Monday, 26 January 2015

Elk, moose, sheep (20150117) A trip up 1A in the winter

Kerri and I were headed out to 1A, hoping to duplicate the sighting of a Pine Marten that Grayson and I had last year about this time. Unfortunately we had no fresh snow to help us with tracks, and the day was forecasted to be less than ideal. We found this group of 6 bull elk feeding, or at least "mostly".
I was amazed that in the middle of January that these bulls were still expending energy fighting one another well after the rut has been completed. They must be very healthy to willing to be undertaking this type of activity in the middle of winter. These two fought for several minutes, I thought they might have locked their antlers but they broke loose after a bit only to go back at it.
 Up the road a couple of miles we found this big boy. As you can see this bull moose has already dropped its antlers in order ot aid it in getting through the winter months.
We were getting snippets of sun during the morning so we agreed to hustle over to a spot where Kerri and Jamie had found a White-tailed Ptarmigan. As we arrived we sa very little sign of any birds being active in the area. I broke out the snowshoes and did a little investigating to no avail. On our way back home kerri spotted this Clark's Nutcracker. 
These can be very friendly corvids, but these two were keeping their distance.
On the road home we got caught up in a Sheep jam. There was a flock of about 12 ewes, lambs and I think 1 ram. Here are a couple of the young 'uns!
We don't ususally get held up on this road for this type of critter.  Here is a shot of one of the ewes.
We finished up the day with a little side trip that had us find a couple of thousand Snow Buntings. The wind  kept us from getting close. How many can you find in this shot.
We got back to town a little later than planned, but unexpected encounters have a habit of delaying us:)  Pur some wild in your day, get out to woods soon.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Northern Pygmy Owl, Brown Creeper, Red Squirrel (20150111) First Sunday walk of the Winter season

Well I decided to sign up for the Winter session of the FFCPP as it gets me out of the house and walking at least one day of the week. With the popularity of the the "celebrity" Northern Pygmy Owl that I featured on last Friday, That Park entry point was selected as the starting point for this season's walks. The owl was present prior to the walk and everyone received a viewing. The balance of the morning was pretty slow. We heard a Pine Grosbeak or two and some Downy Woodpeckers. The group also flushed a Great Grey Owl but no images were captured. The highlight of the morning walk for me was this little Brown Creeper.
I find these to be one of my nemesis birds. They tend to like shade, they are hard to get good focus on as their colouration is so mottled, and they are just not all that easy to find. We found the Creeper as we happened into a small mixed specie flock of Chickadees (Black-capped and Boreal) and Nuthatches. Their chattering also brought this Red Squirrel out of hiding.
So the walk was successful and wrapped up pretty much right on time. I then hooked up with Dan A and Peter H as they were on a mission to find more American Three-toed Woodpeckers as ther is no telling what you can find in a park as vast as Fish Creek. Our initial investigations were unfruitful then Dan spotted this subject, that I have nicknamed the "changling owl".
It changed from this long distance tree top ornament into this much closer by tree top ornament, as it flew in our direction almost straight at us.
This is a different NPO from the parking lot bird as Dan called up to the next FFCPP walk leaders and determined that the afternoon group were looking at that owl the same time we were watching this one. The bird flew off briefly, than returned and changed into just a bump on a branch.
Then as a group of Chickadees moved into the area this owl went through the most dramatic "change" as it flattened it head feathers, sucked in the body and stretched out in order to better try to look like just another branch on the tree.
It was great to watch as the owl kept an eye on what it viewed as the most aggressive Chickadees. Here it looks like  mininature Great Horned :)
The final shot that I will add here, shows the owls spun around and trying to face its tormentors.  Just seconds later an aggressive Chickadee "drove off" the owl with a number of supporting troops following close behind.
As you can see from the BLUE skies in behind we had a fabulous sunny day and received excellent images due to those conditions. Once again I think that this just shows some of the great biodiversity we enjoy here in Calgary and Alberta overall. Put some wild in your life this week, it will do you a world of good.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Pileateds, Long-tailed Weasel, NPO (201501010) What else can we find at FCPP

Jamie, Kerri and I agreed to meet down at Fish Creek park@ 10:00 a.m. The hope was we could find a couple of subjects to shoot.  The "celebrity owl" was present and sitting high up in the trees not providing great angles for shots, so we headed out walking. 90 minutes in we found this rooster Pileated Woodpecker. This is the first of the specie that I have found that has the same hair dresser as me.
This will give you an idea of how it gets into such a mess, mine on the other hand is just naturally unruly :)
Not very far away we found his mate. I took some video of her working the bottom of a spruce tree.Let's see if this will load for you, check out Hammering. Please notice how nice her 'doo looks :)
We bumped in some other smaller birds before this little star stole the show as far as we were concerned.
We were in some pretty heavy Spruce tree cove and the skies were threatening snow again so light was at a premium. This was all that I saw of this little carnivore, but it was just enough.
This little critter did a lot of looking around and did very little traveling. It was nice to not have to keep track of it and guess where it might be going. I like this shot as it shows the double ear structure that they have, kind of two earlobes.
This weasel, like others I have seen, licked its lips a fair bit. I know that there are folks out there that like to see a tongue shot or two:)
We left after just 5 minutes, even though a red squirrel showed up and we thought that there may be a hunt about to happen. We thought we would leave the woods to do what they do.  Back at the vehicles the NPO was in a little more cooperative position so I grabbed a couple of shots. Here is one to wrap up this post.
We had a great day and got a little exercise in the process. Put some wild in your life, it will do you a lot of goood.

Friday, 9 January 2015

White-tailed Jackrabbit, Northern Pygmy Owl (20150109) A local celebrity gets a visit.

I have been pretty quiet of late so I thought I would add a short post here. The other night there were three White-tailed Jackrabbits out in front of the house. It was well into evening so I had to bump the ISO up to 5000 and shoot at F2.8 to even get an image.
Overall I am pretty happy with the result. The rest of this post will feature another "local celebrity". For almot 2 weeks now This gorgeous bird has been entertaining the papparazi here in Calgary.
If you are a follower of the blog you will know that these are the smallest of Alberta's owls. The Northern Pygmy Owl has become one of my favourite of all the owls.
Due to the size of their eyes they cannot move them, so they must move their heads. This is probably the best conditions that I have encountered one of the little predators in, so I took advantage and grabbed a lot of shots.
The reports have been that this little bird has been quite successful as a provider. The blood evident on its beak in this shot attests to that.
Another great feature of these birds are their "fake" eyes on the backs of their heads.
In the fifteen minutes I (along with quite a gaggle of others) this bird was very cooperative. I failed one strike attempt at a meadow vole then started to put more distance between itself and the mob.
It was a privilege to spend some time with the beauty this afternoon. Hopefully the images provde a good opportunity to see what they look like. They are a bird barely larger than my fist.
Well there is a brief update for this week. Enjoy, and put a little wild in your life this week. You will feel better for it.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

American Dipper, Eagle, Grouse (20150104) Jamie takes me out for a dipper

While I was in Toronto Jamie had been successful in finding a couple of American Dippers. They can be tough birds to find, and I actually missed then entirely in my second year of blogging. So I was game for a little adventure out to Elbow falls. Jamie was anxious to get back as the day he had been out it was very cold and he was complaining of the fog, On the trip out Jamie spotted  this bald eagle. So we turned around and grabbed a couple images.
We went all the way into the falls and found our first two target birds but the lighting was pretty bad. So we headed out to the second area where Jamie had found birds earlier. On the road out I found this little Ruffed Grouse.
We arrived at the second area and almost immediately spotted a target bird. Soon after we had actually found a second. I really am amazed how these tiny birds are able to survive in  these conditions.
These arequick little flyers and they are hard to capture well in flight but here is an attempt.
With the better light we headed back to the falls where we were hoping to get a little closer to these little water birds. We were rewarded with two separate birds upon our return.
Here is a shot of Jamie shooting a bird on the lower right of the image. You can see the type of environment that these birds live in. The temperature was about -20 Celius (-4F) and we fought the fog all day long.
We both had the pleasure of getting some decent images of these tough little birds as we spent about 3 hours with them.
Two and a half hours after we first found this Ruffed, we left him for the final time of the day. It had moved only about 2 feet to get some additional cover from the spruce bows above it.
The drive home netted us a couple of Moose.
We also found some Whitetails and with the light turning terrible we finished up
trying to grab some images of Mountain and Boreal Chickadees.
Just a terrific day. Quite often we don't find our targetted specie but today was fabulous as we recorded what we believe were six different Dippers. Put some wild in your life, it will do you well!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Snowy Owls, Ring-necked Pheasant. (20150101) Fourth annual New Years Day cruise with Jamie

Coming off a super day yesterday, we were pumped up at what we would uncover on this New Years Day. With a weather report that started out similar to yesterday we were expecting to see sun, but that never materialized. Two years ago we found 10 owls of three different species (Short-eared, Snowy, Great Horned). Take a look at that post here. Our search started off in the South East where Short-eared's are often found. Our primarily location didn't pan out for owls but we were pleasantly surprised by the appearance of a pair of rooster Ring-necks. They were both on this fence initially, but I only managed to catch one.
We watched as they worked around the structure for a while then they one after the other headed out into the fields.
Whatr a beautiful way to start the new year!  An hour later we found our fisrt Snowy Owl of the day. A nicely barred unit.
Just 15 minutes later we spotted our second owl. This bird was really quite white with very few markings.
20 minutes later we found Snowy 3, another beautifully barred bird. We were getting pretty disappointed with the lack of light. These birds just "pop" when they have nice sun on them.
We waited a full hour before spotting our next Snowy. This bird is on an antenae of a gas pumping station. You might not see it here but the wether took a decided turn for the worse and we were now dealing with heavy snow as well.
Not only was the weather getting us down we were not finding anything else to shoot. Usually the areas where we passed through we would find Larks, Buntings, Redpolls, GHO's and some Grey Partridge. Today it was nothing.
Our fifth bird was another barred unit.
10 minutes later we found white bird number 6, but we didn't get any deent images. Bird 7 just looked like a bit of a runt. Both Jamie and I were commenting on how it looked "small". It was quite a distance off, but sat beautifully for us. Here he stretched his neck and looked at something across the highway.
I will lay claim to the "spot of the day" with bird 8. I thought I spotted something so Jamie stopped and I took a shot. There was an owl. When Jamie checked, there was no owl. So I took another shot and there was the owl. Can you find it?
Our next couple of birds wre uneventful. We then fell into Pheasant land. We found a couple of Roosters on a yard front but didn't get any images. This next bird was a long way off, so we were able to capture a couple of snaps.
Just up the road we found these three pheasant hens, but they spooked  pretty easily.
Not 300 yards up the road we found even more hens feeding on a lawn. Most of them vacated the area early. This one hen provided us with a shooting opportunity. I like the lean in this shot.
I will wreap this New Year's post off with a wing shot of our final Snowy of the day. While I would have liked to offer you a little more variety, we shot what we saw, and we saw Snowys and Pheasants.
Happy New Year! Make certain you get some wild in your life this year. It will leave you healthier, happier and wealthier!