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!!

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!

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!!

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)

Out of the Shadows…

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

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Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation visit…

I had the pleasure of visiting the Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation with the camera club recently.  As stated on their website this is a “must-see” attraction….and it was an unforgettable wild experience.   The Foundation offers visitor information and interaction through the following exhibits…. hawk walk, flight demonstrations, wildlife interactions, aviaries and more…

Orphaned Great Horned Owlet BOPIn the lobby when we arrived, we were introduced to 4 orphaned Great Horned Owlets…

The staff explained the different areas and events at the Foundation and then it was off to check things out!

Rehabilitating and releasing injured birds of prey back to the wild is one of the Foundation missions.    Some birds, due to their injuries, become residents.   The staff provide information and interaction to teach visitors about the birds.

Our first stop was the Hawk Walk…which probably showcased every type of owl and raptor…here are just a few!!

The flight demonstration we attended was with a 6 year old Bald Eagle…amazing, informative and breathtaking…they run every 90 minutes during the day…BOP Bald Eagle Flight Demo

After the demo, the visitors helped give Roosevelt a shower!  He loved it and then enjoyed the heat as he dried out!!

There was another Bald Eagle…

…and a Golden Eagle…

Visitors learned about the Great Horned Owlets.  If all goes well, these little fellows will be released back to the wild later this summer…

Offspring from the Foundations Burrowing Owl breeding program have been released in all four western provinces.BOP Burrowing OwlHaving had the privilege of seeing many of these “Birds of Prey” in the wild, brought comfort knowing that passionate individuals at the Foundation take care and rehabilitate injured raptors.  (you can check out my raptor photos in the gallery) On our way out we met an injured Golden Eagle that was just dropped off.  The calm and caring nature of the staff had this wild raptor calm and comfortable…which was truly unbelievable as it had a broken wing.  If I lived closer to Coaldale, I would probably become a volunteer…what an amazing experience!

 

 

Unique experience, colourful lessons…

One day after a business meeting, I decided to take a new back road home.   Yellow headed blackbird Airdrie pond wmI was so glad that I threw my camera in the car!! A yellow-headed blackbird caught my eye singing on a fence post on the side of the road…I got out of the car to get a little closer, but he would have no part of it…flying off the minute I took a step closer…but I have to thank him for making me stop as I would have missed an amazing opportunity!   Sandpipers young Airdrie pondThe area was a wetland…filled with shorebirds I was thrilled to watch!!  It started with these sandpipers….hundreds foraging in the shallow water…something would set them off…Sandpiper flock in fight cropped wmand they would all fly around calling in distress for a few moments then settle back down to forage some more…Sandpipers landing on Airdrie pondThe light wasn’t great looking into the sun…but the experience was wonderful.   As my eyes adjusted to the brightness, another colorful surprise appeared…Avocet Airdrie pond reflection 2 cropped wm jpgI had no idea at the time what it was, but wow…it was beautiful, elegant and one of my favourite colors!!  The bird is an American Avocet!!   Again, back lit shooting into the sun, wishing I had better light…but when I got home, I was happy that I continued to snap photos as normally I wouldn’t.   I love when I learn and expand my knowledge…not only seeing new birds, but expanding my photography skills…I love the mood in this photo!   Just as I was thinking of putting the camera down…the Avocet decided to fly to the other side of the road…Avocet Airdrie pond landing cropped wmAvocet Airdrie pond in sun cropped wmAvocet Airdrie pond in sun 2 cropped wm…lighting, timing and patience…

My “Nature in my Backyard” adventure has proven to be a great teaching tool!  I look forward to more lessons from the wildlife…feel so fortunate to experience nature and be given the opportunity to capture these moments!

Up close and personal…

I was walking along the banks of the Bow River when I saw a small Spotted Sandpiper down river…Spotted Sandpiper in the distance cropped wmIt flew out over the water and landed up river.  I watched in amazement as it darted from the rocks to the shallow water…it seemed to be practicing flying maneuvers…

Then…it started to walk along the bank in my direction…weaving and bobbling over sticks and rocks…Spotted Sandpiper walking along the Bow shoreline cropped wmIt was tiny…I am thinking a younger bird…who didn’t seem to be bothered by my presence…which I found so unusual…as in the past they have always been quick to fly off sounding the distress call…Spotted Sandpiper walking along the Bow shoreline rocks wmI had to keep dialing back from 600 all the way to 150 as this little one walked almost right under my feet…Spotted Sandpiper walking along the Bow shorelins up close cropped wm… it was so close I couldn’t focus any longer….so I stood quietly…taking in a brief moment of wildlife and human enjoying the same small space on the river!  I was truly up close and personal with the sandpiper…and for a photographer to have interaction with nature without having a change in behavior is so amazing to witness!!  This was something I learned from our last guest speaker at the camera club….Kerri Martin.  She is a great nature and wildlife photographer that I follow!

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!!

Action at the Riviera pond!

The geese have decided to nest at the pond this year!!  The female sits on the nest while the male patrols the area!  Male Goose Patrolling at Riviera Pond cropped wmFemale goose on nest Riviera pond wmThis is the view from the river side…but from the walkway, you wouldn’t even know she was there…unless you were really looking!  Great camouflage…Female goose on nest Riviera pond 2 cropped wmThere is a rock in the middle of the pond and many of the water fowl climb on top as a place to preen…the evening light was magnificent and the pond so calm last week..Male Goose preening on Riviera Pond cropped wmThere are more photos of geese in the gallery and hoping some goslings in the near future!!

The canvasbacks were also at the pond this past week.  I don’t remember them being around last spring!  We will have to wait and see if they take up residence at the pond this year!!

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

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

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

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

New sightings and highlights!

What a great week!  So many new things to see…starting with the promised picture of Kate, the returning Osprey!   The pair has been very busy at the nest (if you know what I mean)…Osprey returned to nest cropped wmA few birds that I have not had the privilege to see in the Cochrane area before…(although I am sure they were always here, but it was before I was looking)

Meadowlark GVR Photo Outing cropped wm

Western Meadowlark spotted on our Camera Club Outing

Meadowlark GVR Singing cropped wm

What an amazing song!!

Eurasion Collared-Dove on wire cropped wm

Eurasian-collared Dove on Township Rd 280

Coot at Lochend Lake croped wm

Coot at Lochend Lake

Junco at Paddy Flats near Elbow Falls cropped wm

Dark-eyed Junco at Paddy Flat’s

The Tree Swallows have returned and they are getting settled in as neighbours to the Mountain Bluebirds…both were spotted on our Camera Club Outing this past Saturday on one of the detours (previous blog) I added to our trip!!   (everyone was very excited!!)

Male Bluebird RR 51 photo outing day cropped .jpgThe hawks have returned to the area…there are so many soaring everywhere you go these days!

…and the muskrat babies are venturing out on their own!!Muskrat baby Lochend Lake cropped wmThis week we have had snow the past 2 days….waiting for the sun and warm weather to return so the adventures can continue!!

Hoo-h’HOO…and then there were two!

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

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

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

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

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!!

 

 

Weaselhead Natural Area

I have been reading about the different parks in Calgary and the winter bird activity.   With the weather getting a little nicer, and my camera finger getting a little itchy, I decided we should check out one of the locations!  Our pick was the Weaselhead…one that is close to Cochrane and from what I read, there is a lot of activity in this location.  They were right!   It is a beautiful hiking spot … and there are feeders all around the trails that bring in many different kinds of birds!    From the parking lot, we headed down the Glenmore Pathway, the main paved trail.   As we started down the hill towards the river, there were feeders in the trees…with several redpolls and chickadees taking advantage of the seeds …redpoll-on-feeder-weaselhead-wm…on the other side of the trail, there was a tiny woodpecker that we scared from the feeder (there are more photos of woodpeckers from different locations in the gallery)…woodpecker-on-feeder-at-weaselhead-wm…this little one flew into the nearby trees …with just enough light to snap a photo.   What a cutie!woodpecker-weaselhead-cropped-wmWe crossed the river and stuck to the main trail.  The trees are amazing …big pines that would be a fantastic spot for an owl to hang out …we kept our eyes peeled, but no luck finding any owls on this adventure.   We came to an intersection and took a fork off the main trail.   The trail winds through the wetlands, with tall trees on both sides.  Every once in a while there is a bridge or fence and on the tops of many of the posts are seeds. Someone must do a lot of walking everyday to put out the seeds!  In these wooded areas, you hear the chickadees all around you…they are curious and come very close …           (there are more chickadee photos in the gallery)chickadee-weaselhead-wmThe Elbow River winds its way throughout the area … it was pretty easy to get turned around as you would come out into a clearing and the river would be on the right one time and the left the next.  There were lots of deer tracks … we even saw what looked like weasel tracks.   As we came around a corner, my husband spotted a Pine Grosbeak (read about this mini adventure) up in the trees … amazing!red-pine-grosbeak-weaselhead-wmHe also spotted another small bird up in the branches …a red breasted nuthatch.red-breast-nuthatch-weaselhead-wmWe made it back to the main trail after a great morning of wondering around in the wilderness! This little fellow was there at the main trail to say goodbye …bird-on-feeder-at-post-at-weaselhead-wm

 

Osprey – Sibling Rivalry

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The Osprey’s, known as William & Kate, annually nest atop a telephone pole at the Cochrane Toyota Dealership.  I was fascinated that the Osprey’s were not bothered by the activity of people below them…and how many people actually didn’t notice all the activity above them!

I spent many a day watching William & Kate getting the nest ready for the young.   There was always a flurry of activity.   The chicks were born about a week  apart and the age difference was quite noticeable.  Like most families with children, there was a bit of sibling rivalry.    William or Kate would bring in a fish and the oldest chick would dominate the feast.  I guess that is also part of nature.  There was plenty of fish on a daily basis and both chicks grew and flourished.   At times it was hard to tell who was the adult and who was the child, but I learned (after doing much research on these amazing birds) that the young have reddish, or orange-tinted eyes…quite a contrast and easy to distinguish from the bright yellow eyes of the adults.

Another trick I learned after many missed photo opportunities, were some signs that helped to anticipate the arrival of a meal.  The young osprey starts calling.   When the calling is constant, if usually means that a fish is coming shortly…so be ready!

One day, at the end of August, I stopped by the nest to see if there was any action.  The youngest sibling was alone in the nest and squawking to tell mom and dad that she was hungry.   The constant call meant that lunch was coming and sure enough, William (dad) dropped off a fish!

This was the start of my photos above!  Dad didn’t stick around long…actually almost got pushed out of the nest by the very aggressive youngster.   All the squawking, brought her older brother back to the nest!  He was very patient, but she let him know that it was her lunch….protecting it with her wings.   He made a flew loops around the area, getting different vantage points…waiting for the opportune moment.   In a flash, he dropped in, snatched the fish and took off with the prize!   It reminded me of the many occasions I witnessed this same behavior with my own 2 children!!  The memories put a smile on my face…I laughed to myself that I happened to be there… at the right time…to watch and was successful in capturing this special moment.

Sibling rivalry caught in action!