Year end review

It has been a while since I added to my story.   My adventures have been fewer this year due to a new position with Cochrane Tourism!  I did have some amazing adventures, so thought I would share a review of the year and the amazing nature I was able to capture!

It was a good year for owls – Great Grays, Great Horned, Snowy:

Lots of eagles – including three eaglets this year that all survived and grew up so fast:

Hawks were abundant, this one being my favorite:

Ospreys as usual, so many great pictures this year, with these 2 top picks:

Top pick for songbirds include:

We had a new fawn in the backyard again this year:

Favorite captures with antlers/horns:

The Alberta wild horses:

A few other favorite birds from this year:

And my favorite baby shot of the year:

Goosling peeking during nap time wm

I hope you enjoy the review!  Looking forward to capturing more amazing nature in my backyard in 2019!

Evening with the Short Eared…

I have been fortunate,  with numerous owl sightings these past few months.  One evening after supper, my husband decided to join me on another adventure.  He had never seen an owl in the wild.   I was hoping my luck would continue for his sake and we were not disappointed!!  The first sighting, we saw the biggest Short Eared Owl!  It is hard to explain the feeling when you see a owl in the wild.  He has now had the privilege to experience this very special feeling.Short Eared Owl Big Deal wmWe saw another one on the west side of the road in the trees, but with traffic, no opportunity to stop, just watched as we cruised by.   We then decided to head east, so the setting sun was behind us.  We came across another beauty hunting near the road.  It decided to take a break on a fence post up the road and as we slowly drove by, I managed to snap a few more pics…Short Eared back lit wmShort Eared Owl look back in sunset cropped wmShort Eared Owl Poser wmjpgI have been told that these owl are not common in the area, so to see them more than once has been amazing!

White Ghosts (and their little friends) on the Prairie

The Snowy owl is often referred to the White Ghost of the Prairie.  Perhaps it is due to the rare opportunities to spot them in the wild.  This winter, I made 2 trips attempting to spot the Snowy’s east of Cochrane.    Both trips, I came home empty handed.  A few weekends ago, I decided I was going to attempt trip #3.  It was a beautiful sunny day and I headed northeast to Highway 72 as I heard there were several sighting around Beiseker, AB.   Before I even got there, I spotted a large female…lucky for me, there was a turning lane and I was able to pull off out of traffic.   Females have dense dark markings, while males become whiter as they age.Sleepy Snowy - female cropped wmShe was sleepy and stuck around for a while.  Again…good luck for me.  The white feathers and sun proved a bit challenging…blowing out the white chest on my first few images.    I finally underexposed by 1/3 stop to capture this image.  She started to become more alert,  still comfortable, not stressed, looking at something in the distance.  Snowy eye spy cropped wmCheck out those talons!!  Before I knew it,  wings were up and she was gone….I had no idea the wings span would be off the chart!!  I will be more prepared the next opportunity for flight…Take off Snowy cropped wmAmazing…I felt so fortunate to witness this beautiful bird in nature.   My adventure continued down many back roads east of Beiseker.  In this area, there are also lots of partridge.   They are hilarious to watch and very hard to photograph.  They are often along the side of the road or nearby fields.   Any movement, they run…then fly!Partridge flock off and running cropped wmPartridge flying wmIn one group, a lone partridge decided to stick around and eat while the flock disbursed….but when the calling turned into a frenzy, it was off and running…Partridge hanging back still eatingPartridge off and running to catch the group…you can even see the snow flying!!

I finally was able to see a couple that didn’t spot me right away and captured their amazing colors.Partridge sound the alarm cropped wmPartridge hiding in the hay cropped wmSo much fun to watch!  Okay, back to the White Ghosts.   The sun was going down and I was thinking it was time to head home,  but something caught my eye on a telephone pole in the distance.  It was another Snowy.  She took off from the pole and landed off in the field.    She put a smile on my face, because this trip I had the privilege of seeing the White Ghosts before heading home.  Snowy Female out in the field wmLittle did I know, my trip was just about to get even better…a male Snowy!Snowy Looking back cropped wmHe was busy…not paying much attention to me.  I watched in wonder as he scanned the field looking for supper, every once is a while turning his head to see if I was still there…re-positioning on the post.   I felt so fortunate to finally see a snowy in action!!Male Snowy on Fencepost wmHe flew off into the field.Snowy landing in the snow cropped wmI didn’t see any prey…but hoped it was supper time for him!!  Looking forward to my next “ghost” experience!!

Oodles of Owls

A day to remember…

On many occasions my friends and I head out on an adventure to find the Great Grey’s…sometimes we are lucky if we see one…

Great Grey first sighting of the day cropped wm

First sighting

…this one was the first one of the day,  spending quite a while checking out various locations.  It was the beginning of an amazing day…Great Grey in V of Tree cropped wmGreat Grey back in the yard cropped wmOn our way to pick up another friend, we saw 2 more Great Grey’s flying overhead.  After gathering everyone…we headed back to check out where the 2 were spotted…Great Grey One with the tree cropped wm…and off in the field, we spotted this one.  They blend in so well, they are easy to miss!  This owl provided us with a show…moving from post to post…

…not seeming to mind us at all….

Great Grey checking us out cropped wm…with no good options for lunch…off to find another spot….Great Grey wings down cropped wmGreat Grey wings up cropped wmWe weren’t sure if this was one of the one’s we saw earlier…but we counted it as a sighting…

Up around the corner…another one was sitting on a fence post on the roadside…but there was a vehicle behind us and no where to pull over…so we took a loop and the passengers watched as the owl headed into the trees….Great Grey so hard to spot cropped wm…again…camouflaged and so hard to spot…5 Great Grey’s in one day…truly breathtaking!!

Best photo of the day…up close and personal…

Great Grey Close up Focused cropped wm

Eye on the prize

….definitely one of the best days ever being in the presence of these astonishing birds and oodles of them to appreciate!

 

 

 

Nature in My Backyard Collection on Display at the Local Gallery…

Several “Nature in My Backyard” pieces are on display at the Final Touch Studio Gallery in Cochrane, Alberta…

 

…along with the current “Nature in My Backyard” Card Collections!

 

This Saturday, August 12, 2017, the “Nature in my Backyard” series of cards(above)…

…prints and framed art will be displayed during the upcoming Art Walk at the Cochrane clubhouse!   Canvas framed in rustic wood, prints framed in various sizes and card collections are available for viewing/sale….

This event posted on the upcoming events page, will run on the second Saturday of each month (August, September and October) from 9:30 – 1:00 pm in conjunction with the Cochrane Farmers Market.   Come by, say hello and check out the new photography from my recent “Nature in My Backyard” adventures!!

Wild Cat Hills Delight…

On Tuesday, I decided I needed to get my camera out, so spent part of the evening on a drive NW of town.   Lots to see, but the highlight was the Great Grey Owl at Wild Cat…Great Grey Wild Cat Hills in shade cropped wmFirst spotted on a fence post in the shade…Great Grey Wild Cat Hills in Tree cropped wmThen, up into the trees for a better hunting spot…and great light!!Great Grey Wild Cat Hills in Tree stare down wm…checking me out…Great Grey Wild Cat Hills on fence post cropped square..a few misses in the tree, so down by the creek to see what it could find…Great Grey Wild Cat Hills on fence post lookng back cropped wm…check out those wings…massive tools and so quiet in flight…Great Grey Wild Cat Hills Fence post hunting cropped wm…spotted something, another miss…the grass was so long that it disappeared when it hit the ground…Great Grey Wild Cat Hills on Gate in shade cropped wm…back into the shade with a quick stop on the gate before heading off into the trees! I hope it found some supper!  What a treat to watch!! More Great Grey photos in the gallery

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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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!!

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!!

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!!

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

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!!