I’m visiting with my family in Kelowna for a week and while I’m here I want to get in a few photography outings with my Dad. The weather here is at least 3 weeks further into the spring that it is at home in Calgary, and the migrating birds are much more plentiful. I read several reports on bc.birding.ca that lots of waterfowl have been seen at Robert Lake recently, including sightings of over 600 Northern Pintails.
We made plans to be at the lake shortly after sunrise in order to be there in time to make some nice images in the soft morning light. Unfortunately when we arrived we found that the lake was practically deserted. Other than a few geese the only birds we saw were a few Red-winged Blackbirds near the parking lot. We watched them for a few minutes before moving on.
We decided to make our way over to the Kelowna Airport which is a known hotspot for Hawks, Eagles, and Owls. Instead of driving directly there we took a meandering route through the scenic countryside. The Kelowna area is littered with Orchards and other beautiful agricultural property which is home to many species of birds and animals. Without really even looking for them we managed to find plenty of California Quail, Blackbirds, and Northern Flickers. While we were stopped to watch a large covey of Quail, we could hear the very distinctive call of a Pheasant down the road and it was being repeatedly answered by another bird in the woods behind us. We slowly made our way towards the sound and quickly found it near the side of the road. It launched and flew off to the edge of the adjacent orchard, and I only managed to make a few images from the truck. Dad was driving and didn’t get out in time before it wandered into the trees…
We continued on towards the airport and had a very cool visit with a Yellow-bellied Marmot. While we were driving I looked over into a farmyard and saw several large furry critters scurrying off of a woodpile beside the road. Although most of them disappeared, we found this animal sunning itself on the woodpile.
The Marmot was actually very close to a tall wooden fence beside the road and I was able to shoot through a crack in the fence to make some close-up portraits.
There are Hawks all over the place near the Kelowna Airport. We were actually watching a Red-tailed Hawk that landed on a power pole beside this Rough-legged Hawk. I have always found Red-tails to be very skittish and this one was no exception. It launched as soon as we got close. The Roughie didn’t seem to mind us very much and it sat on the pole until we got quite close. It eventually launched as well, but it just did a slow fly-by past us before landing on the next power pole up the road.
We continued on our way looking for Hawks. Although there were lots of them, none were really close enough to make good images of. I was quite surprised to find a pair of Great Blue Herons in a farm field. I’ve never seen them in that sort of environment and in my experience they are more likely to be in a swamp or a slough than in a wide open field. Dad tells me that he sees them in a nearby field all the time so I’m sure it must be quite common. One of the birds flew off almost immediately after we stopped but the other one ignored us and continued to hunt in the field. I’m not sure what it was hunting but I saw it stab its beak into the ground several times.
Huge thanks to my Dad for being a great companion, and especially for driving the truck while I got all the great shots!
I had a lot on my mind today and so I took a short break this afternoon to go for a drive in the country East of Calgary. It was quite cloudy and very bright, which can sometimes make it hard to see birds and animals against the snowy landscape (they tend to look black against a white horizon), but it turned out to be a great day for birding. It was a very welcome diversion from my thoughts.
The Canada Geese are in the full swing of their spring migration and I saw thousands of them. There were huge flocks of them in every farm field and there were swarms of them flying in formation in the skies above as well. I also saw Common Mergansers, Goldeneyes, and Mallards in the sloughs and on the irrigation canals. There were European Starlings in every slough and puddle, and there were also quite a few raptors perched high in trees and on power transmission lines.
The highlight of the day for me was a finding a Merlin perched on a fencepost! Although these tiny falcons are considered to be year round residents of the Calgary area, I haven’t seen any of them all winter. I was very excited when I saw the distinct shape of the bird as it flew by, and then when it actually landed on a nearby post I was ecstatic!
I also saw I saw a beautiful pheasant on the side of the road and pulled over immediately. It flushed as soon as I stopped, but it quickly landed on the shoulder of the road just a short distance away. I slowly approached it hoping to get a few closeup shots, but it took off again. This was the only image I managed to make.
It has been very warm in the afternoons lately, but very cold at night. This has led to some very heavy fog blanketing the prairie landscape every morning and has resulted in a thick layer of hoar frost being coated over everything. It has made for some very difficult driving conditions, but has also made for some very scenic views when the fog breaks.
While driving to work the other day the fog was so thick that I could barely see what was in front of me. It was so dark that I thought sunrise was still a long way off. However when I drove into a break in the fog and saw the glowing sunrise ahead of me I was very excited to see how beautiful it all looked.
This caboose is part of an ongoing project of mine. Although it gets moved regularly (the adjacent piece of track is used everyday by active trains), it has been on the same piece of track for over 3 years now and I’ve made many images of it. I haven’t looked for it in a long time now and this is the first time I’ve shot it in winter. It was sitting in a different spot than I’ve ever seen it and it was pretty exciting to see it so beautifully framed by the icy branches.
Here are a few of the other images I’ve made of this old relic. Just looking at these images really makes me look forward to the coming spring and summer seasons!
Although it has been very cold in the mornings, the last few days have warmed up very nicely in the afternoons and it has felt very much like spring is here.
I went for a walk at Carburn Park this evening and saw many signs that spring is on its way. There were squirrels chittering and chattering away in the trees. They were chasing each other all over the place. Squirrels don’t actually migrate or hibernate in the winter, but we definitely don’t see them very often either. When they come out to play it’s a pretty good sign that spring is here.
While walking I saw a lot more people in the park than I’ve seen lately. It was a beautiful evening and there were plenty of people out walking, running, and even just sitting while enjoying it. There were also many more birds than I’ve seen in a long time. There were plenty of chickadees, magpies, sparrows, and huge squadrons of Canada Geese flying high overhead. Although I didn’t see it I’m pretty sure I even heard a blackbird singing. I did see one American Robin which I haven’t seen at Carburn Park in months. Robins are occasionally known to spend the winter in the Calgary area, but they are very rare, and when they return it is usually a very good sign that spring is coming soon.
Overall it was a beautiful night to go for a walk in the park!
We’ve had some really nasty cold weather on the prairies this winter. You can tell it’s cold out when even the hay bales look cold!
Normally the Chinook winds we see in the Calgary area bring warm air with them as they blow in from the West Coast. But this year it seems like the winds have been cold and harsh. We’ve seen lots of snow and the temperature has regularly been below -20 °C. Now that’s cold!
At least I generally get to go inside when I want to. Not like these poor bales…