Happy 2015 everyone! Today’s primarily pictorial post features a favorite image from each month of 2014. I did a few trips to Ontario, BC and Hawaii this year, but for the purpose of this review, I’m sticking to my home province of Alberta – there is no shortage of wildlife close to home.
Even with a narrowed-down focus, choosing only one favorite per month was not an easy task – I’ve had so many amazing experiences this year – but I did my best. Enjoy 🙂
January – Great Grey Owl in Calgary
This handsome specimen caused quite a stir in a local Calgary park last January. What a treat to view and photograph a Great Grey Owl a mere 10 minute drive from my house! I captured several shots of this fellow on two occasions. In the past, I have over-looked this image in favor of the flight and/or with mouse shots, but I actually really like this one. I love the way the owl blends with the tree, and seems to be imprinted on the picturesque background.
February – Northern Hawk Owl NW of Calgary
Another amazing encounter with an Alberta owl occurred in February. This image is from one of my best-ever encounters with a Northern Hawk Owl. I almost missed him perched on a telephone poll when I drove by. I stopped and watched him for about two hours. I just couldn’t leave – the owl was not bothered by my presence and the light was just amazing.
March – Frosty Short-eared Owl South of Calgary
On a chilly -40 day in early March, Turbo and I took a drive south of Calgary and found this Short-eared Owl just before sunrise. We got a chance to watch him huddled in the grass as the sun was rising – the lighter it got, the more we could see the frost encrusted on his eyes and feathers. We came back a couple of hours later to find him in the exact same spot, but significantly thawed.
April – Snow Geese in SE Alberta
My friend Jerri had recently picked up a new camera and the bug for photography, so it was not hard to convince her to take a drive with me in search of the Snow Geese that had been spotted SE of Calgary. As we pulled down the slope towards the lake, the tell-tale sea of white appeared. There were thousands of Snow Geese mixed with Canadian Geese on the side of the lake. As we watched, several hundred more circled in and landed, and then they all made their mass exodus and flew off over the lake. It was an indescribable sight!
May – Yellow-bellied Marmot in SW Alberta
I am resisting the urge to re-hash my May Canadian Lynx sighting once again, so I decided to focus on a new species for me this year: the Yellow-bellied Marmot. I had heard the YB Marmots are common at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, West of Fort Macleod, so I popped over to the location on a trip home from Lethbridge. I saw a couple marmots, but the light was fading, so Turbo and I decided to do a trek south the next weekend. We were not disappointed – we saw several YB Marmots, including this young one that was vying for his mother’s attention. He couldn’t be cuter 🙂
June – Blonde Black Bear Cub in Waterton
I had a fantastic bear year, with many of my sightings occurring in June, so this month was particularly hard to narrow down to just one image. I saw this adorable little blonde black bear with his cinnamon mom in Waterton. The pair were busily munching on grass and flowers just beside a parking area. Usually when you see a bear, especially in Waterton, you are part of a huge bear jam, but this was one of the rare occasions where I got a bear viewing all to myself (from the safety of my car).
July – Grizzly Bear Cubs in Kananaskis
I was part of the small bear jam when I saw these two grizzly cubs and their mom in Kananaskis, but that did not take away from the experience at all. Their mom was so gentle and attentive – she never let the cubs out of her sight. The cubs were curious, often standing up to allow a better view in the tall grass. This was a record grizzly bear spotting day for me, with a total of 7 including these two cubs and their mom, another mom and cub, and two more adults. What an unbelievable day!
August – American Kestrel in the Porcupine Hills
This past year I started exploring a region in SW Alberta know as the Porcupine Hills. This Kestrel was one of the many birds of prey I saw in this expansive hill range that stretches from about Nanton (north) to Claresholm (south) between highway 2 and 22. It is a fantastic region for birds of prey including, Golden and Bald Eagles, Ferruginous, Red-tailed and Swainsons hawks, Kestrels, Merlins, Prairie Falcons, Northern Harriers and Great Gray Owls. I can’t wait to do some more exploring this year.
September – Golden Eagle in the Porcupine Hills
A rocky ridge on the SW side of the above mentioned Porcupine Hills was particularly fruitful for Golden Eagles. In my eight to ten treks through the hills this past year, I always saw at least one in this area everytime, including this beauty.
October – Bull Moose in Spray Valley
Several cars and 10 to 12 people where observing this beautiful bull moose when I pulled up. I rolled down my window, and realized I knew many of them, either personally or through various facebook groups. Initially the moose was grazing on the opposite side of the railing. It looked like he might cross the road so I stayed in my car and watched. Then, surprisingly, he just laid down in the grass, in front of all the spectators. I quietly made my way and joined the rest of the group. The sun was slowing creeping into the valley – I could hear all of our silent prayers to the moose: ‘please stay put until the sun reaches you.’ He did not abide, so we all had to settle for dull-ish light. But that’s okay – it was a great experience to observe and photograph this handsome fellow along side some amazing wildlife photographers.
November – Long-tailed Weasel in Fish Creek Park
AKA the fish creek celebrity – the little weasel was making regular appearances in Fish Creek Park this winter, and actually probably still is. Many have seen and photographed him in this exact scenario – running back to his den with a meal. This was my first capture of a fully-white weasel, so I had to include it in my 2014 highlights.
December 2014 – Snowy Owl in Southern Alberta
This beauty just barely made my 2014 list – I saw him a mere two days ago on December 31 just West of Claresholm. I haven’t had a chance to get out looking for snowies around Calgary yet this year, so I was happy to see a number of them closer to Lethbridge, where I spent the holidays. In past years, I haven’t seen that many in the ‘far’ south.
That’s it for now. It has been a fantastic year and I’m sure 2015 will be just as good, or even better. A reminder: I strive to have a little impact as possible on my animal subjects – view my photography ethics here if you want to learn more.
Until next time, continue to love life and all things wild 🙂