The eagles are back…

The Bald Eagles have started to appear.   The first one near Bottrell.  We spotted ravens gathering around the gravel pit and suddenly among them, an eagle.   It flew into a near by tree….Eagle Bottrel cropped wm….then came to check us out, flying right over head.Bald Eagle Fly Over Bottrel cropped wm# 2 – again with the ravens.     It also flew off and watched from a nearby tree.Eagle Watching his lunch# 3 – getting closer to town, just off Lochend Road, I spotted this beauty!  So majestic!!

#4 – We watched a massive Bald Eagle circle the Nature Reserve from our deck and land in the large pine up on the ridge.  I grabbed my camera and headed out the front door.  It took off from the pine, soaring down to the flats, then started a gradual assent.  Bald Eagle Riviera cropped wmFull wing span, right over my head.  Moments of magnificence!!

 

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!!

Hat trick of winter birds…

The day of our Great Grey owl adventure, we spent some time at my friends after our tour.  She has an amazing acreage where the birds are abundant.   On this day, sitting on the deck, we spotted three species of chickadees…

Boreal Chickadee out on a limb at Suzes cropped wm

Boreal Chickadee

Mountain Chickadee Suzes posing in the pines cropped wm

Mountain Chickadee

Chickadee posing at Suzes cropped wm

Black Capped Chickadee

A hat trick…unusual to see all three at the same time!

San Diego tourist spots…

I had to hit a few bird spots and had a fabulous couple days photographing at Famousa Slough…a wetland in the middle of a residential area.  It was filled with Snowy egrets, black-crowned night herons, blue herons, pelicans, starlings…

 

…and to my surprise and delight a couple young osprey….I knew their call well!  I sat and watched them learn to fish for their lunch as I enjoyed mine.                                                           READY…Osprey fishing Famousa Slough cropped wm      SET…Osprey set cropped wm      GO!!!!Osprey dive famousa slough cropped wmAnother adventure was a trip to La Jolla, famous for the sea lions and they didn’t disappoint…

 

…and another day, took a long walk along the mouth of the San Diego river to see more birds and a few reptiles…

 

There were so many places…I need to go back and explore some more!!  A little outside my normal one hour distance, but had to share the highlights of my trip down south…

More os

Highlights of the Fall

Happy New Year!  It has been awhile since my last adventure story…sad to say, I have not had any time to post due to a very busy fall schedule.  I thought I would combine some of my favorites to share the highlights of the past season…

bees, butterflies and dragonflies…

…the last few hawks of the season…Hawk in flight north of Airdrie cropped wmHawk near WG ranch 2 cropped wm…a fall trip to Kananaskis, filled with beautiful colors and a herd of big horn…

…a hike to Troll Falls to see the waterfalls change with the season and…

…a Spruce Grouse trying to stay camouflaged in the trees…

…birds of course…

…and the last of the greens to a carry us through until spring…Mount Kidd glowing in the sun wmLooking forward to many new adventures in 2018!

Practice makes perfect…

I was out on a photo adventure, driving down TR 252 .  I had a car behind me so pulled off on a dead end road to let them pass.  What a detour…a big thanks to that driver!    Hawk near plant 1 cropped wmOn a fence post sat a young hawk…and I witnessed something incredible.  After a stretch and a shake…Hawk near plant 2 cropped wm…the youngster seemed to be practicing the art of flying…Hawk near plant 3 cropped wm…extending a wing …then stretching out a leg…Hawk near plant 4 cropped wm…wings up ready to soar…then a wing and leg on the other side…Hawk near plant 5 cropped wm…maybe it was hawk yoga…either way for over 20 minutes…it was fascinating to watch!  Love being out in my backyard!!

A little prayer always helps…

Our young Osprey has been out practicing.  One day on the way home, I spotted her on the top of the Church…just a short distance from the nest.  Young Osprey on Church cross wmIt was a beautiful blue sky behind her and I watched the young one prepping for flight.   First a tapping and flexing of her claws…Young Osprey on Church cross clicking claws cropped square wmThen she did these head bobs…back and forth…and with each head bob she would move her body in different directions…I am thinking to see how everything worked together…

She had an itch…check out the size of those claws!!Young Osprey on Church cross scratching head cropped square wm..and finally she was ready to launch….Young Osprey on Church cross ready for take off cropped square wmShe was tentative and almost had a look of fear as she left her perch on the top of the cross…probably saying a little prayer as she took off…

but a few pumps later, she was soaring…

I kept watching as she flew down to the river… she would drop a wing and veer towards the ground…perhaps practicing what she was doing on the top of the cross…or maybe it was how she was taught to fish…either way it was fascinating to watch!!  When she was taking off…I too said a little prayer…wanting her to have a successful flight so she is prepared to head off south for the winter…

Young Osprey in nest cropped wm

Young Osprey at the Cochrane Toyota nest

 

Opportunity knocks…

I usually don’t bring my camera along when I head to business meetings, but the opportunity to revisit Frank Lake prompted me to schedule some photography time before my meeting.  On route, this young hawk was a pleasure to watch…having a bad hair day as it was losing the last of its baby down…

It has been the driest summer on record and Frank Lake was extremely low.  Another bird photographer was at the lake and we chatted while in the viewing blind.  We were both excited to spot a Sora in the reeds…hard to capture, but fun to watch!! Sora Frank Lake cropped wmA Yellow-headed blackbird…a regular at Frank Lake…Blackbird Yellow headed Frank Lake in reeds cropped wm…then a young Ibis came to visit…

Ibis first sighted Frank Lake cropped

White-faced Ibis

Ibis side view Frank lake cropped wmIbis One leg side view Franks Lake cropped square wm …the most amazing iridescent colors in the sunlight!!  On many of my adventures, I learn something new (this trip was learning about new birds, the Sora and the Ibis)…

On the way home, I was on the look out for wheat fields…needed for a commissioned photography project.  I also learned there are many varieties of wheat…

I photographed them all … and option #1 was the winner…Opportunity knocks!!

One legged Willy

The Riviera pond had a special guest last week!  The neighbours called him “one-legged Willy”!  My experience with Blue Heron has been “they see you…they’re gone”… Blue Heron Riviera Pond sleeping 1 cropped wm…so I was surprised when “Willy” didn’t bolt with all the folks walking near the pond! Once I had a closer look…”Willy” was sleeping!!  At one point, he tucked his head into his long flowing chest plumes…Blue Heron Riviera Pond sleeping cropped wmEventually, the playground noise got his attention, but he stuck around…Blue Heron Riviera Pond cropped wmWe were able to walk all the way around to the other side of the pond (thus the different light) but by that time, the wind picked up causing ripples in the reflection shot… Blue Heron Riviera Pond reflection wmThen it was time…but I was prepared…enjoying some great quality time with “one-legged Willy” before he headed off into the sunset! Blue Heron Riviera pond take off cropped wmBlue Heron Riviera Pond in flight cropped wmSuch a majestic sight…right in “my backyard”!  Enjoy more Blue Heron photos in the gallery!

Third time’s a charm for the green flash…

I was sitting on the deck one evening and out of the corner of my eye, I caught a green flash…it was a hummingbird!!  This was the first time (for me) seeing a hummingbird in Alberta! I ran inside and grabbed my camera hoping it would came back.   I sat down to wait…and missed opportunity #2 as it came buzzing in and out…gone before I even stood up.  I was going to be prepared for the next time…so I stood, had my camera focused and was ready… and lucky for me…third time’s a charm!  Hummingbird taking a sip cropped wmHummingbird colorful back view cropped square wmHummingbird on tiptoes cropped square wmHummingbird closeup second flower cropped wmHummingbird midair cropped wmAmazing to watch…so fast…so tiny…and that iridescent green flashing in the evening sun …wow!

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!!

A little bit of everything…

A few new things…many individual moments…here are some shots from the last few weeks…

Hawk in flight RR 51 cropped wm

A Red Tailed Hawk entering into a mid air fight for territory…

Cedar Waxwing on post OS cropped wm

The stunning colors of a Cedar Waxwing…

Bobolink GVR cropped wm

A Bobolink hanging out on Grand Valley Road…

Eastern Kingbird babies left the nest cropped wm

Eastern Kingbirds fledged from their nest…

Hawk Glenbow Ranch 1 cropped wm

A Swainson’s Hawk at Glenbow Ranch…that wasn’t happy to see me…

Sparrow eating berries in the wind cropped wm

A young Sparrow hanging on in the gusty winds…

Cowbird GVR cropped wm

A young Cowbird testing out the wings…

Meadowlark Wild Cat Hills singing eyes closed cropped wm

A Meadowlark singing the most beautiful song…

Mourning Dove RR 274 cropped wm

A Mourning Dove posing for the camera…

Kestrel RR 25 cropped wm

A young American Kestrel hunting in the fresh cut fields…

Geese backlit in grass on TR 252 cropped wm

Canada Geese playing hide and seek in the tall grasses near the marsh…

A little bit of everything but some amazing moments to share!

Rubbernecking on the highway…

One evening recently, I needed a photography fix…so was heading out to find a destination.  As I pulled onto Highway 22…I caught a glimpse of the top of a long narrow head in the pond on the west side….I was pretty sure it was a Blue Heron….so I pulled into the ditch, flipped on the flashers, grabbed my camera and “safely” ran across the highway!

It sure was…and for a brief moment I was out of its line of sight…able to snap a couple of photos…Blue Heron 22 cropped wmBlue Heron walking 22 cropped wmIt was a quick moment before he caught sight of me….and took off!  I was unprepared for action and missed the exit from the pond…everything in stages…hope to capture those long legs and enormous wings in flight next time!!

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

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!

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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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

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!!

 

 

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

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

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

 

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!