Up close and personal…

I was walking along the banks of the Bow River when I saw a small Spotted Sandpiper down river…Spotted Sandpiper in the distance cropped wmIt flew out over the water and landed up river.  I watched in amazement as it darted from the rocks to the shallow water…it seemed to be practicing flying maneuvers…

Then…it started to walk along the bank in my direction…weaving and bobbling over sticks and rocks…Spotted Sandpiper walking along the Bow shoreline cropped wmIt was tiny…I am thinking a younger bird…who didn’t seem to be bothered by my presence…which I found so unusual…as in the past they have always been quick to fly off sounding the distress call…Spotted Sandpiper walking along the Bow shoreline rocks wmI had to keep dialing back from 600 all the way to 150 as this little one walked almost right under my feet…Spotted Sandpiper walking along the Bow shorelins up close cropped wm… it was so close I couldn’t focus any longer….so I stood quietly…taking in a brief moment of wildlife and human enjoying the same small space on the river!  I was truly up close and personal with the sandpiper…and for a photographer to have interaction with nature without having a change in behavior is so amazing to witness!!  This was something I learned from our last guest speaker at the camera club….Kerri Martin.  She is a great nature and wildlife photographer that I follow!

A bird watching paradise…

I traveled to Frank Lake on an outing with the Camera Club.  We only had a short time to spend there, but what an amazing paradise for birds and bird watchers!!  Ducks, terns, blackbirds, geese and more…

Blackbird Yellow headed Frank Lake singing cropped wm

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Ruddy Duck Frank Lake flapping cropped wm

Ruddy Duck

Our short visit was a walk from the parking lot across the bridge to the blind…

Although this is slightly outside my one hour range that I consider my backyard (it’s an hour and 15 minutes to Frank Lake from Cochrane)…I know I will visit again soon!!

Unexpected surprise…

A photographer friend from the camera club is an avid birder and shared some amazing facts and a location to check out the Red-necked Grebes.  I spotted a pair at Lochend a few weeks ago for the first time…but what I didn’t know is they create a floating nest!!Red necked Grebe on floating nest cropped wm jpgThe female was building the nest, and occasionally settling in to see how it felt…Red necked Grebe on floating nest settling cropped wmThe male would dive down and bring up weeds to add to the nest…Red necked Grebe on pair building floating nest cropped w,The female started flapping her wings so I snapped a couple photos….but with the nest being out in the middle of the pond, quite far away, I decided I would come back another day when I had more time to check out different vantage points…

What I didn’t know (until I got home and took a look at the photos)…and why I had to share my story was my surprise….Red necked Grebe laying eggShe was laying on egg…Red necked Grebe laying egg 2My friend warned me that when you start birding you can get addicted…and she was right!  It has been so amazing to watch and learn about the huge variety we have right here in my backyard!

The hawks are back in town…

Last year, we had a pair of Swainson’s Hawks that hunted regularly in the hills off James Walker Trail.   I was happy to see that they are back in town!   They regularly perch on the street light posts before heading out to search for food…

This day they were together, but on opposite sides of the road…

You will occasionally see them sitting on the fence posts along the top of the hill…Swainson Hawk JWT on fencepost closer cropped wm…but not for long!!  Swainson Hawk JWT on fencepost take off cropped wmI was fortunate to catch some amazing photos last year of their family before they left for the winter.   You can check them out in the gallery!

Babies come and babies go…

It was with mixed feelings, sadness and joy as I watched nature move on!  Exciting new additions to the Riviera Pond…goslings…this was the first sighting!!Goslings first sightingMy husband and I were out for a walk Monday…both geese were on the far side of the pond.  I ran home to get my camera and watched in amazement as the day old goslings ventured out in their new world!  More geese photos in the gallery

On Sunday, I went to visit the Great Horned Owls nest…Great Horned Owl nest empty wmand it was empty…after scanning the trees in the area, I spotted one owlet…Great Horned Owlet in trees near nest wmmy presence didn’t seem to alarm the owlet as it opened its eyes for a brief moment before falling back to sleep…they seem so young to be on their own…but my understanding is mom is around to teach them how to hunt and to fly throughout the summer!

Good bye to my little fuzzy friend..although I was sad to see that the owlets have left the nest… it was great to witness nature here in the Cochrane area… my beautiful backyard!!

The littlest falcon…

The kestrels are back west of Cochrane!   These are amazing little hunters and so colourful! You will see them sitting on posts, wires and tree tops scanning for prey…

…but they are quick, moving from viewpoint to viewpoint, so capturing moments with these falcons is fun and challenging!!

There is a lot of land posted in this area…I love this little one checking out the sign!!American Kestrel looking at private sign cropped wm

More American Kestrel photos in the gallery!!

Lunch is served…

Last Saturday, the weather cooperated and we had a fun morning watching the Eagles! Hawk cruising through eagle territoryThe hawks have a nest across the highway…if you recall, I thought it was crazy to pick a fight with Bald Eagles, however, I did a little reading and the hawks will actually take on these big raptors! Our morning started with the both mom and dad chasing off the hawks!   The eaglets were in the nest on their own…Eaglets on their own in the nest…after the hawks fled, mom flew overhead to check us out and dad settled into the trees at the back of the wooded area to keep a watchful eye on the nest with the 2 youngsters…

Mom was gone for about an hour and came back with lunch…fresh fish!!Bald Eagle mom bringing in fish for lunch cropped wmEveryone was very well behaved and patient at lunch time…Bald Eagle mom feeding fish to eaglets cropped wmBald Eagle Mom feeding fish to eaglet oldest 2 cropped wmWhat an amazing opportunity to witness this Bald Eagle family time…I feel so privileged!!

Doing the nest shuffle…

Last week, I made a couple visits to the Bald Eagles nest.  On Tuesday, it looked like the oldest eaglet wasn’t happy, causing everyone to “shuffle” in the nest.  When I arrived mom was sitting quietly….Bald Eagle Mom cropped wm.jpg ..then she is disturbed…from under her wing pops an eaglet…Bald Eagle baby coming out from under wing cropped wmthey seem to have an exchange…so mom moves to the other side of the nest…Bald Eagle mom getting out of the way of eaglet cropped wm…but the eaglet seems to follow her to the other side…Bald Eaglet Oldest cropped wm…all the commotion wakes up the youngest eaglet… Bald Eaglets siblings cropped wm…and so the peaceful quiet time has passed!

Down by the River…

We are fortunate to live on the beautiful Bow River here in Cochrane!  There is always activity on the river …Osprey sitting in trees looking for fish…Osprey in trees over Bow River cropped wm and then diving in for the catch…

Songbirds hanging out in the same trees…Songbirds in tree on the Bow wm…dropping down to the river to take a bath…

then drying off…

Red wing blackbird drying off after bath in the Bow cropped wm

Red-wing Blackbird

…watched by me and this Brewer’s Blackbird female…Grey Bird on Bow River cropped wm…admiring the courage to take a dip in the very cold river…my kayak is still in the garage…it will probably be another month before I will take the plunge!!

Oh baby…hoo!!

I am so amazed at how quickly the owlets are growing!  As with most birds, the young hatch at different times and it is apparent when you watch them grow!!   When I arrived on Saturday, the youngest owlet was awake and the oldest was laying down sleeping!  Mom opened her eyes for a brief moment…Great Horned Owl youngest awake with momHow do I know it was the youngest?  Well, it seemed my arrival coincided with shift time …the oldest (due to size) woke up moments after my arrival…shortly after the youngest laid down and went to sleep…Great horned owl oldest wakes up cropped wmThis family lives on a busy road and with the beautiful weather, there was lots of traffic on Saturday!  When a group of motorcycles cruised by, it got everyone’s attentions…Great Horned awaken by motorcycles cropped wm…you can see the little one peeking…and mom watching as the noise passes by…Great horned owl little one peeking cropped wmThe oldest wasn’t happy and gave a little hiss…Great horned baby upset about getting woken up cropped wmStanding tall, the oldest is almost as big as mom and the feathers are changing color…

Owlets will start to move to near by branches at 6 weeks and take short flights at 7 weeks so we may see them fledge soon!!

Grouse stalkers off Grand Valley!!

Last week, my friend and I decided to head out on an adventure.  I saw a grouse for the first time!! Grouse in the trees cropped wm

When I arrived to pick her up, we decided to take a tour on her property as there was lots of bird activity out back!  Well…it was quiet and peaceful…then a deep, thumping sound started slowly, built to a crescendo then silence again!  My friend said…that’s the grouse…but it was difficult to determine where the drumming was coming from…so we started to lurk through the woods.   They blend in with their surroundings with great camouflage…

The male was very elusive…he had beautiful colors and it would have been great to catch him in action, but not this time!  The female would return to one particular area, which gave us an amazing opportunity to catch some very special close up moments…

She flew up into the trees…and after checking us out for a few moments, it looked  like she was closing her eyes to have a nap, so we left her to sleep!!

More babies to watch this summer!!

New Sightings…

Bird photography and learning about birds has become a bit of an addiction!  When I see and capture something new, I have to come home to research what I have discovered in my backyard!  Last week, there were 2 new birds to add….

Kinglet with pussy willow cropped wm

Female Ruby-crowned Kinglet

The first, out by Winchell Lake near Water Valley…after all my research, I think this is a female Kinglet (the males have a ruby crown) due to the olive green color (if I am mistaken, I would appreciate the guidance and correction)

The second, found at Bow Ridge in Cochrane, a Yellow-rumped Warbler…Warbler Yellow rumped Bow Ridge 2 cropped wmThere were so many of these warblers, they were everywhere along the trees on the river!  Amazing, beautiful to watch and listen too!Warbler Yellow rumped Bow Ridge 3 singing cropped wmBoth of these little birds were active, quick moving and in the trees!  So much fun to watch!

Territory Battles!

The mountain bluebirds arrived at nest box 54 a month ago.  They have been busy building their nest, bringing supplies in and out!!   Female Bluebird RR 51 building nest cropped wmIn the middle of April,  the tree swallows arrived.  They have been taking up residence down the road in box 46, 47 and 48.  Last Saturday,  it looked like these two groups were having a turf war…both the male and female bluebirds had ruffled feathers as they chased off the tree swallows…Male Bluebird RR 51 ruffled feathers cropped wmBluebird house under attach from Tree Swallow cropped wmMale Bluebird building nest RR 51 in flight cropped wmFemale Bluebird RR 51 ruffled feathers cropped wmI would be defending my nest box with a backyard view like they have…Female Bluebird RR 51 mountain background wm…and the front yard is filled with flowers!!   The crocuses have started to bloom!!Crocus RR 51 cropped wmEnjoy more bluebird photos in the gallery and other stories in my blog

The Majestic Bald Eagle

Saturday was majestic…bald eagles!!Bald Eagle Female on side of nest April cropped wmMy friends and I went out on a photo adventure…one of the planned stops was to swing by the Bald Eagle nest.  The female has been sitting on the nest since the middle of March and with an incubation period of 35 days, we were hoping to see some eaglets had arrived!!  We were not disappointed!  When we arrived, the mother was standing on the side of the nest…a good sign that she has young…and in no time a white fuzzy head popped up…an EAGLET!!Bald Eagle on side of nest and first sighting of eagle tcropped wmMom flew off for a few minutes…came back and settled in…we saw two eaglet heads popping in and out from under her wing!!  I think everyone was hungry as they kept checking the sky…looking for dad to bring in some lunch!!   There were also a group of 3 hawks circling above…not sure if I would want to picking a fight with a bald eagle…but the red tailed hawks have a nest on the other side of the creek!  Bald Eagle with Baby 2 cropped wmLooks like mom gave a little cuddle as the little eaglet came out from under her wing…Bald Eagle Female with eaglet coming out from wing cropped wmThe eaglets will be full size in 10 – 12 weeks…and fledgling takes place (take their first flight) at this time!  I know there will be more adventures to capture these amazing moments as we watch them grow!!

Action at the Riviera pond!

The geese have decided to nest at the pond this year!!  The female sits on the nest while the male patrols the area!  Male Goose Patrolling at Riviera Pond cropped wmFemale goose on nest Riviera pond wmThis is the view from the river side…but from the walkway, you wouldn’t even know she was there…unless you were really looking!  Great camouflage…Female goose on nest Riviera pond 2 cropped wmThere is a rock in the middle of the pond and many of the water fowl climb on top as a place to preen…the evening light was magnificent and the pond so calm last week..Male Goose preening on Riviera Pond cropped wmThere are more photos of geese in the gallery and hoping some goslings in the near future!!

The canvasbacks were also at the pond this past week.  I don’t remember them being around last spring!  We will have to wait and see if they take up residence at the pond this year!!

Duck, Duck, Moose…along with a few surprises!!

My morning adventure started off with a stop at the Great Horned Owl nest…they are getting so big…and check out the fluffy horns!!   The adventure continued with surprise after surprise!!Baby with little horns cropped wmDid you ever play the game duck, duck goose when you were a kid!  My adventure last Thursday was filled with anticipation…just like when you were playing the game and you didn’t know if you were going to be picked as the goose!  On this adventure, there was a surprise around ever corner as I was checking out the ponds near Lochend Road….first a duck, then another duck and then a moose…

Other surprises included a hawk that stuck around for a few moments!!  This year there are so many hawks but they are usually in the air before you can focus!! Hawk warning on fencepost RR 23 cropped wmBack to the ponds…a couple more varieties of ducks…and a moose!!

and to end the day….one of my favorite birds this year…the Mountain Bluebird!!Male Bluebird fence RR274 cropped wmYou can get a feel for how tiny these birds are with the ratio of the nails in the old fence!! Fun to watch and exciting to capture such amazing moments of nature all in one day! What an amazing backyard to explore!!

New sightings and highlights!

What a great week!  So many new things to see…starting with the promised picture of Kate, the returning Osprey!   The pair has been very busy at the nest (if you know what I mean)…Osprey returned to nest cropped wmA few birds that I have not had the privilege to see in the Cochrane area before…(although I am sure they were always here, but it was before I was looking)

Meadowlark GVR Photo Outing cropped wm

Western Meadowlark spotted on our Camera Club Outing

Meadowlark GVR Singing cropped wm

What an amazing song!!

Eurasion Collared-Dove on wire cropped wm

Eurasian-collared Dove on Township Rd 280

Coot at Lochend Lake croped wm

Coot at Lochend Lake

Junco at Paddy Flats near Elbow Falls cropped wm

Dark-eyed Junco at Paddy Flat’s

The Tree Swallows have returned and they are getting settled in as neighbours to the Mountain Bluebirds…both were spotted on our Camera Club Outing this past Saturday on one of the detours (previous blog) I added to our trip!!   (everyone was very excited!!)

Male Bluebird RR 51 photo outing day cropped .jpgThe hawks have returned to the area…there are so many soaring everywhere you go these days!

…and the muskrat babies are venturing out on their own!!Muskrat baby Lochend Lake cropped wmThis week we have had snow the past 2 days….waiting for the sun and warm weather to return so the adventures can continue!!

Hoo-h’HOO…and then there were two!

I have been back to visit our Great Horned Owl over the past couple of days.  It was very exciting to see a baby on Monday…very wide eyed as mom was napping in the sunshine!Great Horned with Baby in nest cropped wmOn Thursday, I was back in the area, so I popped by in the morning, but it was overcast.   My movement got both of their attention, but not for long as they quickly dozed off!

I left them to their napping and came back in the afternoon when the sun came out! There was lots of activity…mom was feeding the young one and both turned around to check me out!!

What a cute little bundle of fuzz!!  It stretched and squirmed as mom closed her eyes again and then…something else came into view…a second beak…a second baby!!great horned owl then there were 2 babies cropped wmI hiked around the other side of the tree to get a better look and yes…there were two little bundles of fuzz with big eyes staring back at me!!  It is going to fun to watch them grow!!Great horned owl two babies cropped wm

Morning moments with a moose…

Yesterday morning, I took the back roads to my meeting! I received a pleasant surprise as I drove past the coulee…a moose was having breakfast in the willows!!Moose in Coulee RR 25 cropped wmI watched as the moose sauntered through the water…pausing briefly to look back and see if I was still watching…Moose in Coulee RR 25 sideways cropped wmMoose in Coulee RR 25 Reflection crpped wmWhat a beautiful reflection on a calm Tuesday morning…then up and over the road she went with another quick look back to say goodbye before disappearing into the woods…Moose Coulee RR 25 saying goodbye cropped wmEnjoy more moose photos in the gallery

Honored to see our Provincial Bird..

The Great Horned Owl is common in Alberta.  You will often hear the deep, soft hoots … hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo in the late evening or early morning, but trying to locate them is not always so simple.   These birds nest early in the year compared to most other birds, and will most often settle in a nest build by others (usually Red-tailed Hawks, other hawk species, crows, ravens, herons, or squirrels).   Good friends took me to see one this week…what an absolute privilege to see such an amazing animal…our provincial bird!!Great Horned Owl Nest 1 cropped wmI look forward to watching the family grow this spring and summer!!

Oh…also exciting news…the resident Osprey’s are back!  Can’t wait to capture them in action this year!  Photos will be coming soon!! Check out the story from last year in my blog and my favorite Osprey photos from last year in the gallery!

Riviera returning residents…

The Riviera pond has residents returning!  Despite the snow on the ground this past week, the birds are arriving!!  The remaining ice on the pond doesn’t seem to bother them at all…Canada Geese back at the pond cropped wmMore geese photos in the galleryFemale Duck return to pond cropped wmThe Mallards are searching for a nest site…more photos in the gallery!Mallard return to pond cropped wmOn Tuesday, I heard the familiar song of the red winged blackbird…it was great to see them perched on the cattails at the pond!   More photos in the galleryRed Wing Blackbird at the pond cropped wm

 

Sunday Showcase…

We were having an amazing spring, very warm and wonderful, but it has taken us back to cooler temps this past week!  Sunday was a dreary day and barely above freezing, but my husband wanted to see the spring birds that I had been capturing with his own eyes…so we decided to venture out anyways.   It was quite the showcase of activity…

We started our tour east of Westbrook School to check out the Bluebird boxes. Bluebirds…I think these little ones are going to be my passion this year!

I was hoping we were going to see them on our Sunday adventure as my husband had never seen one before…

We passed by several boxes without any activity before heading north on RR 40.  We drove slowly up the windy road and spotted swans including a pair coming in to land…synchronization in flight…Swan RR 40 on approach cropped wmWhile we watched the swans, a hawk was hunting in the field to the east…you know it’s spring when you hear the screeching of the hawks high overhead!!  No pictures yet…

Just up the road and off in the bushes I spotted a pair of bluebirds…I was so excited for my husband to see these little cuties!!Bluebird pair in bushes off RR 40We watched for a few moments…this time seeing the male bluebird gathering grass and taking it into the box…

Next on the tour, we were heading north to see if the Bald Eagle was in around.  On the way, we saw 2 Prairie Falcons hunting…another first for me!!Prairie Falcon Sunday Showcase cropped wmAt the Nature Reserve, the Bald Eagle was still sitting on the nest!  With the incubation period being 34-36 days…it won’t be long before they hatch!!  Bald Eagle MV Reserve April cropped wmIt was time to head home…with one last surprise sitting on a fence post…an American Kestrel…Kestral HWY 22 Sunday Showcase cropped wma little chilled, but filled with joy in seeing so many amazing things on our Sunday adventure…

Detours are a sign…blues and hoos!!

In a few weeks, I am leading the field outing for the camera club.   I wanted to be prepared, so yesterday, I did a test run of the outing!   I have been on this route many times to photograph the wildlife…but yesterday…I decided to add a few detours to offer the club’s landscape photographers a reason to attend.   What a great adventure it turned out to be!  I started out at Ghost Reservoir to check out the sunrise, but unfortunately it is still frozen solid, and I started to worry about how this outing was going to come together.  I took the first detour south off the highway to check out the Bluebird boxes…amazing moments!!    This couple was busy getting ready…and always moving……for those who have not seen a bluebird… they are about the sizeFemale Bluebird on locked stack cropped wm
of a sparrow…check out the size relative to the lock…pretty small!

I watched this female gather grass, fly in and out of the nest box while the male stood watch…

The male had a couple spots as look outs…on the fence posts and adjacent wire…

…then he was off in a flash…Male Bluebird south of 1A fencepost ready to fly cropped wmThis will be a great first stop on the outing!!   There are more Mountain Bluebird photos in the gallery

Next…onto Grand Valley Road…a treasure for all kinds of wildlife…opportunity to see raptors, elk, moose, deer and owls!  I took the second detour west on a gravel road to check out the view of the mountains from this higher vantage point…I think this will be a great stop!!Rocky Mountains from Wild Cat HillsTouring on the other side of the ridge something moved in my peripheral, but I lost it quickly…then movement again and I saw this…a Great Grey Owl out hunting…they blend in with the trees and are so hard to spot until they move…Great Grey Owl spotted Wild Cat Hills wmI was given the privilege of watching the hunt for a few moments…silently the owl moved from fence post to fence post…scanning for prey…Great Grey Owl fencepost looking down cropped wmGreat Grey in flight wmIf we are lucky, we will see this on the outing!!  More great pictures of the Great Grey Owl hunting can be found in the gallery!!  These 2 detours are going to be a great addition to the outing in a couple weeks!!  It was certainly a sign that there will be many great adventures to come this year!!

What is soaring through the Rockies?

My husband was listening to CBC radio and heard an interview with the Rocky Mountain Eagle Research Society.   This group has performed 26 annual raptor migration counts at the same site location in Kananaskis Country (Alberta) every spring and fall.  The public is invited to join the group who continue to provide data to assist in understanding the Golden Eagles.  We decided this would be a great adventure!  Sunday morning we headed off to find the Hay Meadow site…

When we turned onto Mt. Allan Drive off of Highway 40, we saw a herd of Elk in the meadow.   I poked my head around a tree to see if I was able to capture some moments…it was so interesting to watch.  This young elk seemed to be the lookout.  The moment they sensed my presence, he would not take his eyes off me…Elk lookout for herd Kananaskis cropped wmThe herd slowly moved past him, one by one, while he kept watch…elk Passing by the lookout Kananaskis cropped wm

Elk lookout checking while others keeping an eyeful watch cropped wmI didn’t realize how small he was(relatively speaking) until this large male wandered by…we had a long stare at each other!

When the last elk came to the edge of the opening, the lookout moved on with the herd and this one kept on eye on me right to the last moment…almost peeking around the pine before scampering to catch up with the herd!  What a great start to our adventure!!Elk peeking around tree Kananskis cropped wmWe found the Stoney Trail day use parking lot and hiked on the scenic route through the trees meandering next to the Kananaskis River….peaceful and filled with beauty!  We popped out at a clearing and in front of us, high on the top of a pine tree was a small bird.   My husband thought it was a Grey Jay, also known as “Whiskey Jack” to many in Alberta…but when I zoomed in on the little fellow, I was giddy and ecstatic!!!  It was a Pygmy Owl…Pygmy Owl on tree top Kananaskis cropped wmIf you have never heard of a Northern Pygmy Owl, let me give you a little info.   These little birds full grown are 6 – 7 inches (16 – 18 cm)…about the same size as a house sparrow!  These owls are mostly dark brown and white, with long tails, smoothly rounded heads, and piercing yellow eyes.  It was a stretch to capture this moment as this tiny little fellow was at the very top of a tall pine tree…but I had to share…

The trail came out at Hay Meadows and there on the river bank were the Eagle watchers.   They were busy scanning the peaks for traffic, but took the time to explain what they were doing, shared a map of the surrounding peaks so we can follow the sightings as they called out the location.  The Meadow was so amazing, my husband and I continued on the trail to see if there were any birds or wildlife in the area.  As we came around the second wooden hut, we heard a high-pitched series of toots…it was a second Northern Pygmy, this time right above our heads…so tiny and so cute!!!!Pygmy Owl so cute Kananaskis cropped wmThis tiny owl has earned the reputation of a ferocious hunter.  They hunt during the day by sitting quietly and surprising their prey.   We watched as it moved from tree to tree, scoping out the meadow for lunch!Pygmy Owl cute and curious Kananaskis cropped wmPygmy Owl scanning the meadow Kananaskis wmPygmy Owl Sideview cropped with tail Kananaskis wmIf I was a songbird, I would definitively be frightened if I suddenly came into contact with these eyes…so serious…Pygmy Owl Stare down cropped wmThe Eagle watchers spotted 93 birds on the 26th…for full details of what was spotted here is the link to the Eagle Watch!  Thank you to the Rocky Mountain Eagle Research Foundation for the invitation to be a part of the 2017 annual spring migration!!

 

 

Singing with the “Blues”

You know that spring is here when the bluebirds return!  Last week, I had the pleasure of hiking with some friends on a family owned property off Sibbald Creek Trail (west of Cochrane on the way to Kananaskis country).  The reason for our visit was the return of Mountain Bluebirds to the nesting boxes on the property.   Up until that day, I had never seen a Mountain Bluebird.  We pulled onto the property where the owner was awaiting our arrival and immediately she pointed out the bluebirds up in the trees…my heart was singing…such an amazing blue color, a little shy, but singing the most beautiful song!!  We walked the property watching the bluebird pairs flit about from the nest boxes, to the wire fence, to the highest point of the tree tops.  Here are just a few of the many that will be returning this spring…

Along with the Bluebirds, we saw pairs of returning Robin’s….Robin at fenceline Sibbald Creek cropped wmRobin curious Sibbald Creek cropped wmand a beautiful Bald Eagle soaring in the thermals on the hunt for food…Bald Eagle soaring overhead Sibbald Creek cropped wmIt was day of joy and laughter…with good friends…enjoying our amazing backyard!!!

Thanks and compliments to Suzane Whitney, my friend for capturing this photo of me enjoying our amazing adventure singing with the “blues”…IMG_1410

Sanctuary, a little piece of heaven!

This past Saturday, the Cochrane Camera Club outing was to the area of Inglewood in Calgary.  I have been reading about the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and was excited to have this as the first stop on the Inglewood tour!  What a beautiful space, located in the middle of the city, for wildlife to flourish!   We were not the only one’s enjoying this little piece of heaven…there were bird watching groups, families and many photographers!!     With the beginning of the spring birds returning, this area must come alive over the next few months!  Here is what we saw…

I  look forward to returning to the Sanctuary…and will be on the look out for water birds, eagles, herons and more…

I captured the serenity of the Bird Sanctuary in my photo below…”Reflection”…it was a special day with like minded friends, enjoying nature at its finest!!Tree Reflection Inglewood Sanctuary cropped wm

The Spring Wildlife Adventure Begins…

Last fall,  one of my fellow camera club members(and bird photographer) told me about a Bald Eagle’s nest north of Cochrane.   Yesterday, I took a drive to the location with a friend, found the nest and a Bald Eagle in it!  I did a little research about the nesting habits, and each year the adult pair will add 1-2 feet of new material to the nest…that means that this nest has been used by this pair for quite a few years as the nest is huge!   Bald Eagle Nest Mountain View County Reserve wmThe Eagle stayed in the nest the entire time we were in the Nature Reserve, so I am assuming she has laid eggs!   It is going to be an exciting spring and summer!Bald Eagle Mountain View County Reserve cropped wmWhile in the reserve watching the Eagle, there was lots of bird activity…hawks flying overhead, ravens socializing  and a busy group of house sparrows flying in and out of the bushes….

We were not prepared to stay for the day, so it was time to head home.  We took the long way home to see if there was any activity at the Bluebird houses…nothing yet…but it won’t be long!  We saw a herd of moose on Range Road 280 just west of Horse Creek Road. My friend had seen the moose several times, but this was my first!

My last sighting of the day was a couple of white tailed deer.  We were looking for the Great Grey Owl that lives in the Grand Valley Road area.   A group of deer was trying to cross the road.  I pulled over, thinking I was going to get a great action shot of a deer jumping the fence…but it decided to go underneath…

What an amazing day!  My friend, who I was out adventuring with spotted the Great Grey Owl later that evening!  One day soon, I will be sharing an owl adventure…

Symphony at Mitford Park

This past week was pretty cold, but one day the sun was shining so I had to get outdoors!  I took a stroll through Mitford Park.   The local paper received a photo submission with a picture of coyotes hanging out at Mitford on a sunny afternoon…so possibility of capturing wildlife right in town!   The park was alive with birds singing.   Sparrows and chickadees enjoying treats from the residents, woodpeckers drumming, geese honking and  blue-jays squawking…it was a symphony!   No pictures of the blue-jays, maybe next time!    My fingers were too cold to patiently wait for the moment…it was time to head home to warm up!Sparrow at Mitford Park 1Chickadee looking Mitford Park wm croppedNew pictures of Chickadees in the galleryDowny Woodpecker Mitford ParkMore pictures of Woodpeckers in the galleryCanada Goose Mitford Park standing guard cropped wmMore pictures of Canada Geese in the gallery

Thank you to our local papers!

I would like to say thank you to the Cochrane Times!   The “Times” is very supportive in featuring local artists, like myself, (this link is to the article written by Patrick Price) providing great exposure to our community on what we have to offer.   Each year, the “Times”publishes an annual calendar, which is another way for photographers to submit their work and have it viewed by the public.   I was fortunate to have one of my photos selected this year for the Cochrane Calendar.     The photo is called “bringing in lunch” taken at our local osprey nest in the Cochrane Toyota Dealership lot…and one of my favorite moments last year!

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Osprey bringing in lunch

My first blog was about this osprey family and represented the launch of my Photo Solutions website…

Both local papers were represented at the Seniors on the Bow Art Show that took place on January 14th this year.   I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with Warren Harbeck, who does a local column in the Cochrane Eagle.  He took this great photo of me as I started on my adventure sharing “Nature in my Backyard”!   Thank you Warren for allowing me to share this photo!!

As an emerging nature photographer, capturing special moments in our town, it is great to have this support!

Kaleidoscope of color

Nature photography has opened my eyes to a new world!  I look at things from a different perspective…for instance, I never really paid attention to pigeons before…other than to not look up when they were flying overhead!   On many occasions, I walk on the River Avenue Bridge that connects Riviera to the rest of Cochrane.    There is a flock of pigeons that live on the bridge.  I stopped to take a closer look and discovered that these birds have iridescent throat feathers…how cool!

I love that I learn something new on my photography adventures!

 

What is that noise?

The woods are coming alive with drumming (also called tattooing, tapping and rapping). This is the way woodpeckers communicate with other members of their species. Depending on the type of woodpecker, it can be a faint tap, tap, tap of a downy …or the loud  hammering of the pileated…amazing!

I have had  the pleasure of hearing these noises and locating the source in several parks this past week….and there were a few species out and about!

Northern Flicker in Riverfront Park, Cochrane, AB.  Can you see the wood chips that were flying around in the second photo?   More Northern Flicker photos in the gallery

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Downy Woodpecker – in the Weaselhead and Riverfront Park, Cochrane …new photos in the woodpecker gallery

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It is also the time woodpeckers are starting to build nests, which is done by drilling holes in dead trees.   Check out this sign…a pileated woodpecker is in the area.   The drumming noise was constant during the week….couldn’t figure out what was going on, but didn’t have a chance to check it out.   When I went for a hike, I found this deep in the woods!  Wow…talk about hard work!woodpecker-nest-wm

Fox on the Run

Our neighbours have been telling us that there is a beautiful red fox in the nature reserve.   Last month, we finally caught a glimpse and I mean a glimpse.   My husband spotted him from the patio doors.  We planned a coordinated effort where he was going to open the door and I was ready to capture the moment.  It was literally a moment…the door opened he looked and went running…but what a beautiful sight!

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Dragons & Dinosaurs

In my photography adventures, I love to see what nature has in store for me.    I am always watching for movement, color and beautiful things that catch my eye.   Perhaps my eye sees things through conditioning.  Raising 2 boys, who were always into dragons and dinosaurs, I tend to spot them in strange places.   Since January was pretty cold  and the wildlife sightings have been rare ((although I am heading out over the next couple days on some exciting opportunities), I thought I would share my quirky collection of strange wood prehistoric creatures.

This young dragon was sited on the Kananaskis Loop on the Fitzsimmons Creek picnic area.IMG_5148

This dragon, the elder,  was spotted in a clearing as we hiked in the Harold Creek Wildlife Sanctuary.  dragon-head-vermillion-lakes-wm

This dragon was soaking up the the rays on the banks of the Elbow  River off Highway 66.dragon-wood-wm

And finally, this raptor was lurking in the trees in the Vermilion Lakes area.raptor-vermillion-lakes-wmIf anything, my boys (now young men) appreciate their mothers keen eye!  I hope you enjoyed my quirky display!

 

Weaselhead Natural Area

I have been reading about the different parks in Calgary and the winter bird activity.   With the weather getting a little nicer, and my camera finger getting a little itchy, I decided we should check out one of the locations!  Our pick was the Weaselhead…one that is close to Cochrane and from what I read, there is a lot of activity in this location.  They were right!   It is a beautiful hiking spot … and there are feeders all around the trails that bring in many different kinds of birds!    From the parking lot, we headed down the Glenmore Pathway, the main paved trail.   As we started down the hill towards the river, there were feeders in the trees…with several redpolls and chickadees taking advantage of the seeds …redpoll-on-feeder-weaselhead-wm…on the other side of the trail, there was a tiny woodpecker that we scared from the feeder (there are more photos of woodpeckers from different locations in the gallery)…woodpecker-on-feeder-at-weaselhead-wm…this little one flew into the nearby trees …with just enough light to snap a photo.   What a cutie!woodpecker-weaselhead-cropped-wmWe crossed the river and stuck to the main trail.  The trees are amazing …big pines that would be a fantastic spot for an owl to hang out …we kept our eyes peeled, but no luck finding any owls on this adventure.   We came to an intersection and took a fork off the main trail.   The trail winds through the wetlands, with tall trees on both sides.  Every once in a while there is a bridge or fence and on the tops of many of the posts are seeds. Someone must do a lot of walking everyday to put out the seeds!  In these wooded areas, you hear the chickadees all around you…they are curious and come very close …           (there are more chickadee photos in the gallery)chickadee-weaselhead-wmThe Elbow River winds its way throughout the area … it was pretty easy to get turned around as you would come out into a clearing and the river would be on the right one time and the left the next.  There were lots of deer tracks … we even saw what looked like weasel tracks.   As we came around a corner, my husband spotted a Pine Grosbeak (read about this mini adventure) up in the trees … amazing!red-pine-grosbeak-weaselhead-wmHe also spotted another small bird up in the branches …a red breasted nuthatch.red-breast-nuthatch-weaselhead-wmWe made it back to the main trail after a great morning of wondering around in the wilderness! This little fellow was there at the main trail to say goodbye …bird-on-feeder-at-post-at-weaselhead-wm

 

Wild Horse in Waiparous Valley

At the beginning of  November, we were expecting a beautiful weekend! My husband asked me to take him on one of my adventures, so we headed northwest on Highway 579.  I though we might see some elk or moose in the reserve.  We got out of the car to hike up a ridge line.   We didn’t see any wildlife, but we did hear a lot of guns going off …it was hunting season.  We decided it wasn’t a great day to be walking out in the woods…  We got back in the car and I saw something large and dark in the trees off in the distance.  I set up the camera and positioned it at the end of the bluff anticipating to see the large animal come out in the clearing.   It appeared and I snapped a photo …to my surprise …it was a horse…  There was livestock roaming free so we thought it was just someone’s horse roaming around the reserve.horse-in-the-distance-wmWhen we got to Highway 40 we ventured into the Waiparous Valley via Waiparous Valley Rd.  There were lots of folks camping…it was pretty chilly to be in a tent, but they looked like they were having fun.  Again, something was moving  in the woods, so out of the car I jump, make my way up the hill and again ….horses.   This herd was pretty skittish and they were deep in the woods, but there was a moment of sunshine streaming through the trees that brought this beauty into focus.

wild-horse-waiparous-valley-wm-whiteWe decided it was time to head home, so back onto Highway 40 to Cochrane.  Just south of Waiparous Rd, we saw another herd of horses in the Ghost Airstrip Group camping area. This time they were out in the open.  We hiked in to take a closer look!   One of the herd stood solo as we approached.wild-horse-solo-wmThe Stallion was magnificent!   There were 8 in the herd.  The stallion started to move them along into the trees.   He did pose for us on the way …

What a terrific day … to see the famous wild horses of Alberta!  It was truly an unexpected surprise and made our day!!   More herd photos

Jumping Pound Loop off Highway 22

On Wednesday, I decided to take an extended lunch break and head south down Highway 22.  This past weekend, I was through the roundabout on Highway 22 a couple times and there was a beautiful hawk sitting on the fence post both times.  I figured there was no way that I would see it a third time … but, just south of the roundabout …here is what I found!hawk-on-fence-opening-cropped-wmThis beautiful hawk, looking for something good to eat!  It didn’t stick around long, but it made my day!

I turned around and decided to venture down township road 244 heading west to Jumping Pound.  I heard from a friend there was Elk down this way.  No luck finding Elk, but I did see White-tails.   A young buck was sniffing around the field with many silhouettes off in the distance.  It was really socked in on Wednesday afternoon, so hard to capture many moment and he was pretty quick to head into the woods.  He had to jump the fence … it was a moment I was able capture!  So gracefulwhite-jumping-fence-cropped-wmThere were a couple of herds on White-tails in this area.  It was a little early to be shedding antlers from what I read, but this young buck had one hanging off the right side.white-tail-losing-an-antler-cropped-wmThe last sighting of the day was another hawk up in the treetops.  After checking each other our for a few minutes, he was off into the hills.   What a sight and a great way to end my lunch break!hawk-take-off-cropped-wm

Kananaskis Loop Adventure

It was such a beautiful weekend, we needed to get outdoors to enjoy it!  Highway 40 south off the Trans Canada, is am amazing drive that ends at Longview.  The 160 km drive is always an adventure!  There are many places to stop along the way for a picnic, hike or just to take in the amazing views of the Rocky Mountains.    kananaskis-lakes-turnoff-view

Just a note…this highway closes a at the Kananaskis Lakes turnoff from December 1st to June 15th each year.  There are 2 reasons for the closure, first – it is a winding road and can be quite treacherous in bad weather and secondly, it gives our wildlife neighbors some quiet time in their natural environment.

 

At the Kananaskis Lakes Turnoff, this guy was on the side of the road taking a drink!big-horn-taking-a-drink-wm

He had a look up at the few of  us that stopped to take in the moment of his majestic presence and then he turned and ran off into the meadow. More photos in the Gallery.

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A few weeks ago, we took a drive to Upper Kananaskis Lakes.  On our way home, we stopped at the Peter Lougheed Discovery & Information Centre.  If you have never been here, it is worth the trip!    The Centre has a sitting area with floor to ceiling windows that looks out over a meadow lined with forest.  You will often see Grizzly’s digging in the meadow for food.  The day we stopped, the Centre was closed (so make sure you check the website for hours before you go).   The parking lot was posted letting us know there was bear activity in the area … and as we drove around the parking lot to exit we spotted a Grizzly mother and her cub digging for roots in the meadow.  This  photo was from the parking lot, through the trees and out the sunroof of the car…a safe distance with a large zoom lens!!

grizzly-at-peter-lougheed

Back to the current trip… the sun was shining and the mountains were beaming!  You really do need to pay attention if you are the driver as the scenery can be quite distracting. We are so fortunate to have this amazing place in our backyard.   We drove up through Highwood Pass, the temperature dropped 10 degrees and there was snow everywhere. I can see why this road gets closed for the winter.  Coming down  the other side,  we had to stop for a herd of Bighorn sheep crossing the road.

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Another great day of adventures … capturing Nature in my Backyard!  More photos in the Gallery.

Osprey – Sibling Rivalry

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The Osprey’s, known as William & Kate, annually nest atop a telephone pole at the Cochrane Toyota Dealership.  I was fascinated that the Osprey’s were not bothered by the activity of people below them…and how many people actually didn’t notice all the activity above them!

I spent many a day watching William & Kate getting the nest ready for the young.   There was always a flurry of activity.   The chicks were born about a week  apart and the age difference was quite noticeable.  Like most families with children, there was a bit of sibling rivalry.    William or Kate would bring in a fish and the oldest chick would dominate the feast.  I guess that is also part of nature.  There was plenty of fish on a daily basis and both chicks grew and flourished.   At times it was hard to tell who was the adult and who was the child, but I learned (after doing much research on these amazing birds) that the young have reddish, or orange-tinted eyes…quite a contrast and easy to distinguish from the bright yellow eyes of the adults.

Another trick I learned after many missed photo opportunities, were some signs that helped to anticipate the arrival of a meal.  The young osprey starts calling.   When the calling is constant, if usually means that a fish is coming shortly…so be ready!

One day, at the end of August, I stopped by the nest to see if there was any action.  The youngest sibling was alone in the nest and squawking to tell mom and dad that she was hungry.   The constant call meant that lunch was coming and sure enough, William (dad) dropped off a fish!

This was the start of my photos above!  Dad didn’t stick around long…actually almost got pushed out of the nest by the very aggressive youngster.   All the squawking, brought her older brother back to the nest!  He was very patient, but she let him know that it was her lunch….protecting it with her wings.   He made a flew loops around the area, getting different vantage points…waiting for the opportune moment.   In a flash, he dropped in, snatched the fish and took off with the prize!   It reminded me of the many occasions I witnessed this same behavior with my own 2 children!!  The memories put a smile on my face…I laughed to myself that I happened to be there… at the right time…to watch and was successful in capturing this special moment.

Sibling rivalry caught in action!