The eagles are back…

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

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

 

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

San Diego tourist spots…

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

More os

Highlights of the Fall

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

bees, butterflies and dragonflies…

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

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

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

…birds of course…

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

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

 

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!!

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

Morning moments with a moose…

Yesterday morning, I took the back roads to my meeting! I received a pleasant surprise as I drove past the coulee…a moose was having breakfast in the willows!!Moose in Coulee RR 25 cropped wmI watched as the moose sauntered through the water…pausing briefly to look back and see if I was still watching…Moose in Coulee RR 25 sideways cropped wmMoose in Coulee RR 25 Reflection crpped wmWhat a beautiful reflection on a calm Tuesday morning…then up and over the road she went with another quick look back to say goodbye before disappearing into the woods…Moose Coulee RR 25 saying goodbye cropped wmEnjoy more moose photos in the gallery

Dragons & Dinosaurs

In my photography adventures, I love to see what nature has in store for me.    I am always watching for movement, color and beautiful things that catch my eye.   Perhaps my eye sees things through conditioning.  Raising 2 boys, who were always into dragons and dinosaurs, I tend to spot them in strange places.   Since January was pretty cold  and the wildlife sightings have been rare ((although I am heading out over the next couple days on some exciting opportunities), I thought I would share my quirky collection of strange wood prehistoric creatures.

This young dragon was sited on the Kananaskis Loop on the Fitzsimmons Creek picnic area.IMG_5148

This dragon, the elder,  was spotted in a clearing as we hiked in the Harold Creek Wildlife Sanctuary.  dragon-head-vermillion-lakes-wm

This dragon was soaking up the the rays on the banks of the Elbow  River off Highway 66.dragon-wood-wm

And finally, this raptor was lurking in the trees in the Vermilion Lakes area.raptor-vermillion-lakes-wmIf anything, my boys (now young men) appreciate their mothers keen eye!  I hope you enjoyed my quirky display!