Relatively speaking, it started out easier for the elk this winter. Not as cold and less snow on the ground. They still had to eat the same less nutritious food, no greens in the winter. But less snow to move aside to get at the food and less energy needed to get through the milder days and nights. But all that changed, snow storms started to come through and February brought with it much colder temperatures. Just like these three bulls, they have to spend more energy moving lots more snow to get at the less nutritious food and as well, losing lots more energy to survive the colder days and nights. Until spring arrives, they will be getting weaker, while their predators get stronger.

Elk 190222 Amar Athwal.jpg

Mount Chephren

To me it seems to occur during winter, when wherever I go into the mountains I see possible black and white images. I think for me it has to be the snow, with much of the surrounding covered with snow it lot easier to imagine the scene I want to take pictures of. And the chances are more likely I will take a picture in black and white if there are clouds in the sky. As well, most of my black and white are taken after sunrises but always before or after the sun has reached its highest point in the sky. There are no right or wrongs, it's just my preference for monochrome images. For this image it was about two hours after sunrise, I had crossed over the frozen lower Waterfowl Lake. While walking along the Mistaya River I walked into this picture. There was more than enough light to take the picture hand holding the camera. Trying few variations, this one was my favourite of Mount Chephren that morning. I then snowshoed along the river to the creek coming from Chephren Lake and then using it as a guide to get up to the lake to explore.

Mount Chephren 190215 Amar Athwal.jpg

Cascade Mountain

Each winter is different, it plays a role where, when and if I’ll get a certain picture. We received early snow in September and October, then there was a long pause before the next snow storm. It was slowly getting colder and my thought was there would be plenty of places to skate and for me places to take pictures on frozen lakes and rivers. But nature is never that easy to predict, the places I was hoping to take pictures at froze later than I hoped and were soon covered by snow. But for this location there was still an opportunity, I just had to wait. The winds coming around this bend of the river are strong, it was just a matter of time, as long as no large amount of snow fell. On my hikes I would check the area, on a recent visit I came across the methane ice bubbles I was waiting for. Much of the snow had blown off by the wind, except for few patches and the cross country ski tracks. For me it was enough for a picture, bubbles starting the pictures and the tracks taking the viewer’s eyes into the picture toward Cascade Mtn surrounded by clouds on a windy day.

Cascade Mtn 190208 Amar Athwal.jpg

Storm Mountain

The goal was to get out for a couple of hours, to look for a spot where I could take pictures of a mountain, bathing in the warm light at the end of the day. Started my walk, saw a couple visiting Banff NP, said hello and kept walking. They started walking behind me, I hoped they would stop because they were not dressed to go where I would end up. Few hundred meters later they stopped, I kept going for a km until I found a spot to take pictures. Walking along a river with snow, ice and open and hidden water can be tricky. I did not want others to take the risk by following me. I still had an hour before I would start to take pictures. Looked around to become familiar with the area I had not visited for two winters. The light I was waiting for arrived, started taking pictures with the river front of me and the mountain in the distance. As the photography session was coming to an end, I looked back.More clouds had gathered and there was a good chance they were going to light up when the sunlight got under them. Walked hundred meters and found some open water in the foreground and the rocks I thought would add to the image. About 15 minutes later I was looking at a beautiful sunset, kept taking pictures until the light was gone. I had just enough warmth in the hands to pack up and start walking back to the vehicle. Once I started walking the hands warmed up and I was energized,  got two opportunities to take pictures in one evening.

Storm Mtn 190201 Amar Athwal.jpg

American Marten

Unlike human, wildlife always has to be at their peak. They are always being challenged by the environment, by members of their own species for food, territory and for mates. Competition from other species for food and territory and depending on where they fall on the food chain, they always have to be two steps ahead of becoming someone’s meal. Unless they are on the top part of the food chain, they can't over eat and became an easy prey. When it gets dark, the species that stay active, it's even more important to stay healthy. That leads me to this American marten I came across with a damaged left eye that has turned green and is shrinking. Being out there middle of the wilderness, every day it survives with one eye, it's overcoming extreme odds against nature.

American Marten 190125 Amar Athwal.jpg


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.

Elk 190118 Amar Athwal.jpg


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.

Grizzly 190111 Amar Athwal.jpg

Morant's Curve

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.

Morant's Curve 181226 Amar Athwal.jpg

Castle Mtn

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.

Castle Mtn 181224 Amar Athwal.jpg


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.

Coyote 181221 Amar Athwal.jpg

Black-billed Magpie

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.

Black-eyed Magpie 181219 Amar Athwal.jpg

Red Fox

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.

Red Fox 181214 Amar Athwal.jpg

Bow Lake

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.

Bow Lake 181210 Amar Athwal.jpg

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.

Northern Pygmy Owl 181207 Amar Athwal.jpg


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.

Grizzly 181130 Amar Athwal.jpg

Mistaya Canyon

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.

Mistaya Canyon 181126 Amar Athwal.jpg