada geese present as well. I won't post any geese shots at this time, perhaps later. We left the lake and decide to take a little cruise for some owls. We were planning to visit a couple of the nests that I knew of for updates. First on the rounds was this little sweetheart.
The second nest we visited has been abandoned, as near as we can tell the recent weather was too much and the nest has been partially destroyed.  My third nest did still have Mom warming the eggs.
On one of our roads home Dan spotted this Merlin with her fresh kill. We didn't actually see the strike.
She popped up onto this telephone pole, and posed for us beautifully.
She just swung over to an Aspen tree for another perch. She was just gorgeous.
As we left, we watched her return to her lunch, and we were very glad that we had not disturbed her and taken her from her meal. As we were getting near to home I took Dan a little side route, and we got slightly waylaid. Back on the road and Dan spied this red fox.
He was headed to the other side of the road and nothing was going to stop him, not even a "No Trespassing" sign!
It made for a super close out to a great day. I hope you enjoyed, and get the urge to come out for a track of your own!

Chickadee, Starling , Owlet (20140316) Sunday walk in Inglewood.

With the floods of 2013 still having the Inglewood Bird Santuary closed, the FFCPP found a spot for us to investigate this week. We headed over the Pearce Estate where there is a fish hatchery, and it is very close to the Santuary and we were hoping to find some "spring arrivals". We spied some early returning Robins before I snapped this local year round resident.
As we made our way down to the river this little Downy was hammering on this dead piece of wood. I had to get aeound to the back of the tree to even see him.
One of our harbingers of spring time here in Calgary is the arrival of the Starlings. I find these birds very challenging to get a decent shot of. Here is my first attempt for this year :)
We swung over to the downtown core to have a look at a "set" of triplet owlets that a very early nesting pair have managed to fledge already. Here is owlet one.
Here are brothers/sisters two and three. They appeared to sleeping and not paying any attention to the commotion below them.
Of course Mom is never very far away, but if you do not know to look for her, she can be very difficult to find.
While we were there a local resident popped in to provide us with an opportunity
for an image or two.

That wrapped up the action for our Sunday morning stroll for this week. Who knows what we will find next week.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Waxwings, Wild Horses, Great Grey Owl (20140315) Part two of a great day with Jamie

As a follow up post I to our great morning we were looking out for my second targetted specie a ruffed grouse. Jamie grabbed some outstanding images of Ruffed's a couple of weeks previous. No Ruffed's to be found, but we did happen upon this large group of Waxwings. They were quite a distance off, but Jamie showed me how nice these birds pop of a dark green background.
This was as far out that we were headed so we swung around and headed for home. It has been a very productive and would continue to be so. We found this little "family unit" right from the main road.
From here out we were finding horses everywhere which really buoyed out spirits regarding the recent "cull". It would seem that we would have many targets to come look for in the future. This mare was with her colt and stallion in another family unit.
This white mare with her two companions is a horse which I am certain I have seen before with Dan and Lauren back on this post: Wild horses
These two horses were with the Whitey above. These horses were feeding on a roadside slope and were very approachable, these shots  were taken @ 140mm.
It is always great when you can fill your frame with your target specie. I believe that this is the stallion of the group, as he was far more interested in our movements than the others.
We were estastic over how the day had been going, we had been finding a large number of feet on our journey. We were at 65 horses so far, a new personal best for me.  We were almost out of wild horse country when we spotted the last four  ponies of the day. This is a unique coloured mare with her foal. The stallion was very aware of our presence and "blew" at us a couple of times.
I know that these past couple of posts seem to be full of horses, that is what we went out of find, and it was great to find so many of them. We found another bald eagle and many, many deer on the remainder of our drive home.  We finished our collection of critters with this GGO, the first for Jamie for some time.
This bird was quite patient with us and allowed us to get a little closer.
We had a very eventful day, with outstanding results! As we reviewed our sightings we were amazed at the number of incidents and total number of critters we witnessed.  Come on out to Calgary and let me take you on an amazing day!

A couple more shots by Jamie:
Look at that smile:)
Finally, our last stallion of the day!

Monday, 17 March 2014

Elk, Bison, Wild Horses, Spruce Grouse (20140315) A super day with Jamie

With a wild horse cull allowed by the Alberta government and an estimated 200 horses allowed to be removed from the land, Jamie and I were anxious to see what the impact was to be in our preferred area of travel. SO it was up early and headed out in the dark. Jamie let me know when I picked him up that he had been listening to 3 different GHO's singing to him. I offered to sing to him, be he declined the opportunity to listen. We found some Whitetail deer early and this herd of 100-140 elk. It would be great to live in that house and peek out in the morning to find these in your front yard.
We headed over to find the NHO, but came up empty, sort of. Instead we found this herd of elk, our second of the day. Here are 20 in a group.
Another Rocky Mountain morning scene, this herd of 300-400 head of elk seeking the buck brush before getting caught in the sun light of the morning like vampires.
We swung around into one of our common areas and spotted the bison out feeding in the morning sun.
It was looking like a fabulous day and we were hoping to continue to get this terrific light. We spied a couple of moose but the buggers were in the shade and wouldn't come out to pose. Next up was our first of many wild horses.
This pair was in the company of this stallion which I believe that this is the dominant stallion and little "blackie" is going to have to wait to form his own herd.
We hit a bit of a dry spell as we swung through a typically "light" piece of territory.  In the middle of a typically no critter zone we found this Spruce Grouse rooster picking up some gravel on the road.
When we first spotted this bird it looked far too small to be a grouse, but were very pleasantly surprised to find this gem. Unfortunately we were in a heavily shaded area.
And as is typical of these birds, he popped up into a nice spruce tree and did a little promenade for us.
We got on the road again after a 15 minute encounter with this beautiful bird. We were off to see if we could find one of my favourite horses, "dirty face". On route we found this herd of 9 ponies that Kerri and I had spotted on our December run when we found a personal record of 56 horses. As you can see we had lost the great light and were dealing with some heavy cloud.
As these are wild horses we occasionally find animals in poorer health. This fellow looks like he might have lost the vision in his eye. If I remember properly this guy also had a bad left hind leg. We may not continue to find him through the summer.
I will wrap u the first part of our day here and continue on with a separate post. Stay tuned, there is a LOT more to come.

Here are a couple of shots from Jamie:
A shot of the stallion.
More on the next post.