Northern Pygmy Owl

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.

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Bald Eagle and the Common Raven

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.

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Golden-crowned Kinglet

During the fall as other seasons. I try to take pictures of wildlife surrounded by the background of the season that's taking place at that time.  I was hoping to come across bears with the fall colours surrounding them, no luck again. But I did have some luck with the  birds, it paid off carrying a lens to get close to the birds. I would hike through the larch trees and stopping  when a birds were heard. Seeing  which direction they were coming from and then wait for them to pass by me. There were always opportunities to get a picture, but not always a good picture. In this case I was hearing several kinglets and chickadees heading in my direction. I guessed where they would pass by as they went from tree to tree looking for food. This Golden-crowned Kinglet perched not too far from me, showing a bit of its golden crown, I focused on it and got the picture of it perched on a larch tree branch. Next year I'll have to persuade a kinglet to show me more of its golden crown, matching with the larch needles.

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Spotted Sandpiper

I get lots of bird pictures each year, particularly during the bird season. Because I get so many chances, I tend to have higher standards for what I consider a good bird picture. After taking pictures of birds for several years, I'm always thinking about the pictures I do have and try to get a picture of the same quality or better. In the case of this Spotted Sandpiper, I have a handful of very good pictures of them, but not one of them on a branch. In this case I ended up one afternoon middle of several families of Spotted Sandpipers, they were not happy with me being there. With camera in hand, I was making my way through the area, I just had to stop for a few seconds to get this picture. I took one step back to get the branches to the right into the frame, for me it made the picture that much better.  A second after the bird was off the branch, I moved on and the birds were calm again.

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Pileated Woodpecker

Few times I went to watch the Pileated Woodpecker's nest, it was first used last year. There was some work done on the nest before woodpeckers started using it this year. I would be challenged by the mosquitos whenever I went to take pictures of the family. Each time I would wait for a short while for the adults to get the food and feed the nestlings. It will be interesting to see if the nest gets used next year.

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Canada Goose

 have been saving this picture for a while, it was my first sighting this season of the goslings, there were two sets of family hanging out near each other. I stayed in the middle and kept taking pictures as opportunities presented themselves. It was during  the morning and the sun was quickly rising, couple of town staff cleaning up the area were the only other people in the area. We all decided it was a good way to start the day, seeing  little balls of golden yellow running around their parents. I had to make minor adjustment to my location, I wanted the sunlight to be hitting them from the back, also kept making minor adjustments to the camera setting to get some details in the goslings. After spending about twenty minutes, I was happy with what I got and continued my bird walk.

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Harlequin Duck

Harlequin Ducks are normally found in fast moving water, but on the day the picture was taken two pairs were hanging out in calm water not far from the fast moving river. They were diving, searching for food, the like of fish, marine invertebrates and insects.  The colourful males leave the breeding area and head for coastal waters after the females begin to incubate, where the males will begin their annual moult. The nesting females stay behind looking after the family before joining the males. I was just hoping to get a few good pictures of the ducks, but got an added bonus of evening sun lit trees being reflected onto the water. 
 

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Bald Eagle

Before they started nesting, these two mating Bald Eagles were hanging out. They were perched along side the Bow River, calling out every now and then while watching other birds below them. The eagles mate for life, they will keep nesting in the same area at the same nest. They will protect their nest territory from other eagles when needed. Few weeks after they were on their nest.

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Common Nighthawk

Since mid April I have been getting out at 6am, birding.  I was doing the same few mornings back, hoping to hear and or see something interesting. The birds were singing all around me off all sizes. Yellow,  Tennessee and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Willow Flycatchers, Clay-coloured, White-crowned and Song Sparrow to name a few. I even got surprised with not one, but two Gray Catbirds, one of them was singing while the other looked for food. There was one bird song I did not recognise. It was too far for me to get a close look, as I  listened to its calls in the distance, out of the grass next to the trail flew out a bird. It was moving too fast for me to get a picture of, so instead I watched it and tried to ID it. To my surprise, it landed middle of the trail just ten meters from me. It was my first sighting of a Common Nighthawk. A threatened species as of 2010, due to habitat loss and agricultural development. This nocturnal bird was most likely roosting in the grass and by chance I got too close, as soon as I took the pictures, it flew off into the bushes.

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Wood Duck

Depending on where you go birding, there are common birds in that area, they're not so common birds and then there are the most rare. Wood Ducks fall somewhere in the middle in Banff. Every year I try to get one good picture of the Wood Duck, Particularly of the male. Why the male, well if you have seen it's colouring in the sunlight, you would know why. It's as if has gone through a Photoshop wash. I was coming from my walk when a male Wood Duck flew in the opposite direction over the Bow River, landing  about 200 meters from where I was. I back tracked part of that distance and watched it coming in my direction along river. I picked a spot where I hope it would reach to get the picture I wanted. Using the willow shrubs as a blind, I then followed the bird through the camera. Keeping it in focus and waiting for it to reach the spot where  the sun was  shining. It was within a body length of the spot, it stopped , realising I was near and deciding what to do. Watching the male through the camera and lens, making it 12 times closer, it was lit up as it started moving away, I took the picture. 
 

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Northern-pygmy Owl

For many, this last winter was tough, same for wildlife. Number of owls did not survive the winter, high level of snow and the snow staying on the ground for a  longer period of time were the main factors. The smaller and the larger owls were not able to find the food they needed to survive, some were spotted around urban centres starving. Even those who were taken to wildlife centres, help was too late But one thing wildlife is good at, is bouncing back, as long as they have a place to call home they will do the rest.

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Tundra Swan

We just passed the first day of spring, birds are making their way back or passing their way through as they head north. A few days back I spent several hours birding, the highlight was coming across about three hundred waterfowls. which included 21 swans. There beautiful large birds only pass through the park during spring and during the fall. Often they are too far away to get good pictures of, but this spring luck was on my side.

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Black-capped Chickadee

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.

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Northern Pygmy Owl

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.

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