Thursday, 30 October 2014

Black-Backed Woodpecker, Varying Hare (20141030) Trip to a local park

I managed to talk Tim into a short walk this morning as there had been a number of desirable sightings at one of our local city parks. I was late getting to the park as I had to go back to the house and pick up my boots. The morning promised very challenging light as there was a heavy frost producing fog present. I found Tim in the woods and we had a brief discussion regarding strategy. We were soon beset by a small flock of birds begging for some attention. We were delighted to find this leucistic Red-breasted Nuthatch.
Of course the Black-capped Chickadees were in full force.
Shortly after finding one of our target birds: a Black-Backed Woodpecker, and while trying to get into position for some images this little Varying Hare made an appearance. You can see that it is already starting to show some of it varying colouration, just waiting to put those "snowshoes" to work.
While all of these great critters were wonderful distractions the star of the morning was this Black-backed Woodpecker.
Here is a the best look of the birds "underside" that I captured, these are areas an individual doesn't often get to see.
A full profile shot. This is a first ever for the Blog, so I am throwing in a couple of extra shots :)

And this is what it looks like in action. It was tough to shoot this bird as they don't sit still, they always seem to be banging their head against a tree.
After the BBWP left we were once again visited by the smaller birds here is another image of the Redbreasted Nuthatch, showing the white areas of leucism.
As we were returning to the trucks we met up with a couple of gents that had found the BBWP working away inside a tree trunk. I don't know if they excavate a hole for wintering or not. I will have to check in with Gus to see if this is the case.
I also took a bit of a video which can be found here.Although we only found one of our target birds, we were treated to a couple of unexpected pleasures as well. It all comes out in the wash. What a terrific morning on a day that looked like it was going to be a bust!  Get out somewhere into nature this weekend!

Monday, 27 October 2014

Great Grey, Grouse, Redtail (20141019) A Sunday run with Tim

We headed out to the "Ranch" for a morning of wildlife viewing. It has been treating me so well this year I find it hard to pass up time there. Tim was up for a run just about anywhere, it seems like maybe the "city" was catching up with him. We had a very early morning GHO. It was even sitting on a hay bale, but there just wasn't enough light of even an "evidence" shot. We were treated to a beautiful golden morning, and I grabbed a couple images of a Ruffed Grouse in a tree, but again the images were very poor. Our next critter was this cow moose. I have been coming out to the ranch for more than 5 years now, and I always check out this little swampy area, and today it paid off.
We were swinging back out of one of my favourite roads when we both spotted this Great Grey at the same time. It had been right beside the road and flew up into a tree, then to another. It was quite a distance off, and I was surprised to "find" it in the spruce trunks.
It was the "nice" enough to come down a little closer and provide us with another opportunity. We found this owl to be very skittish. I believe we have seen it a number of times before but this might be the first time that I have been able to get any shots.
A little further out the road we found this Ruffed on the side of the road. The light had disappeared on us, but we did manage a couple of images.
I have included this next bird as a demonstration of how some of our domestic fowl hasn't changed too much, other than size from some of the "wild" stock they may have originated from. I really like how closely coloured this is to the Ruffed we spotted earlier in the day.
While working our way back home we found this lighter morph Redtail. Now while I say "lighter" morph, I have learned enough about these birds to be dangerous this year. This is more likely to be a light Harlan's than a Redtail :)
Tim was able to grab some other shots of a third Ruffed Grouse on the day, and a darker morphed bird that I didn't get any images of. I am hoping he will send them along so I can add them here. I will close this post out with another "wing" shot of yet another Redtail?
We had a GREAT morning with some quality encounters! The wind started to come up hard so we headed home and still had a good portion of the day to deal with "home stuff". Get out to the woods for a couple of hours, it will do you a world of good!

Update: Here are a couple of shots from Tim. He doesn't share his images on-line anywhere yet so I cannot direct you to other pieces of his work. Here is one of the treasures that came to him while we were waiting for the GGO to reappear. It is Grey, a Jay instead of an owl :)
He also had a little visit from this beautiful Ruffed Grouse while I was up at the other end of the road.
Then there were a couple of hawks that we grabbed on the road home, this first one is a Rough-legged. The light was really tough, but I believe he go some excellent images.
This next shot is of a Harlan's hawk. I guess we live in more of a hot spot for them, then many of us had thought.
Hope you enjoy Tim's shots!

Nuthatch, GHO, Woody (20141013) FCPP a quick walk

I have been remiss in getting out a couple of posts so I thought I better get them posted, before I get too far behind. With the kids visiting, Neil suggested we give the ladies some time to themselves so I took him down to Fish Creek for a bit of a wander. The light was less than ideal, but we can always find a little something to shoot. Here is a female Whitebreasted Nuthatch.
Not too far away was its mate, the male. If you take a look at the two shots together, you can see how her head is a more grey, where as his black neck continues right up and over his head.
A Downy Woodpecker was also in the area and very cooperative, giving us some of his time while he picked up some food as well.
Of course the Blackcapped Chickadee is a perennial favourite. They seem to be the leaders of these multi-specie flocks of birds.
One of my targeted birds to show Neil while we were down there was a Great Horned Owl. As it turns out he wasn't disappointed as this bird was spotted in an area we had previously walked right under!
We also found a Redtail Hawk, a couple of Whitetail deer and some ducks including a Greenwing Teal. Here is another image of out GHO.
While were we only gone a couple of hours, we had a great walk and bumped into some of our "winter" birds just a little earlier than I normally go looking for them. Get out somewhere soon and spend some time in the outdoors!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Golden Eagle, Rough legged hawk (20141012) Taking a look for GGO's

My little girl has yet to spend any time with a Great Grey so we headed out for a couple of hours in the morning while Deb was getting Thanksgiving dinner ready. The morning was moving pretty slowly, but we did spot a couple of Rough Legged Hawks, this was a particularly dark morph.
So I showed the kids where we spotted the fox kits and where I was when I found the Lynx as well. On our way back through the area we found this beautiful specimen walking on the road.
He wasn't sticking around for any sort of discussion. Then, in an area, where I have always expected to find moose, we were rewarded with a pair of cows. This, I believe, is the younger of the two, perhaps the larger one's calf from last year. A very healthy looking unit!
What I expect was this moose's mother was out in the open a little more. It looks as though she has survived a wolf attack. Check out her rear haunches.
We were on the way home and happened upon a small flock of small birds. Our discovery was that they were birds that we found flying northward in the spring, American Tree Sparrows.
We were feeling a little bummed that we didn't manage to find any Owls, when we were able to grab a couple of images of the "catch of the day"!
This Golden Eagle was being harassed by a couple of Ravens. They were trying to get the bird to drop its lunch. You can see its lunch here in its talons as it flew overhead.
The Golden was another bird that Laurel was hoping to get a look at, so I ended up doing okay in her books. We headed home feeling pretty good, and Thankful for our great encounters today. I expect that everyone will be thankful for the wildlife opportunities that are brought our way all year long!

Rooster Spruce grouse (20141010) Supplemental featuring a Spruce Grouse

Well when you get the opportunity to spend 20 minutes with a cooperative rooster you have to take advantage of the time.
This bird was out on the edge of one of my favourite stops on Spray Lakes Road. It was a Thursday and so traffic was really at a minimum, this gave us a lot of uninterrupted time with this bird.
I know that I have stated it before, about the grouse-like birds, I really enjoy their patterning!
As you can see, we had some "early morning" light for these shots and the shadows are pretty long. Getting into the right position was easy with a bird this cooperative.
Here is a bit of a close-up that I have cropped to show off the head of this fine rooster.
This time of year, for a brief period, we actually get some pretty nice colourations. Here he is on a different background.
The black breast "plate" get a proper showing in this image with red to highlight the contrast.
This exercise was all about get the morning "grit". Grouse have no teeth so their food gets passed through their "gizzard" for processing. In order to assist this processing the birds eat gravel and other "grit" to have in their gizzard to mince their food before it gets to their stomach. Here you can see a piece of grit headed to the gizzard.
This is a shot that shows the feathering on the feet of these birds that goes right down to the toes. This is very important in assisting the bird to walk in the snow during the winter months.
I'll finish this supplemental post up with another "portrait" of this beautiful bird.
I hope that you enjoy this up close and personal look at this great bird, the rooster Spruce Grouse!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Grizz, Moose, Coyote (20141009) A trip to Banff with the kids.

It is just fabulous to have Laurel and Neil visiting for Thanksgiving! They have a couple of items on their agenda and we wanted to help them get them done. Laurel has been wanting to climb Sulphur mountain for some time so we headed out to Banff early with the hope of finding a couple of critters on the way.  The drive was pretty uneventful until a Whitetail doe decided to cross the road. Good tires are critical to great stopping, not harm done!  We found this wanderer at 8:40 a.m. a first for Deb!
Our next encounter was exactly where we were hoping to find a moose or two. I pulled the truck up to a stop as we watched this beautiful cow feed out in the willows.
As is often the case, once we stopped and spent a little time with this sweetie, we were treated to a second visitor. This was guy we had come to see if we could find. While quite away from the "pit" Mr. Big was on the prowl to mate with the above cow.
With the requirement for a bathroom break I wheeled into one of my regular "stops" and was pleased to be greeted by this rooster Spruce grouse.
He was very intent on gathering his morning "grit". I will follow this post up with a supplemental dedicated to this fine figure of a specimen. Here is a shot of Neil grabbing his images of this cooperative subject.
Our last encounter before arriving at Banff was this Black bear sow with her cub. They appeared to be eating partridge berries, picking up more calories before the winter sets in.
While the kids were on their trek up the hill, I was able to capture this Least Chipmunk around the base of the gondola.
I also took a little time and shot some Landscape images. So here is a shot for you "yard workers" out there, a blade of grass turned crimson by the fall.
The trip home was wonderful as we had terrific light and the scenery on Hwy40 is always excellent! this mature cow moose, allowed us to pull and shoot her while she too is working at putting on some winter weight.
Our final encounter that we stopped for and took photo's was this young Coyote, trotting along the roadway. It was a terrific way to wind up our journey. I selected this shot for the blog as it once again shows the "dog" with all four feet off the ground at the same time.
On this fabulous day leading into the Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, we have a lot to be thankful for here in Alberta, and Canada overall. I hope you get out for some wildlife this weekend!