Friday, 28 February 2014

Three toed, Mouse/vole (20140226) An outing cut short.

I was loving the presence of sun and thought a brief stroll wouldn't hurt. So I headed out to the park for a bit of a cruise. Before searching for the owls I headed into the area where I missed the Brown Creeper on Sunday. While lurking in the area I found this mouse/vole that "someone" had left in a spruce tree. I believe that this was "cached" there by an owl, and as such I will try and keep an eye on it.
So this had me on high alert looking for an Northern Saw-whet. It would have been a real highlight if I could have spotted one, but no dice. I did however find a male three toed woodpecker working high up on a dead tree.
Due to the height that the bird was working I couldn't get a shot of his yellow crest. I suffered a little mishap which required me to return quickly home and ended my outing. All is well and I should be able to get out again soon. Sorry for the short post, but I thought you would be interested in seeing these critters.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Merlin, Short Eared owl, Snowy (20140225) Another attempt at the little owls

Last Friday's outing with Tim and Jamie was a bit of tease as the owls were there but we could not get close at all. So Jamie and I thought we would re-try, the good news was that we were to have a sunny evening, with a little warmer temperature.
We did a little cruise around before "assuming our position", and found a couple of very skittish Snowy owls. Along a stretch of metal graineries we found this Merlin.
We were not certain of the make and model of this unit at first, but some additional shots provided us with enough information to confirm. This bird made a couple of dashes at some small birds that were also visiting the buildings.
I managed to get a couple of pursuit shots, we do not believe that the bird was successful in its hunt.
These are usually woodland birds so to find one in this environment was pretty unique.  Just up the road, we found a Snowy that was a little more approachable.
It did not stay long, but I love the blue sky opportunity with these birds.
I know these birds will only be around for another 2 or three weeks, they will soon be replaced with many of our other birds with a little more colour. For now I will settle for white, brown and blue:)
We kind of got way laid when it was time to get in to position and it turns out we were a little late. There were two active owls flying about and landing on fence posts, unfortunately the birds were between us and the sun.  We worked our way west with the hope that a bird would hold on a post for us but that didn't happen.
We spent an hour waiting and watching with no luck.  So at 6:25 we decided to head out. Sundown was at 6:07 so it was getting pretty dark.  As we eased our way out Jamie spotted this unit on the ground near the road.
I handed my camera to Jamie to grab some shots, you gotta love a F2.8 lens. He hurriedly took  few shots then I made a few adjustments to attempt to get some better quality images.
So we finished up the day on a high note. Just up the road was our 4th Snowy of the day, but even in the near dark conditions it would not hold :(  
A super "S" day with Shorties, Snowy's and a SharpShin:)  Come on out to Calgary and I will get you out for your own Super tour.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Pileated Woodpecker, Mule deer, Chickadee (20140225) Another stroll for a city owl

Well the activity of the paparazzi has died down significantly where the owls have been spotted in the city parks. So I thought a single walker might be able to find one of them more easily. If only they were as easy to spot as these couple of mule deer.
I love the floppy nature of this next little deer's ears.
There is a squad of these guys that hang around the number three bridge, I love the little white "eyebrow" on this fellow.
As I made my way around the pathways I thought that I had found a Hairy woodpecker tapping, when I actually found this female Pileated. I like the dust in the air and the back lighting of her red crest.
Here is an angle that I have never seen before of the head. I find the colouration in front of the crest and towards the beak to be very interesting!
Of course when you get to spend 15 minutes up close and personal with a bird of this kind, you have to publish a tongue shot. I also love the evidence of the dust on her feathers.
A little later I met Anne who was walking her dog. When we discussed our successes I offered to show her the Woodpecker and she was glad to see it still on the tree where I had left it 10 minutes earlier.  It was a great couple of of owl-less hours in the park.

Mule deer, Chickadee (20140224) a Sunny walk at the Cross.

I felt bad about having to cancel the Friday walk with Bruno but I had to watch Canada take gold in curling, and see how the hockey game against the USA went.
Thankfully the right teams won both games, Go Canada Go!!!! As we walked up to the main building we were greeted by this herd of 15 to 20 mule deer mulling around.
Unfortunately this youngster probably won't make it too much longer. It has a bad limp on the front left shoulder.  However, it is here today for  a photo session.
Isn't it amazing that no matter where you go in this great country you can find this little bird always willing to approach for a little while.
When we returned to the main building after our little stroll we found most of the deer lounging around the hillsides taking in the nice warm sun of the day.
As we walked down to the parking lot this sweetie thought she would walk over and do a little inspection.
While the wildlife was pretty thin, we had a fabulous walk on a beautiful sunny Alberta afternoon!

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Kinglet, Nuthatch, Eagle. (20140223) A chilly Sunday morning walk

If it's Sunday it means the weather must be less than ideal:) We started off at about -24C and a wind chill of -30+C we headed out in search of city owls.
 While things on the owl front were very quiet, the Blackcaps were very entertaining. We were also treated to a nice view of this bald eagle.
We chased woodpeckers, kinglets, and nuthatches. Our constant companions though were the Chickadees, always willing to accept a "handout"!
We strolled around the park and were struggling finding many birds. Nearing the end of the walk we found a Hairy woodpecker , and a Brown creeper, neither of which provided good opportunities for photos. Even this Golden Crowned Kinglet was a great find. I rarely see these birds on, or even near the ground.
There seemed to be one of those "mixed" flocks of the previous mentioned birds and these Redbreasted Nuthatches.
This little lady seemed very happy with the buffet that had been provided. She made certain to find just the right morsel!
In spite of the cold the 3 hours passed effortlessly, and it was soon time to go home. Perhaps we will find those owls next time.

GHO's, Grey's and Snowy's (20140222) The northward migration will begin again soon.

On the drive home Friday night I reminded Jamie that the Snowy's would be vacating the area and convinced him that a morning run was in order:) We were on the road by 6:35 a.m. and in our "territory" after passing a skittish GHO enroute. This is my first metal Grainery owl, shot before sun up @ 7:22.
An hour later we found another skittish owl that landed in a tree, so last night's misfortune was quickly forgotten.
Just 30 minutes later Jamie spied this little treasure! This will be a spot we keep an eye on for the next couple of months.
Things were a little dry for about an hour when these little fellows made an appearance, I will keep trying to improve the quality of my shots of these birds.
Our next encounter happened to be provide my next opportunity to get a better shot.
Our next owl was a bird that didn't want to sit still either, it wouldn't go far, just to the next post.
I started thinking about the "sitting" GHO and wondered why we had seen poppa anywhere, so we decided to take another cruise by to see if he was there somewhere. As it turns out he was sitting right behind the nest.
That was GHO number 4. We finished the day with our 10th owl this almost all white unit.
With the heavy overcast skies this bird almost disappears right in front of your eyes. It seemed to be a little smaller than some of the birds that we had seen.
A very successful day, it is unfortunate the sun would not make it presence felt. We were home before 2:00 and ready for a great lunch.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Short Earred Owl, Harrier, Moose (20140221) A quick evening investigation.

With a "Hot tip" about lurking SEO's not too far from town. I enlisted the assistance of Tim and Jamie as more eyes are better when trying to spot these birds flying at last light. We were on the road by 3:30 and down to "the spot" a little early so we took a short tour around that netted us a pair of female Northern Harriers. Jamie has supplied us with me with a shot for this post.
We passed a herd of 15-20 deer, and missed out on a lovely white Snowy resting in a roadside tree. As we did a bit of a cruise to provide that bird with some time to settle, we found this pair of moose, a young bull, with his momma.
We positioned ourselves and started to see owls appear and disappear in the rolling valley, occasionally landing on a fence post to give us a viewing.
I apologize for the poor quality of these images as I am making adjustments to my shooting style and I expect that things will get worse before they get better.
I will post a couple of flight shots here, but again they are very poor.
These are beautiful birds, and I am conspiring to get our again in order to get better images.
So considering the lateness of the evening and poor conditions of wind, clouds and late light it was an exceptional evening. Surprize moose, a herd of deer and what might be the first of the returning Harriers had us all in a very positive mood.  I am hoping to get some better images for you soon!

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Chickadee, Great Grey Owl, Nuthatch (20140218) Bebo Grove

Well, I gotta tell you I am getting tired of chasing these city owls with no success.  But as my brother Bill and I often say "we will endeavour to persevere"   :)  So I headed out again today in search of city owls. A new owl has been added the mix, there has also been a Northern Saw Whet found in the park so that is a new item to be looking for. As always in the city parks, the Chickadees are present.
In my second hour of searching I had been "pointed in the direction" by Mike Kelly, then I spied some Photogs that had the Great Grey lined up. Unfortunately I was poorly positioned where the bird was between the me and the sun.
There was a Whitebreasted Nuthatch that was putting up a fuse due to the presence of the owl. So he was keeping an eye on the little fellow.
As I was wondering around looking for this fellow, or the Barred owl, I found this indentation where an owl had made an attempt, in the snow. You can see the hole in the snow, the wing marks and even, at the bottom of the image, the tail imprint.
After the owl disappeared, rather rapidly I might add, I had more encounters with Chickadees:)
Deeper in the woods I was also able to find this Redbreasted Nuthatch.
So I had a successful day at Bebo, finding my first "city owl" this year. I have heard that two of the GHO pairs have already started nesting, so there will be more owl shots coming. Have a super wildlife week!

Moose, Waxwings (20140217) A trip to 1A with Kerri

With more NPO's (Northern Pygmy Owl) reported on Friday, Kerri thought a track was in order. She has also put an order in for a Marten, oddly enough:)  So like with Grayson we were headed out for carnivore's. I was 10-15 minutes late picking her up, but we were off with breakfast. We were experiencing a light dusting of snow when we found our first critters.
There were three of these big herbivores in, you guessed it, Moose Meadows! When we returned there were only two moose visible. This big bull and the cow laying down behind him. We had a little more light later in the morning:)
As we finished up the 1A we had run into a couple of Crossbills, but as with Tim, we were on the wrong side of the little birds to get quality shots. As we swung into the area looking for the NPO's we ran a few side roads hoping to find an owl, but all we could spot is a group of waxwings.
These colours of these gorgeous birds is just outstanding. There were probably between 400 and 800 of these birds, but they kept their distance from us.
Down the road a bit we spotted a very high flying Golden Eagle, and a little while later we spotted a smaller faster bird of prey. I don't know if it was a Goshawk or a Gyr Falcon, but it was a very quick large bird.  Next we swung by Kerri's Northern Hawk Owl spot, but he wasn't home either.  So we swung for home and found this Rough legged hawk on the ground staying out of the wind.
So that wrapped up a day that gave us snow, wind, and occasional sun. We had high hopes but was a little disappointed on the day.