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!

Trudging through the snow

We have had a ton of snow this year!   I am sure it is challenging for the wildlife.   This male moose was moving pretty good through the drifts.   Male Moose on the move wmHe was moving in and out of the trees.  We moved to the west so we were ready if he came into the clearing.  He appeared, just as we hoped!!Moose male close up cropped wmWas able to get a great close up shot as he popped out of the pines.Moose Male strutting his stuff cropped wm Big boy!  Would love to see him with his antlers!

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!

A rare sighting…

I was invited to tour a beautiful Retreat called Back to Nature, just outside of Water Valley.   Since I was heading northwest of Cochrane, I grabbed my camera, just in case!!  It was extremely windy that day and I was pretty sure everything would be grounded, but on Horse Creek Road, I came across this hawk hovering…I got out of the car to snap a photo and he took a moment to check me out…Hovering in the wind - Hawk on Horse Creek cropped wmAfter the tour,  I was about to head home when the owners started telling me about another group coming out to check out a rare bird they had photographed recently.  I asked if I could grab my camera and join them in taking some photos…what a privilege!! They told a story about the chestnut-backed chickadees…very rare in Alberta.   These little birds only fed from the ground, picking up seeds and eating in the nearby trees.  They also didn’t come around when the grosbeaks come near…Pine Grosbeak snacking- Make at Back to Nature cropped wmAs always in bird photography…it takes patience, a little luck and the right conditions.  We watched patterns of feeding, and favorite spots to see where these little chickadees would appear.   Their favorite spots were deep in the trees, but occasionally, they would pop out just before dropping down to pick up another seed.  Viola….a beautiful shot of a chestnut-backed chickadee…Chestnut Backed Chickadee at Back to Nature cropped wmThanks to the folks at Back to Nature for sharing their amazing experience!!

 

Lucky last stop…

Over the Christmas  holidays, the weather was frigid, but we had a guest who needed to see the Rockies!  We were on the look out for animals,  but no owls to the west, no elk at Two Jacks and everyone was getting hungry.   I said, one more stop…there is usually a herd of Big Horns near Norquay…and they didn’t disappoint.   It was a big herd and the first time I saw several males with the herd….Male Big Horns Norquay cropped wmThis big male was busy checking out the females…very focused….Focus BHS Norquay wm

The light was amazing and although it was freezing, I was memorized by the activities happening in front of my eyes!   Digging for food…Male BH good spot Norquay cropped wmwatching each others backs….Herd at Norquay cropped wmplaying in the snow (at least that what it looked like as this youngster bounded down the hill)…Playing in the snow BHS Norquay cropped wmpondering where the best spot to find good food…Pondering BHS cropped wmSo happy the last stop was a lucky one!

 

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!

 

 

 

Lunch break…

One day a few weeks ago, I was on my way home for lunch.  The sun was shining and I was enjoying the drive down the hill when out of the corner of my eye, I spotted something on the walking trails!  It was a fox!!  I was so excited, I grabbed my camera and ran up to the trails.  It must have been a sight…it was winter, I was in my dress shoes and long dress coat running up the hill with my camera and long lens in tow!  Well,  I got to the spot and nothing…but it was fresh snow so I started following the tracks…in and out of the rocks…down the hill…then across the road.   Since I was in my dress shoes..not great for winter snow banks…I decided it was probably time to head home…so sadly I started down the hill.   Then…off to the east, I saw movement.  I crossed the road… steadied may camera and voila…this beautiful sight appeared out of the rocks!!Fox in Riviera cropped wmIt was as if I asked for the pose…only a mere moment, but truly breathtaking…

Then I watched as this little beauty cruised in and out the the rocks hunting for lunch!   Fox hunting Riviera cropped wmSo happy I went home for lunch on this day!!

The Boys of Bragg Creek

I have been out on several occasions photographing the wild horses in Alberta northwest of Cochrane.  I was asked if I had any photos of a particular stallion…and after doing a little research found out this stallion was part of a herd in the Bragg Creek area!  I travel in this area often and had never seen any wild horses, so one day, my friend and I needed a photography fix…so off to Bragg Creek we went to see if we could find the Bragg Creek herd.    We got out of the car when we spotted some Gray Jays hanging out in the flats…

 

It was as if they were giving us a sign…as the next thing we saw was the black stallion…Black Stallion Brag Creek wmFollowed by the brown stallion…Brown Stallion Bragg Creek eating wmboth busy eating while the grass was still accessible…Black Stallion Brag Creek rolling in the dirt cropped wmthe black stallion rolled around in the grass…scratching his back…so majestic as he was getting up off the ground…Brown Stallion Bragg Creek wmthe background of the flats was amazing as they worked their way through the dead fall…Boys of Bragg Creek wmthese were a couple of big boys…we followed them as they wondered over the hills looking for good things to eat…Black Stallion Bragg Creek eating closeup cropped wmonly pausing for a moment to have a look up at us…Black Stallion Bragg Creek close cropped square wmBlack Stallion Bragg Creek leaving cropped wm…then off into the mountain range…

..although this was not the particular stallion I was asked about…I now know there is a herd in the area and I will be back to capture more special moments with the wild horses of Bragg Creek!!  More Alberta wild horses can be viewed in the Gallery

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!

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

Kananaskis country tour…

We had an amazing day on the camera club outing!  Many in the club had never hiked Grassi Lakes.  If you have never been…it is an amazing place to check out!

After the hike we started up the Smith – Dorrien Trail and before we even left the Grassi area we spotted a Big Horn Sheep with her lamb on the cliff side of the road…Big horn baby on rock ledge Grassi Lake cropped wmBig horn baby on sure footed rock ledge Grassi Lake cropped wmMom jumped the fence and climbed the cliff on the opposite side of the road…calling and coaxing her lamb to follow…Big Horn mom on rock wall waiting for baby cropped wmIt took some work as the little one couldn’t make it over the fence…but eventually figured it out and scampered across the rock face with amazing agility and speed!Big horn baby jumping across rock wall at Grassi cropped wmBig horn baby jumping over rocks Grassi cropped wm - CopyThe Smith Dorrien has some amazing spots for landscape photography…I was testing out the panorama function on my phone…not bad for a cell!Spray Lakes Panarama wmWe didn’t see much for wildlife on the trail but the scenery was incredible.   After lunch we decided we would head up to the Highwood Pass before heading home.  It was a great decision as we spotted a grizzly feasting on dandelions!

My favorite picture of the day…Grizzly Highway 40 with dandilion bouquet cropped wmWe made it to the Highwood Pass and it started to snow…always be prepared in the mountains…so it was time to head home…Highwood Pass cropped wm

My camera club friends inspired me to capture some of the amazing wild flowers on our journey!  Another great photography adventure!!

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)

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!!

 

 

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!

Fox on the Run

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

fox-in-back-yard-riviera-stare-down-cropped-wm

fox-in-back-yard-riviera-2-cropped-wm