Long-tailed Weasel at Rawson Lake

We went hiking up to Rawson Lake in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park (in Kananaskis). It's a beautiful hike to an even more beautiful lake!  We came across this cute little furry critter and had an exciting game of hide and seek with it for about 10 minutes.  The Weasel kept running off into the rocks, and then creeping back to investigate me.  It was lots of fun!..©2010, Sean Phillips.http://www.RiverwoodPhotography.com (Sean Phillips)

We went hiking up to Rawson Lake in Kananaskis Provincial Park. It’s a beautiful hike to an even more beautiful lake! The highlight of the trip actually came just as we were about to start back down the trail to return home. I was picking my way across the rocks in the scree slopes hoping for one last chance to photograph some Pica when I realized that I had just scared off a pretty little Long-tailed Weasel. The weasel bounded off and disappeared into the rocks. I slowly followed in the direction that it had gone, and quickly found it. It wasn’t shy at all and for the next 10 minutes or so we played a fun game of hide and seek. The Weasel kept running off into the rocks, and then creeping slowly back to investigate me. It was lots of fun and I made a few great images!

Animals – Weasels – Images by Sean Phillips

Fall Colors in Calgary

Fall Colors

The fall colors in the Calgary area are not typically very colorful, but very beautiful nonetheless! I was taking pictures of birds on the lake at Carburn Park when my camera chose to focus on this nearby leaf instead of the far away birds. I loved the golden hues and the creamy background in the scene, so I immediately made the image.

Bald Eagle at Vermillion Lake

Bald Eagle at Vermillion Lake

During a recent family camping trip in Banff we rented a canoe and paddled into the first Vermillion lake. It was one of those beautiful blue sky days that we haven’t seen nearly enough of this summer. We were lucky to see a large adult Bald Eagle perched in a tree near the edge of the lake. We were able to paddle all along the shore past the tree and then loop back through a channel to get to the sunny side. The eagle calmly watched us the entire time.

I spotted another Eagle high up in a tree on the far side of the lake so we gradually made our way across to get a better look. We came upon a Belted Kingfisher perched on a log. We didn’t get very close before it launched… We also saw a deer resting under a large evergreen tree, but it was mostly obscured by the long grasses surrounding the lake.

I’m always amazed by how many more birds and animals you can get close to while in a canoe than while hiking. I’m going to have to get one of my own!

Bald Eagle at Vermillion Lake

Bald Eagle at Vermillion Lake

Belted Kingfisher at Vermillion Lake

Bald Eagle at Vermillion Lake

Bald Eagle at Vermillion Lake

Eared Grebe at Frank Lake

Eared Grebe on Blue Water

I had a chance to make a quick trip to Frank Lake the other day. I didn’t have high expectations as the good light had already passed and I didn’t have time for the patience normally required to make good images at a place like Frank Lake. I was happily surprised to find the lake teeming with activity and I spent a much longer time at the main blind than I normally do. There were Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Common Terns, and Franklin’s Gulls flying all over the place. There were also a few Ruddy Ducks and White-Faced Ibis’ in the pools near the blind, and literally too many other birds to count (or identify) off in the distance. I found this very accommodating Grebe near the blind. It swam by several times and circled around while giving my some great photo opportunities. I really love going to Frank Lake and only wish I had more opportunities to make the trip…

Early Morning at Frank Lake

I was out for an early trip to Frank Lake to make images of birds during the spring migration and found this wonderful pastoral scene just before the sun rose. I love the solitary tree in the middle of the field silhouetted against the rising sun.

Panoramic Silhouette of a Solitary Tree against the Sunrise

It was a very calm and beautiful morning at the lake and there many landscape and close-up photo opportunities. These picturesque grasses jutting out of the calm and glassy smooth water were plentiful, and I could have spent the entire morning shooting similar images.

Marsh grasses mirrored in the glassy calm water

Frank Lank is a naturalized wetland that was saved by Ducks Unlimited Canada. It is now listed as an Important Birding Area (IBA), one of almost 600 such sites in Canada. IBA’s are sites “providing essential habitat for one or more species of breeding or non-breeding birds. These sites may contain threatened species, endemic species, species representative of a biome, or highly exceptional concentrations of birds”. At various times through the year Frank Lake is home to almost every wetland bird that you might see anywhere else in Alberta, and some that you aren’t likely to find anywhere else in Canada. It also has a large population of grassland birds as well.

I found lots of birds at the lake, but they weren’t very cooperative for photography. In fact there were more birds than I have ever seen there at one time. We are currently in the early stages of the spring migration and there were literally thousands of birds at the lake. This really is a great time of year to be a birder since so many of the ponds and sloughs are frozen over, water birds are forced to congregate in the few wet places that are already open. Frank Lake has several large areas of open water, but for the most part it is still frozen and so the birds at the lake were all massed together in those open areas.

There were many different species that will only be here for a few days or weeks before they continue their journey north. They really haven’t become accustomed to people watching them yet, and as a result I wasn’t able to get very close without flushing them away. I wasn’t able to make any of the really great portraits or close-up images that I had hoped to make; however, there were lots of birds flying around and so I spent lots of time making flight shots.

Bird flight photography can be difficult at the best of times. I was there quite early in the morning which meant that the light levels were pretty low. This makes for slow shutter speeds and lots of blurry images. I did end up with a few good pictures that I was happy with, but I also had to delete lots. This pair of Canada Geese circled low over me several times before landing on the lake. While Canada Geese are certainly here year round, there are a great many more here now than at any other time of year. Many of them are nesting already and clearly plan to stay.

Canada Geese in flight

Northern Shovelers are also very common at this time of year and they will likely be one of the last of the migrating ducks to disappear. Even they will only be easily found for a few weeks, so I was happy to make a couple of nice images. Once the ice has melted from the majority of the ponds and sloughs the birds that stay in Southern Alberta will become very sparse as they spread out across the prairies.

Northern Shoveler in flight

Goldeneyes are also year-round residents in the Calgary area, but there are many more here now than in the rest of the year. These birds are extremely fast fliers and it is very difficult to make sharp images of them in flight.

Common Goldeneye in flight

I didn’t have nearly the success I had hoped for with the birds, but I did find a large colony of very cooperative gophers. These little critters are actually called Richardson’s Ground Squirrels, but most people around Alberta refer to them as gophers (or sometime Prairie Dogs, but that’s definitely a different animal). Generally considered to be pests, especially by farmers because of the holes and tunnels that they dig wherever they live, they are also very cute. While not exactly friendly, they are very curious and as a result they end up being quite photogenic.

On my way back to the city I stopped several times to make images of the abundant pastoral scenery. I have lots of images like these in my portfolio, but I’m always drawn back to scenes like these and I can’t help myself when I see them…

Grain Bins and a Blue Sky

Farmland in the Spring