The following are from a collection of photos I have taken of owls, that I will be using for a self published book. It wasn’t that long ago, I was thrilled to take a photo of a distant owl in a tree in Southern Ontario. (At first I thought it was a plastic bag that had blown into the tree). Subsequently I was thrilled to see my first short-eared owls in Southern Indiana, when we still owned a home in Kentucky. I still get the same thrill every time I manage to see and photograph an owl, and living in British Columbia, I am finding many opportunities to see owls.
The Fraser Valley is a great location to see wintering ducks, geese and swans which have migrated south from more northerly regions.The following photos have been taken over the last couple of weeks at the Cheam Lake Wetlands, Willband Creek Park and the Reifel Bird Sanctuary.
There is a very large gathering of eagles on the Harrison River near Vancouver, every November and December. At its peak, there are literally thousands of eagles along a short distance of river. They are drawn by spawning salmon, which die after they spawn. The following photos were taken over the last month.
Over the past few weeks I have had a lot of fun photographing an American bittern and a great-blue heron, fishing in nearby Willband Creek Park.
The following pictures were taken in July in Southern BC and in the San Juan Islands of Washington State. It has been a great summer for variety, although mid-summer tends to be a “slow” period. A recent trip to the Reifel Bird Sanctuary, resulted in the lowest number of species I have seen on an outing there, but with hot, dry weather, I was not surprised.
Western tanager. Taken at Okanagan Lake near Summerland.
Lewis’s woodpecker. Also taken in the Okanagan.
Male ruddy ducks. Tunkwa Lake.
Great grey owl. Taken near Logan Lake.
Female great grey owl with vole it had just caught.
Juvenile great grey owls. Taken near Logan Lake.
Common loon, mother and juvenile. Lac le Jeune.
Feeding time for the baby loons. Lac le Jeune.
Male California quail. Okanagan.
Peregrine falcon. Fraser Valley.
Sooty grouse (female). Manning Park.
Ospreys at the nest. Fraser Valley.
This osprey is about to fledge. When the young osprey opened its wings, the wind lifted the bird, but it did not leave the nest.
Female belted kingfisher. Reifel Sanctuary.
Heerman’s gull. Smith Island (Washington).
Tufted puffin. Smith Island.
A school of fish come to the surface near Smith Island, resulting in a feeding frenzy for gulls, puffins and auklets.
Glaucous-winged gulls feeding on the fish.
Common murre. San Juan Islands, Washington.
Rhinoceros auklet. Smith Island.
We were able to watch and photograph great grey owls on several occasions this past June, in both British Columbia and Alberta. Here are some additional photographs taken of the owls. (We saw nine altogether). All photos were taken with a 500 mm lens. Most were cropped, some significantly. The owls seemed unperturbed by our presence and kept up their normal activities, while we stood back and observed.
In the preceding photo, the male has just passed over a mole to the female, who in turn passes it on to one of the owlets.
These photos were taken recently in the BC Interior. It was fascinating to watch the father hunting for voles, then passing the voles to the mother who selectively fed the owlets. From the photos you can see that the smaller male is greyer and darker than the female. The owlets which fledged a week or so ago, are quite brown. All photos were taken at a distance with a 500 mm lens. The hunting male took no notice of me and flew by quite frequently while hunting. We saw one of the owlets fly from one tree to another. We enjoyed watching two owlets climbing.
One of my favourite owls to find and photograph, is the northern pygmy owl. This is an owl of forests and mountains, most often seen in reforested areas of tree harvesting, adjacent to tall timber. Although it appears “cute”, it is a fierce predator and will take on birds and small rodents that can be well more than its own weight. Finding them can be like the search for the elusive needle in a haystack, but they remain more or less in the same area, year round. They typically are first spotted as a “baseball on a branch”, perched high on a small sapling or on a tree branch, from which they can look and listen for prey. They hunt in the day time and are not easily disturbed by people, as long as people don’t try to get too close. Indeed, once they perceive a low level of threat, they will fly and perch close to people, if the perch is “right”.
Helmcken Falls is certainly one of the most spectacular, accessible waterfalls in British Columbia. Located in Wells Gray Provincial Park, you can access the waterfall by paved road. Of course road accessibility in winter is impacted by snow- the region receives a great deal of snow! We were fortunate in that when we traveled to the park this past week the road into the falls viewing area had just been plowed, and when we arrived we were the only people there. (Subsequently we saw two other vehicles on the road- certainly not crowded!) It is also the location of one of the most dangerous and difficult ice climbs on the continent, and the 141 metre climb was made in February by a renowned climber from Alberta. (I don’t think I would want to watch such a climb!) The waterfall is about two and a half times the height of Niagara Falls, but in winter, a significant part of the falls is concealed by a gigantic ice cone that forms around the base. The drive into the falls is beautiful, and we were fortunate to see crossbills, a black-backed woodpecker, a Cassin’s finch, a ruffed grouse, eagles and numerous other birds. In the summer, we have seen black bears and a moose on this same road.
I very much enjoy the winter, outdoors in South Western BC, particularly when I think of winters in other places I have lived. Most weeks, I am able to get out two to four times a week for walks, hikes, cycling or birding. Although there are many rainy days, there are still numerous opportunities within the rainy weeks for good outings. The fact that there are so many northern birds wintering in the area makes this region one of the best winter “birding” locations in Canada. So far this year (mid-month), I have managed to see more than 100 species of birds in the area. (Serious birders are able to find many more species than I am able to find!) I know this is not a large number compared to what could be found in such places as Florida and other warmer locations, but it is certainly much more than I was able to identify when living in Ontario and Quebec, and we have mountains and ocean to enjoy as well. Here are some of my favourite photos from the month (so far).
This has been a good month for photography in southern BC, particularly compared to much colder places I have lived. While there has been a lot of rain, it has been warm and the non-rainy times have been excellent for being outdoors. When I have been tempted to complain, I think back to being stuck in a snow-filled ditch at -25 Celsius in SW Ontario while trying to find snowy owls! So far I have taken more than 3000 photos this month – a great number by my standards. Here are a few of my favourites. I don’t think I have posted more than one or two of these on Facebook.
Winter is the best time to photograph ducks in this region of the country. These are a few “mug shots” taken recently.