Tundra and Trumpeter Swans may stop over in Banff NP when heading north to their breeding ground and or when they are heading south for the winter. Most of the times it’s rare to see them up close in the park, let alone both species together close by. In my case one of each swan was about 50 meters away, with them above the water I was able to clearly see the size difference. It can get difficult when they are in the water, even with the weight difference. An adult tundra can weigh up to 14lbs and 30lbs for the trumpeter. I saw them over a few days, they would spend the night and early morning on one side of the valley and the rest of the time on the other. I was watching them for an hour or so, when their head started bobbing in sync, getting ready to fly. When they were taking off they were too close to get both in the frame, but this was my favorite picture with the snow peak in the background.
As I was walking on the trail I could hear ahead of me the calls of an American Robin and Golden-crowned Kinglet. Within seconds the calls turned into warning calls, simple translation, “predator, predator, etc…” I slowed down and tried to pinpoint where the stress calls were coming from, was there a predator nearby I thought. I saw the robin and looked in the direction it was looking at. It was a Northern Saw-whet Owl.
With nature photography, it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen. You may plan to go out to take pictures of one thing, but you may come back with pictures of something else or nothing at all. I was trying to locate Three-toed Woodpecker to take pictures of. I went for a small hike near the town of Banff where they are spotted among the old trees. Over the several visits I got to see and take pictures of many other things before getting a picture of a Three-toed Woodpecker, including my best pictures of Brown Creepers. A beautiful small bird, found among mature trees in a forest. It looks brown from a distance, but as you can see it has few other subtle colours on its back, which helps it to blend in with the bark of the tree. Making it harder for a predator to spot. It will go from tree to tree, creeping up looking for insects to eat. The problem always has been for me to get enough light to get a clear picture of it, I got that and a pleasing background.
All things being equal, getting a good picture of birds is the hardest part of nature photography for me. No problem getting a picture of a bird, big or small. But to get a good picture of a bird, where it stands out, that’s the challenge. It starts with locating a bird, followed by tracking the bird through the camera, smaller the bird, harder it is to do. Then I try to get close to the bird without scaring it away, for me it works best when I figure out which direction the bird is moving and wait ahead of it and let the bird decide to get close to me. The birds have so many options with each move, always a good chance I’ll not get a clean look. But with nature photography it about staying positive and always thinking this will be the day. There are bird photographer who will use food to get close up pictures. For them, it's all about the picture. With me when shooting wild birds, I’ll always learn something about them and with lots of work and some luck I may get a good image. With bird photography I end up keeping a very small percentage of the images, we’re talking about single digits. One cold day standing in knee deep snow, I was watching several Boreal Chickadees. Waiting and waiting until one got closer and in a position where it stood out. The bird only gave me a couple of seconds to get it in focus and get the whole bird in the frame. No cropping was done with this image. Within 15 to 20 minutes I took about 400 images, kept less than 10. Nature keeps you humble.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Great Blue Heron came into the area I was in, saw me, made a quick turn right and flew away.
A Blue Jay surrounded by fall colours and snow, searching for food.
Top of a dead tree, a Bald Eagle keeping balance in the wind while looking out for the next opportunity for a meal.
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.
Wildlife need space, but not our food.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mallard Ducks are commonly spotted, they get overlooked among the other waterfowls. With the right light, in this case the morning light, they stand out.
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.