Monday, 22 December 2014

Short-tailed Weasel, Rough-legged Hawk, Moose (20141222) A quick run out to the Ranch

I have been trying to spend a little time with the Ranch manager to ensure we are on the same page regarding a few items, so today was the day. Jamie came along for the ride as he has a couple of days off work. Our first sighting was this young cooperative Rough-legged.
Here is an older bird that was providing us some great viewing prior to its departure.
We had stopped as I was showing Jamie a carcass when we heard some Chickadee's while we were trying to spot them Jamie pciked out this Short-tailed Weasel.
This is a first ever on the Blog so we spent a little time with this carnivore.
As this was the first time seeing this specific weasel we had no idea where it was going to go. We were at its mercy, and trying to keep an eye on it was really tough!
What a terrific encounter! We had an absolute riot trying to capture this little unit in some very challenging lighting conditions. The sky was heavy overcast and this weasel was in some pretty heavy spruce forest deep in a mountain valley. These shots were taken at 4000 ISO.
While we did see it on ground with no snow, it typically only stopped where there was snow. When it was "exposed" on a dark background, it seemed to keep moving.
We left the little hunter to its business and we found some Whiskey Jacks.
Then we heard some soft tapping and found this female Three-toed Woodpecker. She was quite a way up, and in some very complex branches so shots were at a premium.
We wrapped up our shortened trip with beautiful pair of bulls. I've been trying to figure out how to say Moosey Christmas to everyone!
Put some wild in your life over the holiday season, I know I will be trying to get out as often as I possibly can.

Eagles, Bucks, Shrike (20141222) A horseless adventure into wild horse country

It was a slow morning and we (Jamie, Tim and I) were trying to get into wild horse country early. I was a little tardy so we were running probably 20 minutes late. We passed up on some Pine Grosbeaks, and we skipped investigating a Coyote or two. We stopped for a couple of Chickadees with no luck and we did some serious investigation into what looked like a pair of cougars traveling together. We decided on a different route and started to spot a this Golden eagle soaring on by.
It landed in this tree for a couple of minutes we were discussing an approach when it decided to leave us.
Then just down the road another 5 minutes  we spotted a second of these majestic birds.
Our next encounter was a group of Muley Bucks. You can see why a dominant animal will surround himself with smaller bucks after the rut. He needs time to rest and the his new "friends" are meant to ensure no danger goes unnoticed.
There were 6 or 7 bucks in this group here are the two largest of the herd.
The sharp eyes of Tim spotted these nice Whitetail bucks at the very back of the same field. It seems like the bucks were popping up like blades of grass :) This is only three of the four that were traveling along the edge of the woods.
We made a pass through the "L" road but it was very late and the buffalo were out.
On a second pass through I grabbed this shot of one of the largest bulls.
I'll finish this post off with a shot of a Northern Shrike taken very late in the evening.
Put a little wild in your life as soon as you can!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Snowy Owl (20141214) A little bit more of newly observed behaviours

After a terrific 40 minutes with a Snowy and Northern Goshawk we were feeling pretty good. While our numbers were down below normal we new our day was not yet over so we "endevoured to persevere!" Our next owl sighting wan yet another first for me as I have never found an owl on a fence line with cattle in the field.
Our next bird was on our south side and almost directly under the sun. We backed up to get shots of it on the fence and were about to leavewhen it flew towards us. We sat and watched as it hunted on the frozen pond amongst the bullrushes.  Love the large feet!
It was amzing to watch as it worked the edge. Every now and then it would fly a little closer.
It was great to get the chance at a few more landing shots.
Then to top our little encounter off, this fine specimen flew to a telephone pole right next to us so we could get a better, up close, look.
Our next couple of birds we picked up on the road home. I thought I spied a bird down a road a bit. As we swung down towards our target we found another bird in the field, we took some shots but thought that it would likely be there on our return. This is the nice white beacon I spotted from quite a distance away.
This beaty flew out towards the road on the way home so we decided to go back and grab the ground bird.
Then we took advantage or the positioning of the two birds and were able to get both in the same frame. This doesn't very happen very often for me.
Next up was this nice looking Coyote, blending in superbly with the grass.
I suggested we try one more short road for a quick look, and we weren't disappointed. We found this herd of bachelors lazying in one of the fields.
We waited around for a bit and they decided to cross the road. Here are three of the boys taking a little jog.
Up the road a little further and here is the harem master with his 40+ ladies in tow.
We turned around at the end of the roand and on the way out I spied this young GHO. This is in the same bush as one of the spring nests. This youngster hasn't strayed too far from what it knows as "home".
Well that certainly topped off our day with our ninth owl. What a terrific wildlife day. If you get out Calgary look me up, we will put a little wild in your life!

Monday, 15 December 2014

Merlin, Snowy Owl, Juvenile Goshawk (20141214) A terrific behavioural encounter with a couple of Raptors

After a pretty dismal Saturday weatherwise Jamie and I decded to take a leisurely cruise up by the Short-eared owl we found a couple of weeks ago. We had a pretty slow morning, with our first Snowy spotted on a fenceline, we didn't get any images of it. A few miles up the road we came around a corner and this great little Merlin with his lunch allowed me to grab a couple of shots.
A little while later we found Snowy three. It was a long way off, but it again shows how thes birdshave adapted to all the perches that man has placed on the landscape.
Now I have to tell you that Jamie get the "spot of the year" award for our next subject. We are driving, for a second time, in the area where we found the Short-eared and says, "what is that flying toard us?"
Our first Snowy with a good sized bird that was destined to be its lunch, end it was flying right towards us. Jamie was able to get the truck stopped and i shot out through the passenger window as it approached closer.  I never noticed i took this shot until I was reviewing the images, it seems to be looking behind for some reason.
It was nice to get a nice clear view of this situation and we were pretty excited to see what we were going to view.
We watched as it come into land, it was still quite a distance out, we were hoping that it would get much closer, c'est la vie.
As I watched through the viewfinder I was totally surprised by seeing a second raptor enter the frame. This is what the Snowy was watching out for behind.
It took a couple of minutes for me to identify this second hunter as a juvenile Northern Goshawk. What a great opportunity.
The Goshawk settled in on snow for a bit, then moved a little. Finally it decided to head over to a fenceline and watch to see what the owl's next move was.
We seemed to be at a bit of a stalemate. And as we are always interested to see to see what our first batch of image look like, I got out of the truck and Jamie and I were reviewing. The next thing I know Jamie says "the Goshawk is on the move coming down the fence line!". So we train our cameras and try to capture it in flight. As it gets to the end of its flight I say "there's a second owl!!!".
As it turns out our initial owl had somehow slipped passed us. Shame on us, however the game was still on. What was going to happen now?
As it turns out they were now much further away, but now at least we had the sun on our back instead of shooting almost directly into it. The Goshawk left a couple of minutes later and we got to watch the owl eat its prey.
The owl would eat a little and then move further out into the field, further from us, until it disappeared over a small knoll.
That concluded our terrific encounter with this owl and its two other bird company, one as lunch the other as a protagonist. I don't usually dedicate this many images to a single encounter, but in this case I think it was worth it. There is a lot more to come on this day so stay tuned! Oh, and yeah, put a little wild in your life soon.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Snowy Owl, Voles (20141207) A walk in the park leads to a late Snowy run

With the sun shining brightly I thought it might be a great time to shoot the weasel again. I guess the nice day was not enough to bring him out while I was there. The locals showed up though, like this White-breasted Nuthatch, for Mom.
Of course the Chicky's were present too!  I don't know anyone that gets tired of shooting this cooperative little bird.
I took a little stroll over to the river and managed this shot of a winter resident Mallard. They can be a very tough duck to shoot.
Returning to "the area" I managed to get a couple of Meadow Vole shots.
These little critters have a very tough life. It seems that everything out there except songbirds are out to get them, and even then the Northern Shrike is after them. Coyotes, all owls, weasels, hawks, everything it seems feed on these little fellas.
This little guy has been photo'd a fair amount over the past couple of weeks as well. It is now getting to the point where the crowd is cheering just as much for him as the Weasel :)
I received a call from Tim at about 1:20 p.m. seeing if it would be too late to do a quick Snowy run. "No" says I, we should have time to get a bird or three! So I headed home and awaited his arrival. We nabbed this beauty @ 3:22 p.m.
This bird let us approach and drive passed it, and get out close to the truck to grab some images.
We were finding Grey Partridge everywhere and they were getting to be very frustrating. They just wouldn't let us get close enough for a decent image.
Our third bird of the day was a great spot on my part as it was the first time I actually found one on the side of the road sitting on top of a drift. It flew on our approach with the truck. Once it gained the high ground it seemed much more comfortable with our presence.
I love the yellow eyes that this bird showed while we were shooting.
On the drive home we picked up a 4th Snowy and even spotted a GHO in the tree tops along the road, but we were pressed for time so we didn't stop for images.
Any way you look at it a successful day in beautiful Alberta. Put some wild in your life soon, you will love it!