Big Game “hunting”…

•July 16, 2013 • 4 Comments

Wildlife photography can be funny… I guess, for that matter, photography in general can fit that same description. I have to admit that personally, when I get a chance to go out with the camera for any length of time here in the foothills or the Rockies west of home, I am usually “targeting” what I would refer to as “Big Game”. Bears, elk, bighorn sheep or even wolves are typically on my hit list for the day. I don’t go looking for the incidentals in most cases – I will gladly take them and enjoy the process and results as much as finding one of the local big critters, sometimes even more as the pace of shooting the smaller guys can be much more relaxed and encounters often last longer. So, when I got a couple of hours earlier this week, I went specifically looking for some of the small game that inhabits the area and that I have seen less of this year than I would have preferred. It was a bad time of day for shooting – mid-afternoon – meaning that in most cases the bigger animals aren’t as active anyways, but at least the overcast would help to hold back the typically harsh mid-day light and the cooler temp’s might keep the animals more active than if it had been 25-30C. That was the theory at least!

So, after about 45 minutes of cruising around some fairly familiar “hunting grounds” and seeing nothing other than some distant deer and a coyote hunting mice in the far corner of a field, imagine my surprise when I came around a corner I had passed just minutes before and saw a black “blob” at the side of the road. Knowing it could only be one thing at that height I was hard on the brakes, reaching for the camera all in one motion as I got the truck pulled to the side of the road and parked, put the hazards on and rolled down the window. Within seconds of me stopping and getting the camera up to my eye, he stood straight up and looked right at me, not concerned but certainly curious. He went back to milling about in the grass at the side of the road and then wandered along the ditch a bit into some of the underbrush. I thought at that point he may continue thru the forest down to the river valley and I would lose sight of him for good, but he came back to the road and hopped over the guardrail before making his way across the road and to the brushline on the opposite side. By now, another vehicle had arrived, but luckily the driver was aware and maintained a respectful distance, and the young bear continued to go about his business, alternating between short trips into the trees and back out where he was easily watched.

Dude... (click to enlarge)

Dude… (click to enlarge)

Shortly after, another vehicle pulled up and idled up fairly close to him… This was apparently his breaking point, as soon afterwards he worked his way back uphill and into deeper cover. I stayed put for a bit after the other vehicles had left in the hope that he would make his way back out into the open after the excitement had died down, but he didn’t show himself again. It was evident immediately that this was a young bear, and I was actually quite surprised that he was by himself and wasn’t in the company of his mother. Going on size alone, I would put him at no more than a small 2 1/2 year old, probably kicked out by mom this spring. Maybe a little concerning at that age that he wasn’t showing more fear of people in an area that is frequented by hikers, campers and day-trippers – time will tell I guess as to whether or not this apparent ease with people gets him into any trouble.

Cub and wolf willow (click to enlarge)

Cub and wolf willow (click to enlarge)

Moral of the story? Be there… good things can happen! The old adage “F8 and be there” didn’t come about without reason… You may go out and see nothing, but the one sure thing is that if you don’t get out there, you are 100% guaranteed to see nothing… plain and simple. Every now and then the stars align and fortune rewards you for your patience and persistence.

Humbled and honored…

•June 13, 2013 • 6 Comments

Just a very quick note to say “Thank you” to all of you who voted for my image in the Canadian Wildlife Federation‘s monthly photo contest and made my submission the winner for the month of May! I am truly appreciative of your efforts and opinions in putting your support behind my image!

Northern Shoveler and reeds... (click to enlarge)

Northern Shoveler and reeds… (click to enlarge)

More good news – A number of my bear images from both Alaska and Manitoba have been recently selected to appear in an upcoming special edition of Bare Essentials Magazine, a conservation magazine originating out of Australia. With some fantastic contributors, including individuals such as Daniel Cox, I am greatly honored to have been asked to contribute to one of the upcoming issues! Unfortunately for any of you that may want to read the article, you will have to suffer through my writing if you chose to look at more than the pictures! I trust they have a GREAT editor to “tidy things up” a bit for me. 😉

Regardless, exciting news for me personally and for the continued growth of River’s Run! Again, thank you to all of you who voted last month, and to all of you who continue to follow these random ramblings on a semi-regular basis – Hope everyone is having a great day!

House Wren and Amur Cherry…

•June 1, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Another from the yard… This little guy was very busy this morning, singing and checking out the available space in the yard, to the point that every time the resident tree swallows left the nest box, he was right in there seeing if the accommodations would suit his needs. The tree swallows never did catch him in there, but I don’t think they would have been too intimidated even if they had!

"My yard..." (click to enlarge)

“My yard…” (click to enlarge)

Now – Back to work! Gotta get the lawn mowed before the next monsoon sets in tonight! Happy weekend everyone!

Waxwings and blossoms…

•May 30, 2013 • 6 Comments

A new twist on an old theme! A new entry in the “From the yard…” category – the first from the new yard! A beautiful Saturday morning on the back deck with coffee in hand, when I heard the distinctive sound of a flock of waxwings approaching… I assumed they were headed to the neighbors Mountain Ash and the lingering berries that they and the robins have been feasting on all spring. Surprisingly however, they landed in unison in the apple tree just yards from the patio.

I really didn’t think I would have time to get back in the house to get to the camera, dial in the right settings, etc., and still find them there, but I did…

Waxwings and Apple blossoms... (click to enlarge)

Waxwings and Apple blossoms… (click to enlarge)

I’m quite happy with this image, considering it was a bit of a grab opportunity… The colors and the textures of the birds, branches and blossoms all seem to work together… I even already have an order for one in print form! (Albeit from my wife for the collage to go on the walls of the new house! It still counts – right?!)

As usual – Thank you to all for looking in! Hope everyone is enjoying spring wherever you are taking it in!!

Ughh, Monday…

•May 6, 2013 • Leave a Comment
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WTH are you lookin’ at? (click to enlarge)

From last Friday and a rainy morning. This is one of my favorite owl images to date, but it just didn’t have a Friday or weekend “mood” to it. Monday however, it fits perfectly!

Early, early morning, overcast and rain made for just “barely there” light, so image quality isn’t what I ultimately would like to see, but the mood of the image is what does it for me. Hope your Monday is going better than this poor guy’s Friday did!

Wolves!

•May 1, 2013 • 2 Comments

So, after a crazy few weeks centered around a “relocation” of the Statham crew across town, I finally managed to get away for a day into the hills of Southern Alberta with the camera. My gratitude to my accepting wife as she was strapped with a very busy personal schedule on Sunday AND all three of our young kids, but I think she saw I was close to my breaking point and not only accepted me going, she urged me to go!

It was an early departure as I was hoping to be in the back-country for near first light, hoping primarily to see some of the bears that have made their appearance recently in the mountains, maybe even some cubs… The morning started out well in that before I had even made it half way to my ultimate destination, I had seen hundreds of deer, 3 moose, numerous coyotes and some elk, though all too early in the morning for any real semblance of shooting light. However, hopefully a sign of the day to come…

Shortly after sunrise, I came across a fairly cooperative herd of elk, made up largely of cows who must be getting very close to calving by now as well as a few nervous bulls still holding on to their antlers – Perhaps the cows were more “cooperative” as a result of the upcoming events and their interest in conserving energy! Regardless – a couple of them were quite content to let me move around slowly trying to get the most out of the early morning light and overcast conditions.

Bedded... (click to enlarge)

Bedded… (click to enlarge)

I moved further south and made my way along the highway slowly, scouting for those elusive dark brown or black critters rumored to be wandering the hills… I caught a quick glimpse of something back in the brush that caught my eye, but on closer inspection appeared to be nothing other than a fire-scared stump, so I drove on. But my mind wouldn’t let that dark shape go, so about 3 miles later I turned around to go have another look – What if it had actually been a bear? I guess I would never know if I had kept going, but my mind wasn’t going to let it go that easy… As I rounded a corner, there it was, right on the side of the road, and my first reaction was “That is the darkest coyote I have ever seen”. Within a millisecond tho’ the realization of the moment kicked in, as did the adrenaline… The big, gorgeous black wolf slowly wandered back into the brush off the right side of the road, so I turned off the truck and got out to see if I could catch a glimpse of it in the trees. I was devastated that it seemed to have slipped away cleanly and I hadn’t manged to get a single image of the event. Suddenly tho’ I had the feeling I was the one being watched, and I looked back out along the road, and there it was, just looking back at me looking for it! Now, a few things were working against me here – First, it was still very early, and it was overcast, so the light was really poor. Second, my camera really doesn’t like the high ISO settings needed to get useable images in such light… And lastly, the adrenaline now coursing thru my system had my hands trembling as I raised the camera to my eye.

End result – a soft, noisy image of a spectacular wolf that stood looking at me for a total of about 15 seconds before turning and trotting along the road and disappearing back into the trees. I managed to catch a quick glimpse of a second, larger and somewhat lighter member of this pack shortly afterwards as it crossed the road  about 80 yards in front of me, but couldn’t get a shot of the fleeting encounter.  I made my way back and forth over the next while, both in the truck and outside of it, hoping they would stay in the area and afford me more time with them, but they had disappeared back into the shadows of the forest… Walking the area that they had been in showed lots of sign that this was a well-used spot in recent times – Lots of scat, both old and new, as well as the cleaned and crushed remains of an elk skeleton, is enough evidence for me to plan a return trip – hopefully sooner than later!

Magnificent... (click to enlarge)

Magnificent… (click to enlarge)

What an amazing encounter…

The remainder of the day was gravy after those few minutes first thing in the morning… Though I never did see the bears I had originally set out after, the wolves more than made up for that disappointment. Not long after seeing the wolves, I was able to watch a big, beautiful coyote hunting for mice, though the target of this hunt managed to escape successfully despite the coyote’s best efforts – good for the mouse I guess! There were Bighorn sheep, swans and numerous other waterfowl, Pileated woodpeckers, Great Horned owls, and large numbers of mountain bluebirds and tree swallows… A great day to be in the mountains and foothills of Southwestern Alberta – I love where I live!

Got ya! (click to enlarge)

Got ya! (click to enlarge)

Hope everyone is having a great week!

Great Horned Owlets

•April 24, 2013 • 7 Comments

Success!!

These little “turkeys” have been around for the past 3 days now (at least – all I know is they weren’t there Friday, but were on Monday morning…), but they wouldn’t lift their heads up over the edge of the nest on Monday morning, and yesterday it was too dark as I went by to get any decent images. This morning was perfect. Both mom and dad were off the nest when I arrived – mom back in the trees where she typically sits when she leaves the nest, and dad right along the edge of the trees – the owlets were up and active, AND the sun was in a perfect position to cast a nice warm glow on the nest… Dad was very cooperative as well, sitting quite patiently for me in the morning light, though I didn’t want to spend too much time there in total to allow momma to come back to the nest.

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Owlets (click to enlarge)

I spent a total of about 5 – 10 minutes at the nest, trying to find angles through the tangle of branches to get a look at the owlets where the sun was showing their eyes and faces… Adorable little things… And small – probably about 2/3 the size of a kleenex box, and just little fluff balls. What a great way to start a work day!!

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Dad on watch duty (click to enlarge)

Have a great day everyone! Happy hump day!

 
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