How time flies, it's that time of the year again. On Saturday, February the 2nd I'll be doing a slideshow presentation at the Cave and Basin NHS. Going over some of my favourite nature pictures from 2018 and the stories that go along with them. For $4.90 come spend couple of warm hours, from 7 to 9pm, sitting back and looking at flora, fauna and landscapes photos from the past year.
This is M122, his reputation seems to gets exaggerated more and more each year and other large grizzlies or even a large black bear often gets confused for him. By reading what’s out there on social media, you would think he’s the only large grizzly in the Bow Valley, if not in Banff NP. In the Bow Valley there are four large dominant male grizzlies, M122, M126, M134 and M136. M134 was not been seen last year, or at least no records of him being spotted. He might have decided to go to another valley at the start of the season and then stayed there. For a number of years M134 has always been the bigger male and this year M126 and M136 look to be the same size as the famous M122, if not slightly larger. For M122, it was never just about the size, it was also about his attitude toward other bears. M134 would run away from him, twice within few days M136 gave way to M122 this last fall. M122 may no longer be as dominant as he was the last number of years, this last summer he was showing some pretty big scars, on his shoulder and on his face. The larger males always get tested for mating and for food. If we were to shave one like a sheep, we would be amazed to see all the scars on their body from the various battles and some from trying to mate. M122 is 18 to 19 years of age now, I hope he’ll be around for several more years. He will become less and less dominant, but will always be an important grizzly on the landscape.
There was a bit of pressure to quickly decide where I wanted to take the picture from. The little light that was on the mountain was gone and the clouds were soon going to cover the mountain. I started thinking in black and white and then moved around the open water until I had the composition that worked for me.
Few mornings back. I was out for a drive, fresh fallen snow was everywhere. When I left home, clouds covered the sky. But the further west I got , more of the sky was becoming visible. I headed for Morant’s Curve, providing a grand view and opportunity for a morning landscape picture.
It was toward end the day, time to head over to take pictures of Castle Mtn. About a half hour or so was left before the light would be no longer be on Castle. Got to the river and started looking for the spot where the water was open and still. Found it, it was small, so I lowered my camera on the tripod and started getting ready. When the light was right. I started taking pictures.
This pack of three, coyotes had quite the morning, most likely they were working on a carcass that was in the area for the previous 5 days. With no bears and wolves in the area, they had the carcass all to them. But the morning this picture was taken, all that changed. First a larger grizzly passed through, most likely with not much to chew on, the grizzly could only imagine what might have been. Then soon after a wolf pack walked through the area, the coyotes would have been smart to give them lots of space, the wolves are not a fan of coyotes. After some time passed another large grizzly passed through the area. The coyotes howled/barked at him. He was walking ahead of this pack by about few hundred meters, who I got to see bit later. Never a boring day out there.
Just in town of Banff, on one side of the Bow Bridge next to the sidewalk, this Black-eyed Magpie enjoying lunch. I was heading home, when noticing the magpie, I had to stop and take a few pictures before I could pass by. The bird was perched upside down eating berries, two others were busy doing the same.
I’m pretty sure it was this red fox I came across during the summer season. Near a parking lot, eating something with people just meters away from it taking pictures. People meters away from wildlife are a national park is a red flag. I got closer in my car, popped out to have a look what it was eating, it was human food. Back in my car, got even closer made loud noise to scare off the fox. People were not happy with me, I then explained what human food can result in. Sharing the story about members of a wolf pack getting their first human food meters from the spot. Becoming food conditioned, resulting in two wolves being put down and the packs new litter of six not surviving the summer. The look on people’s faces became more understanding, as I picked up all the bread (a bag worth)crumbs left next to an electrical box. The fox is doing well, spotted it few times hunting for its natural food.
Toward the end of the day, with the lenticular clouds still in the sky, picture of part of the Fairlholme Range.
It did not look like there was going to be a bright sunrise, but as I was getting closer to Bow Lake, I could see the colours through my rear view mirror. I decided to pull into the lake’s parking lot and quickly made my way to the shore. It was November, I was able to find some open water, then started taking pictures.
Between December 14, 2018 through January 5, 2019 the 119th Christmas Bird Count will be taking place this season. A great way for people to get together and see how our feathered friends are dealing with the winter. The results get sent to Audubon, who can compare this year results with the previous and look for trends. If you live in the Bow Valley or visiting the Bow Valley on Saturday December 14. 2018 and would like to play a role. Pop on to the WWW for contacts and further info. by heading over to the “bowvalleynaturalists.org” site. Not a site for those who enjoy nature au naturel, for sure not middle of December in Banff. But a Bow Valley Group who deals with natural history and conservation, including where around the towns of Canmore and Banff this year CBC will be taking place.
On a sunny morning I watched this and two other coyotes pass by, one stopping to hunt. He tried few times but had no luck, then decided to catch up with the other two.
Had an early morning adventure, small hike after taking sunrise pictures. I was back in the Bow Valley, when I saw a large male grizzly on the edge of the forest. It was the famous Banff grizzly M122, who I have seen more toward the end of the season this year. Dispatch had been informed of M122 being in the area, soon after colleagues dealing with human-wildlife conflict arrived. Weekend mid-morning during the fall season tend to be quiet, but there were workers in the area and everyone wanted to make sure the grizzly passed them safely. The bear was given lots of space, he decided the pace he wanted to move at. And boy did he take his time, stopping to dig, moving in and out of the forest, crossing the road several times, he was not in a hurry. As if he was enjoying the VIP or should I say VIB treatment.
Spent a quiet time at the Mistaya Canyon taking pictures. A popular place along 93 North, but during colder days not the case. There was enough ice and snow to give the area a winter look. After taking the pictures, I spent some time watching the water makes its way into the canyon and listen to the sound of rushing water.
Bald Eagle larger than most birds, with a wingspan of 2 meters, scavenges meals by harassing other birds and never says no to carrion or garbage. Most of the time they eat fish, but will hunt mammals and waterfowl. They are often spotted soaring high in the sky. The Common Raven is dwarfed by the much larger eagle, wingspan around 116 cm. One of the smartest birds, capable of learning and being a better talker than some parrots when raised by humans. Works with land predators, letting them know when a prey is near or seeking their help opening the tough hide of a carcass to access meat. Never a good idea leaving your bag of garbage outside, if you do where ravens reside, all will know the contents of your garbage. In the image it seems both are flying together, in reality the raven was protecting its territory by harassing the eagle away.
Many who see me regularly, will see a pack on my back, does not matter if I'm working or on my days off. Does not matter if it's a cold day middle of the winter or the warm day in the summer, there's a pack on my back. Does not matter if it's raining or minus 30, snowing and wind howling, there's a pack on my back. It does not snow contain my lunch or full of chocolates. It's easier to get around without a pack, it's an easier hike with less weight on my back. But not wanting to miss an opportunity when a moment comes and I need the camera. Few weeks back giving myself lot of time to get to work, with the camera in the pack, I was able to stop and enjoy the sunrise and take pictures.
Few big male grizzlies are still walking around in the mountains. Relatively speaking the warmer temperatures has to be playing a role and if food is out there, the big grizzlies are going to find it and can easily fight other predators for it.
When the snow is on the ground, I come across so many snowshoe hare tracks, but rarely see them. A few weeks back, I came across this little one, hiding under low branches. Taking its time changing from its summer colours to the its winter colours. Without its white winter coat, it would be easily spotted by its predators, giving it a short life.
Few weeks back when the water was starting to freeze over, open water producing a reflection of the Waputik Mountains.
It was a cold morning, the sunrise was not what I was hoping for, so I decided to go for a walk along the river, going in and out of the forest next to it. With each hour it was getting warmer, I could hear the birds every now and then going through the forest. Too high in the trees for pictures. I looked in the distance, something was looking toward me, a male moose. I started to move, it moved, and soon it was out of view. Ten minutes later I was on at a higher elevation, and could see another male moose, it was younger and eating plants from the river's bottom. This moose did not look toward me and soon left. As I was eating and now taking in the warmth from the sun, I could hear not too far from me something was moving to the left of me, first through the snow and then trough the river. The forest I was standing by was blocking my view. Soon after the first moose I saw that day or another moose of the same size was standing across the river, about 110 meters front of me, looking at me. It crossed the river and was still looking at me. I was ready to move away quickly if needed, it was the rut season and the bulls are not too happy around this time. The bull walked past the small trees into the open and was still looking toward me. Still safe distance, I moved out of the trees for the moose to have a good look at me. It stood still and looked at me for a minute and then started walking toward the river to the right of me. That's when I started taking pictures of the male. It did not look back, crossed the river and then faded into the forest.