Out here we normally see three types of chickadees, boreal, mountain and the one in the picture, the Black-capped Chickadees. We see them year around, even during the cold Rockies winters. How can this tiny 10 gram birds survive during a period when many of us humans complain. They start getting ready during the fall, storing much of the seeds they come across in various locations, to come back to during the cold winter days. To remember all these location, their brains grow when it's time to store food, increasing the volume by as much as 30% and when the winter comes to a close, their brains shrink. These birds are more than just a pretty little things.
A picture taken during one of the cold evening this winter. Standing along the Bow River, where I had found some open water. Lowered the camera enough to get the rocks and snow covered with frost. The clouds were lit up and top of the Castle Mtn with warm light. Lot easier to handle the cold when you get the picture.
This morning before the Sun rose I hiked into Johnston Canyon for a hike and to take pictures of the Upper and Lower Falls. I started with the Upper Falls, the ice was amazing to look at, did just that before I started to pick the spot where I wanted to take pictures. Just as I was making my way to the top to take the posted picture, ice climbers were moving in. After taking pictures from the top of Upper Falls, I then headed back to the Lower Falls.
I was looking around with my camera in hand, when I heard an alert call by a chickadee. I turned around and looked up, the chickadee flew away and on the top of a branch of a dead Douglas fir was a Northern Pygmy Owl. It was perched right over my head, I quickly grabbed a few pictures before it flew away, but it had no intention of doing that. It had been a clear, cold night, the Sun brought warmth as the owl preened itself in the sunlight. I moved back and watched it while looking for other photographic opportunities. A good start to the day.
When I first spotted this mule deer, she was off the road on the right hand side. I watched her slowly make her way into the middle of the road listening for something ahead of her. Not sure if she was listening for other deer or possible predator. She stood at this location for a few minutes before she decided to cross the road. I saw and heard nothing.
I headed to 93 North in the morning, with the plans to do some exploring on snowshoes. The temperature was minus 17 in the Town of Banff, when I reached Lake Louise it was minus 23, by Hector Lake pull-off it was minus 16 and by Bow Lake it was down to minus 24. The temperature was too cold for slow walking and exploring, so I decided to go for a drive toward the Columbia Icefield, with the hopes of exploring on my way back with warmer temperatures. It was a beautiful drive, lots of snow on the mountains and the sun shining. I got into black and white landscape mode, stopping and taking pictures from several locations. This one was my favourite from that morning.
I came across this fox during a cold morning, a very cold morning, the temperature was minus 35 degree Celsius. The fox was hunting for voles, here it's standing still listening for the vole under the snow. In the end nothing was there, it moved on looking elsewhere for its breakfast.
Life would be different if there was no Moon. There would be no eclipses, well Venus does get between the Sun and Earth, but just not the same. The nights would be much darker, we would see more looking up in the night sky. The tides, would be very small with the Sun causing them. With no tides caused by the Moon, there would be no tidal friction, which would mean the Earth would rotate faster. That would provide us with much shorter days, 6 to 8 hours long. The Earth's axial tilt would change greatly, which in turn would have a major effect on weather. With these and other effects on the Earth without the Moon, life would evolve differently. But thankfully we do have the Moon looking after us and can enjoy chocolate on the only planet that it grows on, as far as we know.
It was the morning after a good amount of snow had fallen onto Banff National Park. I had the day off and I was out taking pictures of beautiful winter scenery. I have taken many pictures of Castle Mtn from the road, I never get tired of it. For a while it was just me on the road, the few times I stopped along the way to take pictures of the morning light.
Birds bring colour to any day, no matter the season. In this case its in the form of the Bohemian Waxwings, a bit of a colour on their face, on their tail wings and on their sides. All highlighted by the light on a sunny winter morning.
This bull elk is facing a few challenges throughout the winter, main ones deal with the winter season, the cold temperatures and the amount of fallen snow. Using more energy if it's colder and more energy to get at the low quality food through the fallen snow. This bull like other elk may lose 20 to 25 percent of their weight over a winter and if he loses more than 30 percent, very likely he will not survive the winter. The winter might take it or if it's so weak, predators the likes of wolves or cougars will take it. It helps when the days start getting longer, it means shorter cold nights to deal with. Using the dense forest as cover, it can be few degrees warmer in the forest and protection from the wind. It may not make a difference for one day, but over a whole winter, every bit adds up. For wildlife it's the survival of the fittest, literally.
I had popped into Kootenay National Park to look for Mountain Goats high up on the mountain side. I lucked out, spotting five goats, then I was off to Marble Canyon. There was lots of snow in Kootenay, in some areas hip deep. After looking around I decided I wanted to take picture of the mountains to the East. I did a quick ten meters walk in the deep snow so I could get the water in the foreground and took the picture.
It's always a special moment when an owl is spotted. Which is hard since they blend in so nicely with their surroundings and most are not active during the day. I have been fortunate enough to come across in Banff, Great Horned Owl, Northern Hawk Owl, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Barred Owl, Boreal Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl and number of times have seen the Great Gray Owl. Still hoping to see the owls that only pass through Banff, Long-eared Owl, with more luck to see Short-eared Owl and keeping all my fingers and toes crossed to see the beautiful Snowy Owl. There are lot of places outside the mountains where these owls are spotted more often, but I enjoy the challenge of finding them in Banff National Park.
Northern Pygmy-Owls are found throughout the mountains and good for all of us who look for them, they are active during the day. It was late morning when I came across this one, perched high on a branch of a dead Douglas fir tree. Stayed in that spot for near an hour, grooming itself under the Sun before flying off to look for food.
From the bottom of the valley to the top of the mountain, it's winter wonderland.
Castle Mountain is one of the more viewed mountain in Banff National Park. Millions of eyes gaze at it each year, while travelling on Trans-Canada Highway, Bow Valley Parkway and from few while travelling on the waters of the Bow River. Most of the pictures I have taken of it are from the east of the mountain, it has more character from that direction. Over the years I have taken pictures of it from several locations, but most of them along the Bow River. I still have other location in mind, just waiting for all the parts that make a good photo to come together. For this image I was back along the Bow River, finding a location where there was open water during a period of cold temperatures.
Once the rut season is over, the male Elk will get together and stay together until the next rut season. Few larger bulls will stay alone, if they are weak from not having enough time to eat during the rut season, losing up to 30 percent of the weight. And if cold weather arrives right after the rut season, it can end larger bull's life. But if they can find enough food and get back some energy. Then there's a good chance they will survive the winter and hope to compete in the next rutting season.
This male mule deer was making its way through the forest, pauses long enough for me to get its picture. Still a few months to go before the snow melts from the valley and fresh green food starts growing. Always have to be on the move, being careful not to run into predators. Life can be little easier in the winter if he comes across one or two other males, always better to have more eyes looking out for danger.
Red fox's body length can be long as 90 cm, not including the long bushy tail, which can be as long as half a meter. The thick long red tail with the white tip helps with balance, it's used to communicate with other foxes and on cold days, like the one I saw this female on, it acts like a warm cover when napping.
If you have some clouds and some clear sky, there is a good chance of an interesting sunrise. Its worth heading to the Vermilion Lakes for, setting up the camera equipment and waiting for the sun to rise. Did not get he reds or the oranges, but got some bright warm yellows, a nice contrast to the cool blue on the ground.