Action at the Osprey nests…

After 2 months, there is action at the Osprey nests…Osprey male on nest post cropped wmit was overcast this day…and after many attempts at trying to capture flights going in and out of the nest from both parents with no successful photos…the sun peaked out and dad settled in on the nest perch.  Check out those talons…no wonder they are so great at catching fish!!Osprey male on nest post wings up cropped wmThe next day, the sun came out and I had the opportunity to visit another nest closer to home…mom was sitting up so you could see her head above the nest edge…dad brought in a fish for her to eat…Osprey male bringing fish to female on nest cropped wm…then he left and came back with some nest building supplies…Osprey male bringing nest supplies cropped wm…then off to the river to get more food…Osprey in flight cropped wm…it was a busy day for dad!

Mountain adventure…

Last Sunday, I decided to take a tour out to Kananaskis country.  Part of the reason was to preview the area as I would be leading the camera club on the next outing to Grassi Lakes and Smith Dorrien Trail.  It is a great time of the year to head to the mountains…so many things to see!  In Canmore, a herd of elk was grazing in the hills along the Three Sisters Parkway…Elk at Three Sisters Canmore cropped wmThe Smith-Dorrien Trail is the “backdoor” access to Peter Lougheed provincial park from Canmore to Highway 40.   There is plenty of wildlife…it winds it’s way through moose habitat… and I was lucky to see a cow and her calf swimming across Goat Pond…

 

The road follows the eastern shore of Spray Lakes…

Spray Lakes wm

Spray Lakes

….with many places to photograph landscape and wildlife…

Gopher in the Rockies cropped wm

Engadine Meadow cropped wm

Engadine Meadow

You can view and hike the Kananaskis Lakes via the Kananaskis Lakes Trail…

Upper Kananaskis Panorama

Upper Kananaskis Lake

The way home is Highway 40.  This road is closed from December to June as this is a wildlife corridor in the Rockies.  Just north of the gates a Grizzly was in the ditch on the road side eating dandelions…Grizzly Highway 40 showing collar cropped wmSeeing a Grizzly is quite an amazing sight…however…this is a wild animal…and can be very dangerous.  The bear is tagged and collared for monitoring by the park staff.  I did stop and snap a few photos through the sunroof of my car.  This was the second time I have seen a bear in the wild.   Wildlife in the parks cause traffic jams because when one car is pulled over…so do many others.  I was part of a “bear jam” this Sunday afternoon. It was unfortunate what I witnessed…many people were getting out of their vehicles and standing along the guardrail with a wild Grizzly 50 feet away.   If this bear decided it had enough and attacked one of the bystanders…it would be the bear that would be put down, not the human.   I left with  mixed feelings…elated that I had the opportunity to see a bear in the wild…disappointed that people do not practice the guidelines for wildlife viewing to keep everyone…especially the animals…safe.

Grizzly Highway 40 tag removed cropped wm

Bear 152 (edited tag removed)

So much to see at the pond…

I have been busy hanging out at the pond.  I am amazed at the variety of birds!  A lesson my back yard adventures have taught me… slow down and pay attention to what’s around you!  Here is what I have witnessed over the past week…

There were ducks(Blue-winged Teals and Common Goldeneye) and their ducklings…

 

 

Four different types of sparrows (white crowned, house and house babies, clay-colored and Savannah)…

 

Robins, Warblers, Goldfinch, Grosbeaks and Waxwings …

 

Eastern Kingbirds…

Northern Flickers that you could hear load and clear, but were hard to find as they blended into the trees and another bird in the tree cavity that I have just not been able to identify yet…

 

Sandpipers…

Geese and there were goslings (but no more)…Gosling taking ride on the Bow River cropped wmThat is 17 different types of birds just a few steps away from my front door found in and around the Riviera pond….

…and there are definitely more…just not captured yet!  It was a great week of discovery!!

The reality of nature…still brings sadness

I visited the Eagles nest recently, and sadly the youngest eaglet is gone.  Bald Eaglet standing on edge of nestThis was the first time I witnessed both parents frequenting the nest…

….and the Eagle and hawk had a battle right over our heads…it was amazing to watch as the Eagle would soar around the trees gaining speed, flap to get to altitude calling a warning…then with talons out, attach the hawk in midair!

The battle was over in mere moments and both birds retreated out of sight!  Bald Eaglet flapping wingsThe oldest eaglet is growing quickly…already working on stretching out it wings!   It is hard to believe that 50% of eaglets do not survive the first year.  There will be many challenges still ahead for this young eaglet…

Chicks at Riviera Pond…

More babies at the pond…a Common Goldeneye with her brood of 9 arrived!Goldeneye mom and 9 babies Riviera Pond cropped wmThey swam to the middle of the pond and climbed up on the rock…Goldeneye mom and 9 babies Riviera pond on rock cropped wmGoldeneye mom and 9 babies under mom Riviera pond on rock cropped wm …all getting under mom for a little warmth after their first swim across the pond!  As the sun was setting, I snapped this photo of one of the duckling in amazing water color…The next day, I headed back to the pond to watch the brood…Goldeneye babies 5 cropped wm…sadly overnight the brood went from 9 to 5…but I guess that’s nature…Goldeneye mom keeping a watchful eye cropped wmMom watched as the ducklings learned to run away…Goldeneye babies learning to run awaylook for food…Goldeneye babies learning to look for food and dive…

 

So much fun to watch these cute little balls of feathers learn so quickly…Goldeneye baby cropped wm

Out of the Shadows…

I have talked about the elusive Great Grey Owls on Grand Valley Road…which many have had the pleasure of capturing…and I am finally part of that group!!   Great Grey Owl on stump first sighting cropped wmDriving down a back road off Grand Valley, a friend spotted something in the woods on a stump…we were both very excited when it turned around …and it was a Great Grey!!  We watched as it listened and looked around scanning…

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Wishes come true…just put it out there!

Our Community Association had a clean up day a few Saturdays ago.   I was working on cleaning up the Riviera Pond and spotted a Killdeer hanging out.   After our clean up…I went back to to the pond with my camera to see if it was still around..and it was!  Killdeer at Riviera PondI sat down on the concrete embankment at the top of the pond and thought to myself…wouldn’t it be nice if the Killdeer would come a little closer so I could capture a great shot!  Well…I got what I wished for!!  This little bird starting across the pond…Killdeer at Riviera Pond 2…then it was at the bottom of the embankment…Killdeer Riviera pond walking up concrete cropped wm…and kept walking towards me…I had to dial back the zoom…

 

I couldn’t believe it…the Killdeer came within 10 feet and sat down…basically beside me!!Killdeer Riviera pond sitting down cropped wmjpgWow…I didn’t want to move and scare it, so I sat quietly and watched but took a couple of close up shots as it stood up and sang a song…Killdeer head shot singingKilldeer head shot cropped wmThen, as quickly as it arrived…it decided it was time to go and walked down the embankment….Killdeer Riviera pond leaving the concrete..out across the reeds…Killdeer Riviera pond leaving the pondand flew away…Killdeer Riviera Pond flying away…and I went home with a huge smile on my face!!  Unbelievable experience with nature!!

Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation visit…

I had the pleasure of visiting the Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation with the camera club recently.  As stated on their website this is a “must-see” attraction….and it was an unforgettable wild experience.   The Foundation offers visitor information and interaction through the following exhibits…. hawk walk, flight demonstrations, wildlife interactions, aviaries and more…

Orphaned Great Horned Owlet BOPIn the lobby when we arrived, we were introduced to 4 orphaned Great Horned Owlets…

The staff explained the different areas and events at the Foundation and then it was off to check things out!

Rehabilitating and releasing injured birds of prey back to the wild is one of the Foundation missions.    Some birds, due to their injuries, become residents.   The staff provide information and interaction to teach visitors about the birds.

Our first stop was the Hawk Walk…which probably showcased every type of owl and raptor…here are just a few!!

The flight demonstration we attended was with a 6 year old Bald Eagle…amazing, informative and breathtaking…they run every 90 minutes during the day…BOP Bald Eagle Flight Demo

After the demo, the visitors helped give Roosevelt a shower!  He loved it and then enjoyed the heat as he dried out!!

There was another Bald Eagle…

…and a Golden Eagle…

Visitors learned about the Great Horned Owlets.  If all goes well, these little fellows will be released back to the wild later this summer…

Offspring from the Foundations Burrowing Owl breeding program have been released in all four western provinces.BOP Burrowing OwlHaving had the privilege of seeing many of these “Birds of Prey” in the wild, brought comfort knowing that passionate individuals at the Foundation take care and rehabilitate injured raptors.  (you can check out my raptor photos in the gallery) On our way out we met an injured Golden Eagle that was just dropped off.  The calm and caring nature of the staff had this wild raptor calm and comfortable…which was truly unbelievable as it had a broken wing.  If I lived closer to Coaldale, I would probably become a volunteer…what an amazing experience!

 

 

Unique experience, colourful lessons…

One day after a business meeting, I decided to take a new back road home.   Yellow headed blackbird Airdrie pond wmI was so glad that I threw my camera in the car!! A yellow-headed blackbird caught my eye singing on a fence post on the side of the road…I got out of the car to get a little closer, but he would have no part of it…flying off the minute I took a step closer…but I have to thank him for making me stop as I would have missed an amazing opportunity!   Sandpipers young Airdrie pondThe area was a wetland…filled with shorebirds I was thrilled to watch!!  It started with these sandpipers….hundreds foraging in the shallow water…something would set them off…Sandpiper flock in fight cropped wmand they would all fly around calling in distress for a few moments then settle back down to forage some more…Sandpipers landing on Airdrie pondThe light wasn’t great looking into the sun…but the experience was wonderful.   As my eyes adjusted to the brightness, another colorful surprise appeared…Avocet Airdrie pond reflection 2 cropped wm jpgI had no idea at the time what it was, but wow…it was beautiful, elegant and one of my favourite colors!!  The bird is an American Avocet!!   Again, back lit shooting into the sun, wishing I had better light…but when I got home, I was happy that I continued to snap photos as normally I wouldn’t.   I love when I learn and expand my knowledge…not only seeing new birds, but expanding my photography skills…I love the mood in this photo!   Just as I was thinking of putting the camera down…the Avocet decided to fly to the other side of the road…Avocet Airdrie pond landing cropped wmAvocet Airdrie pond in sun cropped wmAvocet Airdrie pond in sun 2 cropped wm…lighting, timing and patience…

My “Nature in my Backyard” adventure has proven to be a great teaching tool!  I look forward to more lessons from the wildlife…feel so fortunate to experience nature and be given the opportunity to capture these moments!

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!

osprey-full-flight-with-fish-wm

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!