I can’t resist trying to take photographs of birds in flight. It is challenging, anticipating which way the bird will move, and simultaneously trying to ensure you have the correct focus, exposure, and shutter speed. Most pictures taken are failures, but if you take enough pictures, some are bound to turn out. Here are some of my favourites from the last few years.
In July, we enjoyed our favourite drive – the Ice Fields Highway between Banff and Jasper. With the good weather we had, it was spectacular. This has prompted me to put together a few of my favourite Canadian Rocky Mountain photos, taken over the last two years.
At the end of our recent Rocky Mountain vacation, we spent two days in Wells Grey Provincial Park. For good reason, Wells Grey is called the park of waterfalls, with some 38 waterfalls registered. The largest is Helmcken Falls, and with the high water runoff caused by very warm temperatures, it was impressive. It is roughly four times the height of Niagara Falls. We saw a large number of spruce grouse, the relatively obscure three-toed woodpecker, and enjoyed a hike up to the Trophy Mountain Alpine Meadows (although we should have used more mosquito repellent!). It is certainly a park we plan to return to!
On my return this week, I was able to observe two busy parents feeding their growing brood of owlets. While I suspected there were three last week, I was able to confirm that indeed there are three. The owlets are growing quickly and acquiring their flying skills. They remain totally dependent on their parents for food, and are very noisy when they are hungry!
This week, I returned to the “special place for owls” a couple of times. I was not surprised that I was unable to locate the great-horned owls, as the owlets had fledged. I hoped however to find that the barred owlets had fledged and would be “findable”. Indeed they had fledged, and I was able to find two owlets, although I was only able to take photos of one of them, as the other was very high up in a tree and concealed by branches and leaves. When they first fledge, the owlets climb, and are well watched over by their parents. So finding the owlets, depended on finding the parents, and that can prove to be a bit of a challenge. By the end of the week, the parents and owlets were all very high in the canopy. It is my hope that I will be able to encounter them closer to the ground as they start to practice flight, and hunting, over the next month or so. It is possible there is a third owlet, but I have not yet discovered it.
I very much like to see and photograph owls! So do a lot of other people. As a result, far too many owls are disturbed by people, and to avoid harming the owls or to ensure they are not bothered unduly, locations are not posted or communicated by those who are conscientious and wish to protect these magnificent birds. That makes it a real challenge for a newcomer to a region to find owls. I have been fortunate this year however in finding one quiet location, in which there are two owl nests about 500 metres apart. One of the nests is a great horned owl’s nest, the other is a barred owl’s nest. In this secluded area, I have been able to observe the parents (by sight and sound), see the great horned owlets fledge and now await the fledging of the barred owlets. While the great horned owl nest is wide and open (in this case, very high up in a tree), the barred owl nest is in a hollow in a tree, also very high up. I cannot actually say I have seen the nest, but by watching the owls, I know where it is. The following photos record some of my observations.
Last week, while cycling, we caught a glimpse of a coyote family. I did not have my camera with me, so returned the following day. I was fortunate to see two adults with their five pups!
Today is World Migratory Bird Day, a day to recognize the billions of birds that migrate seasonally. Facing ever increasing hazards due to loss of habitat, climate change and toxins, it is important to recognize that migrating species are exposed to risks in each of the many environments they must navigate as part of their life cycle. It is for this reason, that conservation must be coordinated internationally. The following photos illustrate a few of the migrating species, that add so much wonder and beauty to our world.
It is not my nature to express opinions of a political nature, but on Earth Day, I believe there are things to say that go beyond politics. So much that we take for granted, is threatened. Climate change is real and has been accelerating. We have entered a time period where biodiversity is severely threatened and species are disappearing at an alarming rate. World wildlife populations have been reduced by about 50% in the last 40 years. We are on the brink of the sixth mass extinction in the history of the planet. Are we taking notice? Political pronouncements of the last week have been encouraging. However, recent history has seen that similar announcements made in the past have not resulted in any significant change in behaviour. Will it be different this time?
It is far too easy in February to complain about the restrictions that the pandemic brings and to complain about cold or wet weather! The reality for me is that February has been a very good month for walks, hikes, birdwatching and enjoying nature. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to appreciate the beauty around us. Here are a few of the highlights.
I have been able to see snow geese on many occasions. However this weekend, I had my first opportunity get really close to a flock of snow geese; so close in fact that they were mere feet away. That gave me a very different perspective!
In the Vancouver region, virtually all of the snow geese are “white phase”. This contrasts with Kentucky where we used to live, where about half were “blue phase”. I managed to find one “blue phase snow goose” this weekend.
In the following photo taken in Kentucky, you can see that the proportion of dark or “blue phase” is large.
I always enjoy seeing snow geese in flight, particularly with Grouse Mountain as a backdrop.
I am informed that there are not generally large numbers of snow geese in the Fraser Valley. This winter has been different, and yesterday we were treated to the spectacle of thousands of snow geese lifting off, and then returning to the same field to land. It was awesome! The sight was matched by the sound of thousands of pairs of wings flapping and of the geese calling. How the geese can do this without colliding is mind-boggling!