Mount Rundle

Back in September I looked out before the sunrise and saw what was coming, a bright sunrise. Grabbed what I needed and headed out. Found a location next to the river, the water was calm, I was ready and waited for the sunrise. For several minutes it kept getting brighter and brighter and I kept busy taking pictures. Once done, it was time to go to work.

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Red-tailed Hawk

Being an early riser, there always seem lot of time and no need to hurry. And if I try to sleep in, my body forgets how to rest and I end up getting out of bed with body aches. For that reason, no matter the day, up and at it early every morning. Then getting out of the house, I’ll take the slowest route to where ever I’m heading. Checking the sky, are there any clouds, is the moon still out, just to see for any landscape photography possibilities. If the answer is no, then time to look for wildlife, which include birds and mammals. On my days off when looking for photo opportunities, walking even a small distance can take a long time. For every bird sound I’ll stop, try to locate where the sound is coming from and what is making it. And if I think there will be a photo opportunity, I could be in the same place for a while. Always have to remind myself to also look up, never know who’s perched on the trees.  That’s how I was able to see this Red-tailed Hawk one morning. It did not fly away when it saw me, I got the camera out and took few pictures. It then took to air and landed on an another nearby tree to give me even a better picture. That morning a rarity with Red-tailed hawks in Banff, when I got my pictures the bird was still perched as I walked away. Hopeful it will pass on the message to other hawks, I mean no harm.

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Cascade Mountain

In the morning we did not get bright sunrise, too many clouds in the sky put a stop to that. But not long after the warm light started to come through. The snow from yesterday and the light snow from last night added to the winter feel of the morning. And even with cold nights there were some fall colours to remind us we are middle of the fall season. All added to the beautiful morning.

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Elk

The rut season continues and this bull elk is busy as ever with its herm. Last week, during the evening I came across his herm, taking it easy and the bull was resting. But the rest was over, he got up and started bugling. He put on a nice show, but it started to get dark and it was time for me to leave.

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Grizzly

I was heading back to the town of Banff after another fun day, I decided I needed to look for mountain goats first. As I was getting ready to make a right turn on the highway, I looked across, saw vehicles stopped and folks looking through the fence. Just by the reaction, it looked as if they were looking at something large and it was heading east. I kept that in mind as I went to look for goats. No goats, I headed for the town, did some birding and with just over an hour left before sunset. I decided to go and take sunset pictures, but first I wanted to see what folks were looking at along the highway, it might have been a bear and see if it came onto the side road.

Luck was on my side, it was a large grizzly and he decided to take the side road. It was taking its time, walking on and along the road. I backed up and called Banff Dispatch, if the bear kept going east, in about a km it would come across about 20 or more photographers near the road getting ready to watch and take pictures of the sunset. Knowing the road well, I watched the bear from a few hundred meters away. He was not in a hurry, taking his time. There was one small vehicle behind him, with three ladies from the states inside. They were going in the same direction and were afraid to drive by the bear. They kept the windows closed and were excited and afraid, even more when we later had a chat about the grizzly M126.

 

The bear after defecating on the middle of the road, went into the woods and it seemed he was not coming back out. I updated dispatch with what I saw and told them I was taking sunset pictures soon and would update them if anything changed. Now I had to make a decision, about half a km away was a large grizzly bear, I was parked 10 meters away from where I wanted to take a picture. There was still about 30 minutes before the sunset, but with the clouds moving in, the time was now. My car facing the direction where the bear would be coming from, set my camera in the car to go out, take a picture and back in my car. About 100 meters away were the rest of the people, with no idea about the grizzly. Just as I opened the car door, the grizzly came around the turn, walking the middle of the road. That evening there were going to be no sunset pictures for me, I took the attached picture and then backed my car toward the other photographers to let them know. Saw flashing light, help had arrived. Two wildlife colleagues who were having a busy evening, rolled down their windows, both smiling. As we all looked at the large grizzly walking middle of the road toward us, one said, “Amar, so where is this bear you call about”. I smiled, looked at M126, 12 to 15 years of age and easily over 400 lbs. “it’s that small cub walking toward us.”

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Larch Trees

One does not always have to go far or for a long hike to connect with nature. There is enough research showing how we can benefit by connecting even a small way to nature. Just looking out the window at the sky can make a positive difference in our mood. Nature has a way of breaking the cycle of problems we may have going through our head. Going for a small walk, sitting on a bench by a river, lake or on the edge of a forest can help. Providing a break to think about what we are seeing and hearing in nature. In the fall I enjoy watching leaves falling, seeing where the next one will land and every now and then trying to catch one.

 

Last week I was not only doing that, but also watching the larch needles land all over me, don’t tell the law enforcement, but by mistake some ended up home. They have a way of attaching to your pack and clothes. On my first off day few of us got an early start and headed for the Lake Louise area, we enjoyed the hikes and the colours. I spotted four goats and knew a location to see them closer, about 80 to 90 meters away. But the hiking version of the Christmas shopping crowd was making their way up the trails, we decided it was a good time to go home. The next day I was out on my own across the valley to explore the back country. Saw and talked to some of the 23 hikers that were on the trails that day, I got to look at more amazing views than that. It was a great day. The larches are never in their prime fall colours on the same date every year, but this year I was there for the ones I came across while exploring Boulder and Deception Pass and beyond.

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Herbert Lake

I knew the sunset was going to take place that was worth waiting for. But would the water calm down enough to get a nice reflection. For few minutes it did just as the light was at its best. After taking handful of pictures, the wind picked up in speed and the small lake was covered with ripples.

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Larch Trees

Is it worth it hiking there and back for about 20 kms and gaining about 1000 meters in altitude to see the larch trees in their fall colours. Yes! But there is always more to any hike. Got an early start to reach Harvey Pass. It started with a nice walk in the forest before views of the Bow Valley come into play, seeing the Sawback Range across the valley. Then enjoying a quick break to take a picture of the beautiful falls before the steeper switchbacks to reach the Bourgeau Lake. With an overcast sky, I decided to keep making my way up as I listened to the hoary marmot whistling on the far side of the lake. I saw one as well, up the slope about 200 meters away, running across the rocks. By the time I reached the spot it was long gone, I kept moving up and only stopping to enjoy the views behind me. 

Once I reached the pass, I took my time to decide what pictures I wanted to take and from what location. I decided to take several pictures and combine them into the attached panorama, going for an old panorama film camera ratio of 6x17. The larches were still about a week or more away from full fall colours, but not a bad view on an overcast day. Then it was time to sit and eat away from the cold wind, while I watched a pika cache away food for the coming winter. As soon as I got down from the pass, I removed some layers and made my way to the bottom of the valley. That day the wildlife viewing was limited to pikas, marmots, and a chipmunk for mammals and pipits, chickadees, juncos, kinglets, nutcracker and possibly a Golden Eagle high up in the sky for birds. It was a fun hike back to the trailhead, only stopping to have a quick chat with some of the 41 hikers and one dog heading up to the lake and or the pass.

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Mountains and Rocks

I have done several long hikes this season, once the legs are in shape its hard to stop, each day off I want to get out. Long gone the days when I wanted to summit peaks, it’s about the passes now, providing better opportunities for photography. A few weeks back it was time to do Molar Pass, or was it going to be North Molar Pass or perhaps both. When hiking with friends, its at group pace. But if I’m hiking on my own, then I go as fast I can. Only stopping along the way to take pictures, food breaks are reward, only received when I cover a certain distance. As I got to the junction for the two passes, I decided to head north, it was longer and if I felt good on my way back I may cover Molar Pass as well. About 10 kms into the hike, I had left the trees behind and was walking through a beautiful high alpine meadow full of flowers. Missed the prime time for the wildflowers by about a week, still, it was not too bad. With ten-minute break, I headed up to the North Molar Pass. The pass is known for its heavy winds, they were there with cold and received few snowflakes on the way up and on the way down.

 

At 2590 meters above sea level, it was a cold morning on the North Molar Pass, I layered up and headed back down. Legs were doing well, it looked good for Molar Pass. As I was getting close to the junction point for the two passes, met a familiar face who was heading for camping and climbing in the back country. Soon after I reached the junction point, with no stopping, I was ascending to Molar Pass. Less flowers on this route, but more pika and marmots could be seen and heard. Got up to the pass and then went a little further to reach the high point. On the way back, I saw the picture I wanted to take as I kept count of pika and marmots in my head. With the clouds, the light was great during early afternoon. Found rock garden surrounded by grass and flowers, with the peaks in the distance, I got my picture for that day. Drank some water and headed to the trail head, second food break was going to be few kms from the end on a rock next to small water falls. It was a great day.

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Bald Eagle and a Red-winged Blackbird

Still my favourite part of nature is when I get a nice surprise, the more I get out there the more surprises I encounter. I had gone for a drive after dinner, it was a quiet evening, but always good to be out. On my way back, I decided to check out the nearby lakes. On top of a dead spruce tree was an adult Bald Eagle perched. I parked my car to the side, rolled down the window and got a few pictures. Looked at the images, made a small adjustment to the setting and started taking more pictures of the eagle. To my amazement a male Red-winged Blackbird came into the frame, trying it best to harass the much larger eagle away. An adult Bald Eagle can have a wingspan of 2.3 meters and weigh up to 6.3 kg, while blackbird can a have a wingspan of 40 cm and weight up to 77 grams. The blackbird did its best to move off the eagle, the eagle just looked at the bird and stayed perched. I was all excited getting both birds in the plane of focus and could see in the image eagle’s eyes looking at the blackbird. The Red-winged Blackbird had no luck moving the eagle, but I did, getting to see and to get pictures of the small interaction between the two species.

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