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!

 

 

 

Winter Wonderland…

Big Hill Springs Provincial park is an amazing place to hike all year round!  In the winter, the ice formations are captivating…and you never see the same thing twice…

I have used different lenses on several outing and the lighting can affect the imagery….

IMG_8645

wide angle 10 – 20 mm on a cloudy day

On a recent camera club outing, I had fun using my telephoto lens to capture the water and ice!!     Finding uniqueness at every turn…

Bubbles and Ice wm

Telephoto 70 – 200 mm

Forming Icicles Big Hill Springs cropped wmFrozen leaf trap wm

 

Ice Face wm

Can you see the face?

There are usually birds and often wildlife in the area as well.    During this outing members saw a Bald Eagle and a Great Horned Owl.   Great place to take an adventure any time of the year!!

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

Coffee with the big boy…

In October, I spent the weekend working in Canmore.   I got up early Saturday morning, picked up a coffee and decided to head out on an adventure!  I headed into Banff, hoping to see some Elk and took the turn to Lake Minnewanka.  It was a cool morning…not a lot of traffic…and I took the first road heading to Two Jacks Lake.  As I headed up the hill and came around one of the first corners…I saw antlers.   I quickly pulled over, climbed up through the sun roof and down in the ditch on the side of the road appeared a bull Elk…Bull Elk Two Jacks first spotted wmHe was so big and I was so close, I couldn’t even get the full rack in the picture. I had no idea how big he was until I pulled further up the road so I could see down the hill…Bull Elk Eating wm…absolutely stunning…and although he brought his head up to have a quick look…he was more interested in filling up on grass than paying attention to me.   I spent the good part of an hour, enjoying my coffee and watching this big boy enjoy his breakfast!! Bull Elk Two Jacks staredown cropped wmA few other visitors stopped to take a look…one gentlemen asked me if it was a reindeer…I explained it was a bull elk.  He then asked me if I thought it would be okay if he walked across the road to take a picture with his cell phone.  I explained that bull elk can be dangerous and that the reason I was photographing from my car a safe distance away from the wildlife was to stay safe and to respect them in their own environment.   I am happy to say he chose to take the picture from his car!

This big boy crossed the road to see if there was anything good to eat on the other side…Bull Elk Two Jacks Looking back cropped square wmThen the tour bus arrived and he was gone…Bull elk leaving cropped wm…I too departed as the tour bus stopped and the tourist flowed out of the bus doors…the peaceful morning was no longer…

…but as we headed up the hill together, he stopped one last time as if to say goodbye…Bull elk last look cropped wmand I got one last shot…

What a privilege to capture moments like this in our amazing backyard!!  More elk photos can be found in the Gallery

A little Paint to brighten your day…

One day a friend and I were heading out to check on the Osprey nests.  We came across a beautiful scene that brightened our day!  On the Morley First Nations land, we spotted this mare and her foal.  We pulled off the road and watched the little one put on a show…Paint and foal Morley cropped wm…he wasn’t sure about us…Paint and foal having a drink Morley wm…decided to have a drink…Paint foal prancing Morley wm…which put a little skip in his step…Paint foal behind mom cropped wm…around and around mom I go…Paint foal staying close cropped wm…but not venturing too far…Paint and foal walking away wm…then together, they wandered off.

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!

Babies on a backyard adventure…

The twin fawns have started to explore the backyard…

They came down out of the woods the other day and went scampering along the back fence finding something good to eat…

Mom called to the young ones from her normal spot in the trees…Mom in her normal spot calling the kids cropped wm…one listened…popped its head up as if to say “coming mom” and immediately started up the hill…

…the other fawn…kept eating…ignoring the call…Fawn 2 ignoring mom cropped wm…eventually looking up as if to say…”Okay, okay…I’m coming”…Fawn 2 coming mom cropped wm…taking an about face and heading back to mom…

…these little ones certainly bring joy to the neighourhood and I always have a big smile on my face with every encounter!

 

Wild Horses in Sundre

The long weekend, we went on an adventure to try and locate some wild horses in the Sundre area…so we hit Highway 40 …the back road north.   Hawk HIghway 40 cropped wmFirst sighting of the day…. a hawk on a fence post…and then nothing for hours…

We drove up to the top of some amazing back country…the only ones around…expecting to see something just around the next corner…

Moutaintop range Wild Horse Road wmMy husband was very patient…but it was time to head home…so we headed east to get to the main highway and as we came around the corner…we see a group of wild horses crossing the bridge on the road…I climbed up through the sunroof to capture some shots as my husband pulled off to the side of the road…but another truck came up behind us and sent the herd running for the hills….

Our brief sighting quickly faded…but we sat there chatting about the missed opportunity and to our delight, the lead stallion came back down the hill….Sundre Stallion standing his ground cropped wm…and slowly a few others followed….Sundre grey stallion coming down hill cropped wmGiving us a few moments to be a part of their world…

The entire time the lead stallion stood his ground and watched us closely….Sundre Stalliion still watching cropped wm…then another truck came burning up the road…and off they they went…Sundre herd heading into woods wmI have come to realize the amazing opportunities that have unfolded over the past year on my photography adventures….being able to see glimpses of wildlife has been spectacular…

Luck…right time…right place…whatever the reason…I recognize my good fortune!

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!

Another day with the Heron on the Highway…

The Blue Heron stuck around for a few more days.   I was chatting with the neighbors who described the blue heron and asked what it was..they had just seen it on the pond on Highway 22.  After explaining…I jumped in the car with my camera to go take a look.

At first…no luck … so I crouched down under cover of the tall grass to see if I could get closer to some baby coots…again no luck…but when I stood up…this is what I saw…Blue heron first spotted on fencepost on 22 cropped wmIt was on the other side of the pond, standing on a fence post…my favorite kind of photo! I worked my way around to the other side….hoping to get a shot before it took off.   The herons are very skittish and don’t stick around once they spot you.  My luck came back that day….giving me the opportunity to capture this amazing moment!!Blue Heron on fencepost Highway 22 warm color tones wmIt was only a moment…and off it went…Blue heron in flight cropped wmAccording to the local paper, it stopped at the same pond on the same days last year!  I will mark my calendar for 2018 to see if it returns!!

Humor in the herd…

I was out with a friend on a tour of the Rockies a few weeks ago and we came across a herd of Big Horn Sheep on the way up to Norquay.  I was with this same friend this week and she helped me with a little perspective….which was the inspiration for this blog! When I was processing the photos from this outing…I was a originally disappointed…no “money shots” as they talk about in wildlife photography…

…but after looking at the photos in a different way…I found some great humor in the adventure…

Bottoms up cropped wm

Bottoms up!!

Big Horn sheep lamb hairstyle cropped wm

Hey dude…check out my “rad” hairstyle!!

Big Horn sheep lamb hairstyle cropped 2 wm

Big Horn ewe sticking out her tongue cropped wm

Na-nana-naa-nah!

The perspective my friend provided was….

“Give yourself permission to get out of your busy mind and allow yourself to have some fun!!”

Sending out a big shout out and thanks to my friend…just what I needed!  Hope you enjoy the humor!!

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!!

Checking out the local ponds…

I have discovered some great water in the area with lots of activity!

Coots – nesting, babies and check out those feet!!

Finally a blue heron…I have seen quite a few, but this was the first I was able to photograph…

Wilson’s Snipe out on Horse Creek Road…

Horned Grebes…

Dragonflies are everywhere right now…Dragonflies Lochend Lake cropped wm…and an Eastern Kingbird, Muskrat and Killdeer…

Lots more coming soon!!

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

Upcoming Art Show

The “Nature in my Backyard” series of cards, 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 of the following:

Mountain bluebirds, owls, moose, coyotes, northern flickers, wild Alberta horses, big horn sheep,  osprey, baby wrens, golden eagle, finches and more..

This event will run on the second Saturday of each month (July, 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!!

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!!

Action at the Osprey nests…

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

Mountain adventure…

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

 

The road follows the eastern shore of Spray Lakes…

Spray Lakes wm

Spray Lakes

….with many places to photograph landscape and wildlife…

Gopher in the Rockies cropped wm

Engadine Meadow cropped wm

Engadine Meadow

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

Upper Kananaskis Panorama

Upper Kananaskis Lake

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

Grizzly Highway 40 tag removed cropped wm

Bear 152 (edited tag removed)

The reality of nature…still brings sadness

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

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

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

Chicks at Riviera Pond…

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

 

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

Out of the Shadows…

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

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Wishes come true…just put it out there!

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

 

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

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!!