Owl update…

•May 24, 2014 • 1 Comment

So, a quick update on the post from the other day…Β  I went by the “nest” area again yesterday morning on the way into work, hoping to see mom and dad still in the area. The lone owlet was still hanging out on the same branch, and I did manage to spot mom and dad again, this time one of them was quite a bit closer to the old nest sight. And then, there in the new green of the aspens and cottonwoods, there was another of the owlets… Low to the ground, but up on a branch and at least safe from the critters that may wish him harm…

Survivor... (click to enlarge)

Survivor… (click to enlarge)

The light was quite flat with the overcast sky, but still, great to know that at least two of the owlets now have a pretty good chance at fledging and making it through to adulthood – At least better than had they been stranded on the ground for the few weeks it will take them to mature enough to fly up off the ground.

I couldn’t locate the second youngster either yesterday afternoon or today, but the trees are leafing out so quickly now with the sudden heat that parts of the thicket they are nested are almost impenetrable as far as visibility, so chances are he is still safe, just hidden.

I will update as able over the next few days if there is anything new to report!

Enjoy your weekend everyone!

Spring storms…

•May 21, 2014 • 2 Comments

It has been a stormy spring in southern Alberta this year… in so, so many ways. Winter seemed to have a death grip on spring, and it has really only been the past couple of weeks that spring seems to have come back up off the mat and regained the upper hand…

I was forced to ship my camera and one of my favorite lenses to Nikon Canada after the pair made an unauthorized exit from the cab of my truck onto the driveway the night of Feb 28th, as I returned from Banff and the Wild Flour Bakery after hanging my images there for the month of March. Looking at the lens rolling down the driveway while the body, and part of the lens, were still laying outside the truck, I knew I was in trouble… I actually felt ill. Anyways, I finally got it all back exactly 2 months later, feeling like I had some serious lost time to make up for.

Borrowing a surrogate camera body from my father, I found this nest just south of Calgary the first week of April, and, as it was almost directly on my way to and from work, kept a close eye on it week to week, watching for signs of young ones… Mom was always there regardless of the weather, dad a little less reliable. He was a little more reclusive and nervous… allowing me to get close enough for decent images only twice. I think he actually got to know the sound of my truck, ’cause after our first couple of encounters, he would leave for a new tree as soon as I slowed down anywhere near him.

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Dad, on watch… (Click to enlarge)

As I said earlier, April and May were stormy months in this part of the country – almost without fail, the work week would be warm(ish) and dry, while the weekends invariably held snow flurries or worse. Again, mom was always there, even with several inches of snow piling up around, and on, her, but still, no little ones.

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More snow… (Click to enlarge)

And then, on the 7th of May, there they were… twins, eyes looking out at their new world, mom keeping a close eye on them, and me. Having checked the nest just 3 days before, I am assuming they arrived either on the 5th or 6th. Mom tolerated me very well over he next couple of weeks – Often hardly even opening her eyes while I shot from a distance. Then, just last week, a surprise! A third little one – finally visible only because mom had been pushed out of the nest because of the overcrowding issue! Mom and dad had their hands full now…

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The family (Click to enlarge)

On taking a quick drive by yesterday, I was amazed that somehow I managed to miss the nest as I drove by. I turned around and slowed down even more, wondering how I missed it. And then I saw why – The nest was gone, completely. There instead was one lonely owlet, crouched down on one of the limbs that used to support the back half of the nest… Mom was nowhere to be found, and the other two owlets were missing as well. I was crushed… I can only assume that the violent thunder storms that rolled thru the area on Sunday afternoon are to blame. I didn’t dare explore the area under the nest for fear of displacing hidden young ones, or worse, getting the remaining one worked up enough that maybe it would take a tumble as well. I left the nest wondering what would become of the little guy…

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Mom?? (Click to enlarge)

I had to check on him again this morning, hoping to see signs that mom or dad was still in the area, knowing that if they were around and he could stay up high, he had a pretty good chance of making it. I watched for about 10 minutes, hoping mom would show up, but she never did… Knowing I had to get to work, I started the truck and drove to a spot where I could turn around… And there, in the trees 150 m from the nest was an adult, and then the other! Relief… Still no sign of the other 2 youngsters, but hopefully mom and dad can keep an eye on them and keep them safe from the foxes and coyotes long enough that they can eventually make there way back up off the ground a bit.

Nature at work…

Wild Flour – March ’14

•February 26, 2014 • 4 Comments

Come on out to Banff during the month of March and pop in to the Wild Flour Bakery! I am going to have a number of images displayed there beginning this Friday, including a big, beautiful framed copy of “Family” on canvas.

Family (click to enlarge)

Family (click to enlarge)

And with March literally just around the corner, we will have longer days, and can hope for some warmer weather to get outside and play! It really is a great spot to come in, sit down with a great coffee and a treat after a day of exploring the town of Banff or skiing or hiking in Banff National Park. The staff are fantastic and the food and drink are spectacular! A little something for everyone…

Thank you to the staff at Wild Flour Bakery for inviting me to display my work for another month!

Early Arrival!

•February 4, 2014 • 4 Comments

Wow!

February 4th, on a day that it was sitting at -22C with a windchill in the low -30’s, I had a very unexpected visitor outside my office window today… I actually had to do a double take to make sure I wasn’t looking at one of the Bohemian Waxwings that frequent the crab apple tree outside my office, but nope, sure enough, there he was – all fluffed up in an attempt to keep his normally southern arse from freezing. I quickly grabbed the camera out of the bag and rattled off a couple of shots thru the window, hoping to document the sighting before he decided to move on in his look for a warmer spot to sit. He stayed though, feasting on the residual, very frozen, apples in the tree, so I went out and got a couple of better shots.

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Brrr… (click to enlarge)

I have seen Robins in Calgary as early as March 1st in years past, but never in February, and certainly wouldn’t expect to see one the first week of February in the midst of a cold snap where nighttime temp’s are expected to dip into the -30’s before calculating in windchill.

So far as I can tell, this poor guy is traveling solo, though there were a few Waxwings and finches hanging out in the area. Not sure how he ended up here so far in advance of his brethren, unless he got all hopped up on fermented berries somewhere further south and decided a road trip was a good idea – Really, who hasn’t?! Though I have to admit, mine were rarely solo – I usually got talked into it by one of my less responsible buddies… I would never make such a careless decision on my own. πŸ˜‰

Regardless… Is this a better indicator that spring is maybe closer than we think, despite what any of the hibernating, subterranean rodents predicted earlier this week? We can always hope…

Summer 2014

•January 31, 2014 • 4 Comments

Ok, I know, it is still the dead of winter here in Alberta, but trust me, this is going somewhere and it will all make sense shortly! πŸ˜‰

Plans are starting to come together for the coming months, personally and professionally… There will be the annual trip to Northern Saskatchewan in June or July, reservations are booked for the Yellowstone area in August, and just recently, the possibility of a VERY special trip to photograph more bears in September has come up!! While the Yellowstone and Saskatchewan trips are assured, the last trip is still in the infancy of the planning phase… The possibilities are very exciting for so many reasons, let alone the photographic potential of the different trips.

Dude - you totally woke me up... (click to enlarge)

Dude – you totally woke me up… (click to enlarge)

Northern Saskatchewan brings the opportunities to see fox, bears, countless whitetails, elk and the more remote possibilities of wolves and lynx. While the whitetails and fox are rather sure things if you take the time to get out and look for them – the whitetails especially – the bears and wolves seem to save their gratuitous appearances for the weeks before and after my visits historically. I have heard the wolves on multiple occasions, and even been fairly close to them a couple of times, but I have only ever seen one once when I happened upon one doing its best to inform a coyote that it had trespassed on land that apparently he didn’t have approved access to – I have some fairly poor, soft and out of focus images of the coyote limping away bleeding from its flank after the wolf disappeared into the bush. Similarly, not more than a couple of days after we left last year, my mother in law sent me some great pictures of two black bear cubs playing at the side of a road that I had traversed probably a dozen times or more while we had been there. Figures…

Yellowstone Grizzly (click to enlarge)

Yellowstone Grizzly (click to enlarge)

Yellowstone obviously is a world unto itself as far as the photographic possibilities… Again, there are the deer, elk and coyotes, which are relatively fairly common around here as well, add in the antelope and bison, the odd river otter, then throw in the fact that the wolves and bears are generally a lot more visible once you track them down, and the opportunities to see a lot of different subjects in a relatively small area on a daily basis are a dream for a wildlife photographer. Apparently there are even a few landscapes worth shooting there… Something about geothermal features like geysers and rivers that steam 12 months a year, towering waterfalls and canyons with names like “Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone”… Might have to check some of those out I guess. πŸ˜‰

Now, I don’t mean to minimize the attraction of these two trips, but… It is the possibility of the trip in September that has me really excited. As I said earlier, plans are still in their infancy, so I am trying not to let myself get too excited in case it doesn’t happen. New places and newΒ  experiences always attract me – I always love to cover a new road or find a new out-of-the-way corner – so combine such a place with new subjects, and you have the recipe to get me fired up… I will provide more details as the plans become more defined and confirmed, but suffice it to say for now that I am very honored to have been invited on the trip, and am looking forward to being able to once again travel with a couple of fantastic photographers that I have had the opportunity to share a “beach” with in the past.

Looks like it is going to be a fantastic summer! Not very often I can make that kind of prediction while we are still enduring the -25C temps that January and February typically bring to this part of the world, but pretty happy to be able to see the summer shaping up the way it is so far! Now, to deal with February…

Marten

•January 21, 2014 • 8 Comments

So… Here he is.

A booked day off after a crazy couple of weeks (months) getting my facilities ready for our accreditation inspections led to an internal debate that didn’t resolve itself until pretty much the moment I left the driveway this morning… Should I go east looking for the Snowy Owls that have so far eluded me this winter, or go west into the mountains and try to find some of my usual “big game” targets? Well, my truck made the left turn out of Okotoks, and daybreak found me heading into the mountains of Banff National Park. The morning proved to be exceedingly quiet as far as those usual targets… The only elk spotted were resting peacefully on the airstrip (Boring!), and other than a couple of whitetail deer on the tracks right near Banff, it was mostly just Ravens and Magpies showing themselves. Not even the usually reliable Bighorn Sheep were cooperating today. Then, I found this little guy.

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Marten (click to enlarge)

Thinking my luck couldn’t get any worse, on a whim I ventured onto a stretch of highway I haven’t been on in over 10 years. Turning off the main road into a day-use area, something dashed across a cleared area in front of me and disappeared into the trees. My mind quickly did the calculations of just what had so quickly shown itself and then, just as quickly, vanished. Dark, long bushy tail, far too big for a squirrel, a bit smaller than a house cat but far too far from anyone’s house to be a cat, a forest in the middle of the Rockies mid-winter… A Marten!? I didn’t think he would stick around as he was in a pretty big hurry, but I got out and looked into the shaded stand of spruce he had disappeared into with high hopes. There he was, about 8 feet up in a spruce and just looking at me without any concern at all… Finally! For whatever reason, these guys have been a big target of mine… Maybe it is because they are such fierce little hunters – characteristic of the weasel family they belong to – I don’t really know, but when I realized he was going to hang around for a bit I was ecstatic. He moved from tree to tree, clearly alarming some of the squirrels in the area as they started up quite a raucous chant of screams in his direction, but not panicked in any way, and posing quite nicely for me in a couple of spots with nice surrounding cover.

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Show me your teeth! (click to enlarge)

Unfortunately he was heavily shadowed, with the backlit sun only occasionally catching him and revealing his gorgeous red-brown coat. Exposure was a challenge, with the spruce casting deep shadows and the strong sun reflecting off the snow in the background, but I am pretty happy with the results – even happier just to have had the experience in the first place though! Eventually he wandered off to the east, into snow, as I found out, that was about hip deep, making it impossible for me to follow without snowshoes, XC skis, or wings, none of which I had. I left and returned a half hour later or so, hoping he would still be around, but no such luck. It was a lot of mileage, (and a lot of diesel!) but a great reminder that all it takes is one little encounter to make the entire day completely worth the trip…

Now, to find those owls…

Bare Essentials…

•August 22, 2013 • 6 Comments

Well, a great bit of news for me and River’s Run while Andrea and I were sitting on a train between Belfast and Dublin a couple of weeks ago…

Having come across a call on the internet from Inga Yandell back in early June for bear images to potentially be included in a special “Bear Edition” of Bare Essentials Magazine, I replied to her and asked her to review my Alaska and Wat’chee galleries in the hopes that maybe one or two might fit what she was looking for… I was happily surprised when she replied back indicating that she would love to use a collection of my images in the magazine, and also requested that I write a short article about the origin of the images to accompany them. Excited about the possibility of having some of my work included, I put together a short article around the theme she had suggested, primarily the role of family and children, and of passing along the love of all things wild within the generations of my family…

And then, all quiet…

I hadn’t heard anything back from Inga following my submission to indicate that she had accepted either the images or the article, if any of my rookie-class writing needed revisions, or whether or not they would be actually incorporated into the edition at all. As it was supposed to be a July-August issue, I was eagerly following the website thru the early part of July to see if the new issue was out, but nothing… I had come to the conclusion in my mind that my material had fallen to the proverbial cutting room floor – “Oh well, next time”. I had thought that Inga was going to send me a proof of the material prior to publication, and it now being late July and nothing yet to review seemed to indicate my stuff hadn’t made the cut.

Then, as I said, there I was on the train to Dublin, with some very periodic WiFi access, and for whatever reason I decided I would check the website again to see if the issue was up. There it was. I opened up the digital copy and started flipping thru the pages, truly expecting nothing, and then I hit page 30, in the list of “Contributors”, and there is the picture of my mostly-covered mug from Churchill that I had submitted! I hurriedly flipped through the magazine, wondering just how much of what I wrote and how many of the images I had submitted actually “made it to press”. I was thrilled to find that not only every image had been used in the 6-page spread (pages 104-109), but also that Inga had decided to use my written copy as I had submitted it – That was a HUGE surprise. I have often been told “You write like you talk”, which sometimes translates well to a forum such as an informal blog like this, but not necessarily to a magazine article describing the honor of passing along the treasure of the wild I grew up with to my crew of three…

Wild Legacy (click to enlarge)

Wild Legacy (click to enlarge)

Regardless, I was very honored to see my work in the magazine, and even more humbled to see it sandwiched between the work of Suzi Eszterhas and Art Wolfe, two absolute living legends in the field of wildlife and conservation photography. Please, click here to view the link to the Special Bear Edition and take the time to take in some of the amazing visual work displayed as well as to read the work of some of the other contributors – You won’t be disappointed, I promise!!

 
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