Evening with the Short Eared…

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

White Ghosts (and their little friends) on the Prairie

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

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

Oodles of Owls

A day to remember…

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

Great Grey first sighting of the day cropped wm

First sighting

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

…not seeming to mind us at all….

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

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

Best photo of the day…up close and personal…

Great Grey Close up Focused cropped wm

Eye on the prize

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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!!

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!

 

 

Oh baby…hoo!!

I am so amazed at how quickly the owlets are growing!  As with most birds, the young hatch at different times and it is apparent when you watch them grow!!   When I arrived on Saturday, the youngest owlet was awake and the oldest was laying down sleeping!  Mom opened her eyes for a brief moment…Great Horned Owl youngest awake with momHow do I know it was the youngest?  Well, it seemed my arrival coincided with shift time …the oldest (due to size) woke up moments after my arrival…shortly after the youngest laid down and went to sleep…Great horned owl oldest wakes up cropped wmThis family lives on a busy road and with the beautiful weather, there was lots of traffic on Saturday!  When a group of motorcycles cruised by, it got everyone’s attentions…Great Horned awaken by motorcycles cropped wm…you can see the little one peeking…and mom watching as the noise passes by…Great horned owl little one peeking cropped wmThe oldest wasn’t happy and gave a little hiss…Great horned baby upset about getting woken up cropped wmStanding tall, the oldest is almost as big as mom and the feathers are changing color…

Owlets will start to move to near by branches at 6 weeks and take short flights at 7 weeks so we may see them fledge soon!!

Duck, Duck, Moose…along with a few surprises!!

My morning adventure started off with a stop at the Great Horned Owl nest…they are getting so big…and check out the fluffy horns!!   The adventure continued with surprise after surprise!!Baby with little horns cropped wmDid you ever play the game duck, duck goose when you were a kid!  My adventure last Thursday was filled with anticipation…just like when you were playing the game and you didn’t know if you were going to be picked as the goose!  On this adventure, there was a surprise around ever corner as I was checking out the ponds near Lochend Road….first a duck, then another duck and then a moose…

Other surprises included a hawk that stuck around for a few moments!!  This year there are so many hawks but they are usually in the air before you can focus!! Hawk warning on fencepost RR 23 cropped wmBack to the ponds…a couple more varieties of ducks…and a moose!!

and to end the day….one of my favorite birds this year…the Mountain Bluebird!!Male Bluebird fence RR274 cropped wmYou can get a feel for how tiny these birds are with the ratio of the nails in the old fence!! Fun to watch and exciting to capture such amazing moments of nature all in one day! What an amazing backyard to explore!!

Hoo-h’HOO…and then there were two!

I have been back to visit our Great Horned Owl over the past couple of days.  It was very exciting to see a baby on Monday…very wide eyed as mom was napping in the sunshine!Great Horned with Baby in nest cropped wmOn Thursday, I was back in the area, so I popped by in the morning, but it was overcast.   My movement got both of their attention, but not for long as they quickly dozed off!

I left them to their napping and came back in the afternoon when the sun came out! There was lots of activity…mom was feeding the young one and both turned around to check me out!!

What a cute little bundle of fuzz!!  It stretched and squirmed as mom closed her eyes again and then…something else came into view…a second beak…a second baby!!great horned owl then there were 2 babies cropped wmI hiked around the other side of the tree to get a better look and yes…there were two little bundles of fuzz with big eyes staring back at me!!  It is going to fun to watch them grow!!Great horned owl two babies cropped wm

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!!