After yesterday’s experience with the Terns at Carburn Park I couldn’t wait to get back there after work in hopes of shooting them some more. This time the light was perfect, and I lugged my tripod down to the river and was all ready for some serious bird photography.
Of course there wasn’t a bird to be seen.
This time I did some actual fishing, I hooked one trout that promptly leap out of the water and spat out my hook, and then another one that almost pulled my rod out of my hands before quickly snapping my line and swimming off with my hook, I guess I’ll have to start using higher test line for the Bow River, there are some big browns in there.
Once the fishing was done I packed up my camera gear and put away my lens, only to turn around and run directly into a big ugly beaver. Literally I almost ran into it, like a couple of feet away. So of course I had to pull my camera back out for a couple of shots despite the fact that it was too dark for decent shutter speeds.
I have to say it was pretty cool watching it strip the bark off a twig like it was a piece of corn on the cob. And then later as it powered through a tree trunk, saliva and wood chips flying all over the place, and then proceeded to drag the tree off into the forest.
I thought I would do some fishing, and headed down to Carburn Park after work. When I got to my fishing spot I found a bunch of Common Terns feeding on insects over the river. Despite the bad light it was a pretty cool shooting session because the I was able to sit right up close on the bank while they worked their way slowly down the river diving and skimming the surface for bugs. Once they were about twenty or thirty yards away they would fly right back up to where I was and start over again.
As I mentioned, the light was pretty crappy, and I hadn’t brought along my tripod, and the birds move pretty erratically, so getting a sharp image was not easy, but it was a lot of fun. Needless to say I didn’t do a whole lot of fishing.
It seems like every year come the end of February or early March I get the fishing bug, and suddenly can’t wait to get out on the river. Which is a shame because it’s usually a few months before the weather and the river conditions make it worthwhile.
Starting out at Carburn Park I headed south along the bank all the way down to where Deerfoot Trail crosses over the river. It’s a bit of a hike, and I had only been that way a couple of times before, but had seen both Pileated Woodpeckers and a porcupine in the past so I headed out with high hopes.
The fishing was not very interesting, all of the fishing holes that I had fished in the past had apparently been washed away in the previous years flood. The flood damage itself was likely the most interesting part of the trip. Massive piles of driftwood were stacked up twenty or thirty feet high in the middle of the forest, huge gravel bars stretching out where they didn’t used to be, and logs hung up way up in the treetops. It was somewhat surreal, and also fairly saddening.
Without any of the old fishing holes I never did find a decent place to fish, but eventually stretched out on a sandbar and threw in a line. I was quickly distracted though by a flock of a couple dozen Franklin’s Gulls that flew down and began feeding on a swarm of bugs just a short ways up the river bank.
I drove out to Kananaskis Country, taking the long way through Springbank, to exploring some of the backcountry roads to try and photograph waterfowl in the country ponds. It wasn’t very successful and the weather was beginning to turn rather ugly. By the time I got into Kananaskis Country I realised that spring was still a long way off in the mountains and headed back early, deciding not waste anymore time.
Winter seemed a big long this year and by April I was desperate to get out and do something. Despite it not being very warm, and a strong north wind blowing I thought I would give Frank Lake a try to see if the birds were migrating yet.
While the birds were starting to arrive (most notably the Northern Pintails) the lake was still partially ice covered. Most of the shoreline was free of ice, but it was completely flooded and I couldn’t actually get near the lake. At the trail to the viewing blind where I parked my car the water came pretty much right out to the roadway, the walkway was completely submerged, and the actual blind had water halfway up the railings.
I walked around the lake shore for a bit despite it being completely unproductive, but eventually the wind took it’s toll and I gave up and headed home.
This Swainson’s Hawk has been taunting me all summer, I think it nests in a tree beside a road that I drive down for work on a weekly basis. I’ve seen it catching gophers, and flying down the road with me at eye level, and eating roadkill in the ditch, and so on and so on, all within a couple of metres of the road and this tree…
So I finally remembered to bring my camera, and the day turned cold and windy and it just sat right there in the tree and stared at me refusing to put on a show. But I got my picture either way.
In the last week or so of June 2013 Calgary had its worst flood in well…. ever… with both rivers spilling over their banks and flowing through much of downtown. But you probably know all this so that’s about all I’m gonna say about it (here’s some more info if you don’t know all about it… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Alberta_floods).
Anyway things were pretty crazy in town, but in all reality it didn’t affect me in the least little bit, in fact I never even saw any of the flood water or river until about a week after it had crested. But as soon as the roads began reopen in Kananaskis country I knew I had to head out to have a look at the damage.
The damage was pretty crazy to see… tiny little streams had cut 20 foot chasms into hillsides and stripped shorelines of trees and plants and soil in huge swaths and ripping roads and bridges right off their foundations. What was really amazing was to see just how much earth the water had moved, roadside ditches that had been 10 feet deep were now filled to road level with dirty or gravel, and whole hillside that used to overlook the iver were simply not there anymore. At one point on the Spray Lakes trail I got out to take a walk along the stream that runs parallel to the road. The first thing I noticed was how wide the stream-bed was, it had probably only been about 10 feet across before the flood, but was now more like 40 or 50 feet across, with the bank on the other side made up of a wall of freshly exposed soil. But what really got me was the smell. The smell of pine coming from the hundreds or thousands of twisted, broken, and downed pine trees that lined the sides of the shore was so strong it literally made my eyes water and burned my sinuses, it was really quite remarkable.
Looking back (yes it’s almost a year later that I’m writing this), whats really crazy to think about is just how long the scars of that flood will be present, the debris and sticks and branches and mud stuck ten feet high in the trees will likely take a good 5 years to be dislodge and washed completely away. The piles of broken and downed trees might be recognizable for a decade or two or three. The changed in the course of the rivers and streams, and the deposits of gravel and dirt and boulders might take a few decades to become healed to the point where they no longer look like a visible scar on the landscape, but in all reality they might be there for a few centuries or longer, or basically forever, at least until the next big flood. Or until we decide to pave over them and put in a new parking lot.
There is an Osprey nesting platform just off to the side of Highway #22… or The Marquis De Lorne Trail… or Stoney Trail…. I think it’s now being called…
Anyway… it’s right near the overpass were the highway crosses over Macleod Trail on the south end of Calgary. I’ve been driving past the platform for the past few seasons, but never got around to stopping mostly because I wasn’t sure where to access it from. Turns out there is actually a small gravel road that runs right under the nest. After realizing this, and seeing the Osprey return to the nest this spring I decided I would have to find the time to visit it.
The really great thing about this nest is that it is right beside the overpass and you can climb up the embankment and end up only a couple metres below the level of the nest (instead of looking up at it from ground level). The nest is also located right beside a large pond or slough, so it is very active, and you can sit up on the hillside and watch them catch fish in the pond and then return to the nest to eat them.
The pictures below are just a few of the hundreds I shot on two different visits I made to the nest over the course of the summer. You can’t really tell, but on at least one occasion there was two or three young chicks in the nest, though they never really came far enough out of the nest to get a picture of.
Headed out to McKinnon Flats southeast of Calgary to do some fishing on the Bow river. On the way there I made a quick stop off at the lake (which doesn’t appear to have a name so I call it McKinnon Lake) that is a little bit down the road and across Highway 22 from the turnoff to the flats.
Although I didn’t find anything especially exciting, the usual suspects (yellow-headed, and red-winged blackbirds) were out in full force and I was able to get a few worthwhile shots.
I wanted to try some fishing down on the Bow River south of Carburn Park near Douglasdale and the Deerfoot Bridge. It was a beautiful day to be out on the river, and although the fish weren’t biting at all I had a run-in with a porcupine on the way back, although the light was pretty much gone I was able to get a few shots in, and get close enough to use my flash.
After a mostly uneventful day in Jasper I thought that rather than trying to shoot ugly scenery under grey overcast skies I would spend the day exploring the unknown stretch of Highway 40 between Hinton and Rocky Mountain House (I’ve previously driven the stretch from Highway 1, to Rocky Mountain House, and from Highway 1 all the way south to Highway 3 in the Crowsnest Pass and the US border).
As expected it was a long day of driving, with more than a few rather sketchy sections with the highway winding around and in a few cases making use of what must have been little more than forestry logging roads.
The weather was such that there was very little opportunity for any kind of landscape photography, and for most of the day you could hardly see the mountains at all.
I did have a couple of run-ins with some large groups of both Big-Horned Sheep and Elk, which is always fun.
What I found really interesting was how much industry is going on up there, with coal mines and logging operations all over the place.
Overall it was another pretty uneventful day, but I could imagine the drive being a lot more interesting and enjoyable on a sunny summer day.
There is a pond on the north side of the Trans-Canada Highway just before the Jumping-pound exit, that for whatever reason draws a group of Trumpeter Swans every spring. While most of the time I’m speeding by on the highway and just get a glimpse of them, today I thought I should take the time to try and get some photos.
To put it bluntly, it was so cold and windy that I could hardly hold the camera still, the light was terrible, the Swans were filthy, and they swam off to the far side of the pond as soon as I pulled up.
Not my best photo stop, but at least I tried, and well there’s always next year.
I’ve been taking the Spring Birding Course put on by the Friends of Fish Creek Society (http://friendsoffishcreek.org/programs/birding-course/), which is basically a weekly guided tour through Fish Creek and some of the other parks in the city. Despite the fact that it seems to snow or rain every Monday morning, and I’m a good three decades younger than everyone else, it’s been both interesting and educational.
On this particular morning we headed down to Carburn Park, which I was particularly excited about as it’s a place I visit frequently and was curious to see what we would find there with a guide.
To my surprise though we never went into the park, but instead headed downstream, and followed along the river towards Douglasdale, and the Deerfoot Trail bridge.
It was a good morning for a walk, and the birds where out in full force, Osprey and swans and geese passing overhead. I saw my first Red-necked Grebe but only got a quick shot off before it dove under the water and disappeared downstream.
The highlight of the day was a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers, that popped up from behind a fallen log and scared me half to death. The Pileated Woodpecker is the one that the character Woody Woodpecker is based on, with it’s bright red crown it’s easily recognizable. I had never before seen one of them, and was really surprised to see them, as I didn’t think they came this far north, but apparently I was wrong. What really impressed me about them is how large of a bird they are, easily the size of a magpie, if not a crow.
Frank Lake is a Ducks Unlimited conservation site southeast of Calgary that is an important breeding site for many migratory birds (http://www.ducks.ca/your-province/alberta/wetlands-area/frank-lake/). How I went this long without hearing about this place completely baffles me, so when I was told about it I headed down for a look the first chance I got.
One of the birds on my list to find and photograph this year was the American Avocet. I spotted one the previous spring and thought they were pretty cool looking so I was hoping to get some photos when their migration brought them up north again.
All I can say about Frank Lake is that it’s pretty awesome. On my first visit there I found not only the one Avocet I was looking for, but was greeted by an entire flock of a few dozen of them wading around in a pool right near where I parked my car. There is also a great viewing blind that sits out over the water where you can watch all the ducks and geese out on the lake.
While there I spotted a large unfamiliar bird landing in the reeds off in the distance, and though it was too far away to identify at the time I shot some (really bad) photos, and after getting home was able identify it as a Black Crowned Night Heron. A bird I had never even heard of let alone seen before, so that was pretty exciting.
When I fist arrived at the lake I ran into a lady who asked me about Short-eared owls (at least I think that’s what she was asking, her English was not great, and I was rather confused). But then later when the sun was pretty much down and I was packing up I saw what was obviously some kind of owl flying around way off in the distance. I shot a couple of photos but was pretty much out of light so I put my gear away and headed out. Then as I was driving the gravel road back away from the lake it flew right up to within 10 metres of my passenger window and followed along beside me for a couple of hundred metres. She was right, it was a Short Eared Owl.
Overall my first experience at Frank Lake was pretty awesome, and I’m sure I’ll be heading back again in the near future.
The weather was finally starting to warm up a little, so I headed down to Carburn park to try my hand at some spring fishing, and test out my new 500mm lens. The fishing was entirely uneventful, so I spent most of the time chasing birds around the shoreline.
Picked up my new lens yesterday, so as soon as I had a chance I headed down for a walk through the Weaselhead area in Calgary. There wasn’t a lot going on, but eventually I spotted a couple of Trumpeter Swans swimming around the western shore of Glenmore Reservoir.
After hibernating through the first few weeks of the year cabin fever finally got the better of me, so I got up early and headed out towards Spray Lakes in Kananaskis Country to see what I could find.
All I can say is I didn’t find much at all. It was pretty much a whiteout as I headed up the hill from Canmore and along the side of the lake. As far a wildlife goes the one and only highlight was a squirrel sitting on its pile of pine cone debris. Once I hit highway 40 the snow had stopped, and the sky clearing slightly, but it was still painfully cold and windy so the few times I did stop it was short lived and not very productive.
While camping at Cataract Creek there was a deer that liked to hang out in the meadow behind our site and kept popping up every now and then. There was also no shortage of insects, so I got out my macro lens and played around a little bit.