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. 
 

Wood Duck 180518 Amar Athwal.jpg

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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Grizzly

Still weeks before most, if not all the bears will be up from their deep sleep. It's all about food, if they had food year around they would be no reason to sleep the winter away. Since in the mountains there is little to no food from late fall to spring, then sleeping is a great adaptation for surviving the winter. The big males are the first one to get up, the female with cubs and young bears are the last, the rest spread out in the middle. This big male who looks to be near or just under 600 pounds, looked like could still use more sleep when I saw him recently.

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Crowfoot Glacier

Winter is not complete without a few pictures of the Crowfoot Glacier, this year even in April the nights are like winter. My favourite season is winter. Now, no one gets upset at me. The bonus winter we're getting into the mountains is out of my control, all I can do is enjoy it. Even with lots of snow remaining in the valley, I have been out hiking as if it's spring like conditions. It was a few weeks back, I last got to see the Crowfoot Glacier, I was the only one out there as the sunlight started making contact with the mountain. I zoomed in with my camera, looking at the composition that would give me the best picture. There's something about the rock, snow and ice, it has a calm, peaceful effect, the way they work together to form nature's art. 

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Bighorn Sheep

Spring is here but so is winter, during the longer days snow is melting and providing support to many animals dealing with the outdoors. For last several days, the nights have been cold, but by midday there is some warmth, enough to remove some snow and opening up hidden vegetation for the wildlife. 

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Mount Rundle

Nature photography is lot about timing, always looking for the right combination of light and shadow. I was around the Vermilion Lakes, still a couple of hours before the Sun would be setting, when the golden light would be hitting the peaks. But I noticed the clouds were moving in from the west, they would soon block direct light to the peaks. I looked at the scenery before me, thanks to the broken up clouds, the combination of light and shadow was appealing and as an added bonus, the water was still. I took the picture and converted into a black and white for the added drama effect

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Cascade Mountain

I got this picture when it still felt like winter, the morning Sun was hitting the south side of Cascade Mtn.. Now I have to wait until next winter to get a similar picture as Earth changes it relationship toward the Sun. The Sun, the clouds and other weather factors play a big role determining what the picture I'll get and what it will look like. As so often said by photographers, you can never get the same picture twice. Even the mountain is changing, might be hard to see from a distance, unless something dramatic happens like it did in 2013 when large amounts of rain fell and at the same time heavy snow pack melted. Get close enough to Cascade Mtn or sit on top of it and listen to the sound of small rocks and sometimes larger rocks making their way down the mountain every now and then. Nature is dynamic, at smaller and at large scale.

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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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Moon

I was driving in Kootenay National Park, looked to my left and saw the moon setting behind a peak. Pulled over, the road was clear of traffic in both directions. Turned around and went to the location which would give me the best picture. Took the picture and off I went.

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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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Castle Mountain

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.

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Johnston Canyon

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.

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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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Mule Deer

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.

Mule Deer

Mount Athabasca and Hilda Peak

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.

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