Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Whooping crane, Sandhills, Ram (20140926) A windy day thatleads to some exploring

With a windy night, and a windy morning we were hoping that we might still find some targets to shoot. Before it was light enough to even turn the lights off we grabbed this Ruffed Grouse getting its morning gravel.
Just up the road, and only minutes later, but in much better light we found this young Ram. We spent some time watching as he made his way down the hill and across the road.
We finished up our first run of the morning spotting 4 bears, and they were all very far off, Zel call one the pixel bear as he thought that this was all it would take to represent it on the sensor. Just as we were turning around we stopped to investigate some item and Jamie spied this chubby bear walking up the fairway of the golf course.
 Our second pass through the run was pretty uneventful, the wind was still gusting as high as 70kph, so our expectations were not very high. We did catch a couple of migrating American Robins.
I don't usually post these birds, but today they provided such great subjects they earned some screen time:)
With the wind howling we thought we would spend the afternoon exploring. We had been spotting some raptors and stopped and spoke with a local. We were drifting around the back roads when Jamie (geez, does that guy spot everything?) found this group of Sandhill cranes.
We couldn't believe our eyes when we spotted the "white" one. It turns out we had found our first Whooping Crane. We then went on a mission to get permission to walk the land. We caught up with Julia, and she was able to contact the "right folks" and get us permission. I want to Thank her again for going above and beyond!  Jamie and I did a down wind stalk hoping to not spook the birds, but the first to leave what the Whooper.
I was hoping it would settle at the next pond, but the wind was too strong and it flew quite a distance.
We were able to grab a few images while it was still in our area.
It was a terrific sighting on a day where we had pretty much resigned ourselves to not getting anything worth while shooting.
We continued our stalk on the Sandhills as they had remained. We were able to get about 40 or 50 yards closer. We took our shots and were walking back to the truck when they lifted.
We expected that this might be our last opportunity of the day So I'll throw in another image.
As it turns out we were right, the wind only came down slightly. We made one last pass for bears and found out that we had missed out on three moose, but we did not feel cheated on the day. That was Day two. Here's hoping that tomorrow will be a better day!

Stellars, Bucks, Bulls (20140925) Waterton Elk video Day one part two.

We had a little time before we could get into our motel room so we took a trip up to Cameron Lake. While we were there, we found a couple of items in the water. My first shot is of either a minnow or a local fry. I initially thought it was a Stickleback, but now I don't know what it is.
The secret to finding fish in the water to shoot is not to look for the fish, look for the "shadow!". The colouration of fish is intended to be camouflaged, but the sun reveals their presence very readily. Here is what I am certain is a much older Eastern Brook Trout. While the fish itself is very small its tail has grown considerably. The "square tail", white front lined fins, the markings on the head and what look like spots on the side is what direct y thinking to a "speckled trout" for this capture. Notice again how easy it is to spot the shadow:)
Our next find is a bird we have always been able to locate at this site and that is the beautiful Stellar's Jay.
I thought that this turned out pretty well as a head shot:)  I believe this bird is a juvenile as evidenced by the white on the eyebrow. My understanding is that these are blue in the adult.
Here is the same bird in heavy shade, and all fluffed up. These birds are one of the reasons I look forward to our annual trip to this "neck of the woods".
Our evening run while numbers wise was really quite good for bears, I believe we spotted 8 in the evening, they were all extremely far off. But we were provided with other subjects to shoot like this little whitetail buck.
Just up the road about a kilometer we found this little guy. There was a larger buck in the woods that we could get a glimpse of every now and then, but no images were taken.
We also were provided with this Ruffed Grouse sighting due to Jamie's great ears. He heard this bird in the brush as we drove by, then when we backed up, it flew into this bush and modeled for us.
As we are here a full week later than we normally are, we thought that on our drive back to our beds we would check the rutting elk. Here is one of the many bulls that were present in the large field.
As you would expect when there are many bulls in the same field, an occasional conflict erupts. Here is  a short video shot very late in the evening, on my Youtube channel: Very brief bull elk battle.
I will shutdown day one here. I am very concerned regarding tomorrow's outing as there is so little food available. Stay tuned for Day Two.

Buffalo, Bears (20140925) Day one in Waterton part one

With Zel coming over from Vancouver on Wednesday night, Jamie showed up at 5:15 a.m. to start the trip to Waterton for three days of bear hunting. We usually find something to shoot on the way down, but this year was a little thin. On the bright side we had a GREAT time in the Bison paddock.
Of course after a bit of fresh water in the morning for a bison is like brushing your teeth. So of course the next was a bit of a bath.
Here is a closer image of this enormous land animals (largest in North America), the mind boggles at the world that the first Europeans found with millions of these animals occupying the plains.
We had some terrific views of these massive animals with this terrific light, so I thought I would throw in an image of one of the youngsters.

We arrived at our destination and got right to work. We had great light and early on it looked like the critters were going to be cooperative. We were only at work a short while when we found this beauty. check out the size of the "caboose" this bear is in great shape for the upcoming winter:)
We next ran into a couple of Stellar's Jays. While we were able to get a couple of shots, we took much better images later in the day, so I will post some in a bit. We had a long distance bear that we spotted next. Then we found this Juniper bear. This guy was laying in the shade on this Juniper bush and we almost drove right by, he was really quite difficult to see. This was our closest encounter of the entire trip.
This next unit provided us with about 10 minutes of viewing before we moved on. It looks like it was feeding on "partridge" berries.
We next stopped at the end of the road and took a look around and had a bathroom break. Unfortunately I didn't take my camera and missed an opportunity for a "summer" American Dipper shot. When I did return looking for the bird I did spot this bear taking advantage of the man-made structure to get across the river.
 Just a few minutes later we spied a family of five come across the bridge from the opposite side, I expect that they never saw the bear during their walk:)  This wrapped up our morning run. While we had spotted quite a few bears the lack of berries had me very concerned that we wouldn't be getting the "up close" encounters that we have enjoyed at this location in past trips. Stay tuned for part 2.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Moose, Moose, Moose (20140922) A solo run looking for Mr. Big.

With the realization that Mr. Big was holding court in the bog, I decided to see if I could get a couple of shots of him in better light. I had been lamenting that this year had been lacking moose of any significant numbers. This month has restored my confidence that there are still a lot of moose out there. This first shot is another of the pair that I ended last post with.
This large cow allow me to peacefully pass as she was enjoying her breakfast.
Jamie loves the moose in water shots so I had to throw this image in just for him.
I next spotted a single cow making her way uphill and this pair of cows stopping for a drink before "retiring" for the morning.
So I arrived at the "pit" at 8:04 a.m. and wasn't disappointed. The big guy was just hanging out while 4 other cows were busy feeding.
I spent about 30 minutes with the group waiting for the light to improve. Unfortunately, these big ungulates are positioned on the South side of the road so the light never really gets great.
 The local word is out about the "king and his court" so the paparazzi continued to flow into the area. I thought I would take a little drive as I had heard about another bull that might be available for shots not too far away.  I had no luck finding the other bull so after about an hour I returned to see what was happening in the pit. There were now 5 cows in the area, and every now and then one would leave to the east and one would come in from the west. Here is a brief video of the big guy checking in on a "new arrival" to the pit. Video from Turbos Youtube channel. In the mean time the ladies were just hanging out like they were at the spa. Every now and then there might be a little interaction, but for the most part they were very well behaved.
So with a couple of final shots I left him to do his work. It can be a tough life, but there are times when things are just GREAT!.
I will finish this post with a final cow shot. I had parked the truck and got out to take a couple of shots. She just kept approaching until finally I grabbed my other camera with a shorter lens on it and took this image at 50mm. 
She had approached so close that I decided to back away when I left, so as to not disturb her drinking. I later spotted two separate Spruce roosters but no images were taken. I had to change a tire, due to a flat, then was on my way home. A terrific day to spend a Monday!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Moose, Bald Eagles (20140922) More exploration with Jamie

Keeping with the recent theme of exploration, Jamie and I thought we would take a couple of sideroads that we often pass by. We were in position a little early and the new area was looking pretty good. At the very end of one of the roads we found this young bald eagle.
We really liked the mood of the early morning, predawn conditions. For once I am not complaining about lack of light:) It was a terrific situation where the eagle just sat there and we had the opportunity to shoot it through the dawning of the morning.
There was a dead critter not too far away and as a result there were crows and magpies in the area as well. After a full 20 minutes of watching this bird I was able to add the 2.0 teleconverter that greatly improves my ability to "fill the frame".  We spent almost a full hour with this magnificent bird before deciding to move along. It was a fabulous morning encounter with this raptor.
On the road again and into the September theme of Moose, we found this cow, a couple of quick images and we were on our way.
Our next moose encounter provided us with a nice little (everything is relative) surprise. We were watching the cow, when this nice dark grey calf appeared from behind.  You can watch a short video on my You-Tube channel, here.
We next grabbed this young Sapsucker, I believe it is a Yellow-bellied, but who knows.
Next we found another cow moose on the side of road, and when I got myself into position, again I found a beautiful calf.
At this time the traffic was getting pretty heavy and vehicles were pulling over. Mom was getting nervous and she gave out a little grunt, this youngster was at her side in an instant, wondering "what's up mom?"
On the way home we were treated to this little 1929 Model A-- I believe that is what it was as the license plate was a Saskatchewan 29 EH.   A very beautiful little coupe! I am certain that brother Lloyd will love this little unit.
It just goes to show you once again, when you head out for wildlife in Alberta, you never know what you are going to find! I hope you all had a little wildlife in your weekend.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Moose, GGO (20140920) A short exploration

Tim and I were speaking and decided a short run was in order. We only had a couple of hours so I thought we would do a little exploring. I had taken out the map and was looking at an area that I had been ignoring but wanting to get a little more familiar with. So we headed out early and were anxious for the sun to come up as we got into our country a little earlier than we thought we would.  We just barely caught this pair out in the open before they "retired" for the day. This would be the largest bull moose we would see all day.
He was not allowing his little gem out of his sight for the time being, and she seemed to be very happy to follow him anywhere:)
Our next sighting was this long distance bull. We watched as he made his way to the edge of the woods. we headed over to head him off and I decided to see if he could be enticed out to the road.
Tim and I waited for a bit and watched as he came down off the hill at a pace I hadn't anticipated. I stopped him up short and managed to get this shot.
He spun around and headed back up the hill as quickly as he came down. We walked back to the truck and Tim was wondering when he might try to cross the road again. I thought it might take an hour or two. As we backed the truck up, there he went looking for that moaning cow! So we backed up and grabbed a couple more images of him in the morning with his breath creating the cloud around him.
We spotted one more bull moose but didn't get any images. So it was turning into a great morning for a specie that I had been missing through much of the summer.  Just up the road from this bull number three we spied a large bird heading across the road. As we got nearer we confirmed it was a Great Grey Owl.  We pulled up and stopped and found it back in the trees. I got out and got prepared to take a shot when it decided to investigate us.
It was great to review these shots and watch how the youngster first ensures that it lands on the branch. Then it starts its investigation of this white truck.
Then this juvenile got really serious in trying to discern that Clicking noise.  With full head rolls and bobbing included.
Finally it decided to take an up-close look. Here is its launch.
This bird swooped across the road, over the hood of the truck, almost within touching distance of Tim. Unfortunately he was setting up his tripod and didn't get any images. The bird must have been satisfied with the investigation and decided it wouldn't be able to swallow either of us in one gulp like the voles it is used to:)
We gained a pile of knowledge of the area we covered. A lot of it we won't go back to, but the early section is now on the list of possible tracks. We found one more bull moose, but again missed out on photos. We later learned his name is Elliot. I am trying to obtain approval to be able to walk that property.
Hope you had a great Saturday morning:)