Like the spectrum of a kaleidoscope coming together to form vivid pictures pulled from my mind, the spring/summer of 2016 has been filled with amazing wildlife manifestations. I find it fascinating to look back at how all these experiences started, as small nuggets in my imagination – some sightings were born from years of intense yearning, others were more subtle, like small inklings niggling at me from the outskirts of my consciousness. They were all, however, imagined first in one way or another, and I’m amazing at how the process of manifestation seems to work for me, at least with wildlife..
Standing Grizzly Bears
Both black and grizzly bears stand a lot. They use the strength and dexterity of their hind legs to rise above the vegetation and assess their environment. Ever since I started photographing bears, I’ve been anxious to capture a good image of a standing bear, and mother nature delivered in spades this year.
April 23 – My first grizzly sighting of the year was of a mom and three cubs. When I saw them, they also saw me, and both mom and one of the littles ones rose to check me out. Read the full story of my first grizzlies of the 2016 here.
May 7 – Two weeks after the above encounter, I was in the same area looking for wild horses and found two of the three cubs standing/exploring the world on their own.
July 8 – This was an amazing encounter with my friends Simon Jackson and Jill Cooper, Ghost Bear Photography. We were out in Kananaskis looking for bears, and came across this beautiful mom and yearling cub. They were both calm but very curious, often rising to get a better view of their surroundings.
Wrestling Grizzly Bears 126 and 142 – July 2016
It turns out several sightings of standing grizzly bears on their own wasn’t enough – mother nature took this vision to the extreme later in July when I was present for the materialization of a friend’s vision. Simon’s vision was pretty ‘out-there,’ to say the least: Two grizzly bears engaged with each other in a field of wild flowers, in good light, close enough to capture detailed photos from the safety of a vehicle. Yeah right, like that would ever happen!!
Well it did happen, and I am indescribably grateful to have seen and captured such an extraordinary event. View more of my photos here. Simon and Jill will soon have their photos posted on the Ghost Bear website, so please watch for them as well.
Wolf – May 2016
“I know I’ll photograph a wolf someday, it might even happen this Tuesday in Banff,” I recall telling a friend a few days prior to the actual manifestation. I had been telling her how much I really, really wanted a wolf – my desire was strong and solid, perhaps even verging on desperation. So when this beautiful girl appeared on that Tuesday in Banff – well, there are no words to describe the feeling of a dream coming true. Read the full story here. Unfortunately, the wolf was killed by park staff a couple weeks after I saw her because she was conditioned to human food. Words also can’t describe how devastating it was to learn of her death. I have another post on a subsequent wolf sighting in Banff and my thoughts on this tragedy here.
Male Harlequin Duck – May 2016
As I was preparing for my two-day trip to Jasper, AB in May 2016, my intuition told me I would see something I have never seen before. Sure enough, the brilliantly-colored male harlequin duck swan from my imagination and onto the river, right before my eyes. Harlequin ducks are amazing! They love fast moving water and are excellent divers and swimmers. I had seen a few females before, but this was my first male and I was so happy to watch and photograph this beautiful specimen of a duck for a good 20 minutes. The amazing swimming harlequin out-shined all other sightings on that trip to Jasper, including the bears.
Female white-tailed ptarmigan in summer plumage – August 2016
I have had a tumultuous relationship with the white-tailed ptarmigan. Having finally conquered my goal to see this lovely grouse-like bird in good light in the winter, I set my sights on finding one in the summer, when they sport a marbled brown plumage instead of pure white. This was one of those inklings-rather-than-strong-desire-type manifestations – I know their territory in the summer is high elevation, rocky slope areas, so in the rare times I’m in this environment, I tune in to my desire to see a summer ptarmi.
‘This seems like good ptarmi territory,’ I thought to myself on the hike up to Hidden Lake Look out, at the summit of Logan’s Pass, Montana. So my eyes were peeled, watching for the football-shaped figure amoung the rocks. On the way down, I saw it – barely distinguishable from the surrounding rocks was a white-tailed ptarmigan. And, the icing on the cake was she had three little chicks! I was ridiculously excited to find her and her babies.
Little Brown Bat – July 2016
My desire to see a bat sleeping in the day time was solidified when I learned it was a realistic option at a spot I frequently visit in the summer. Last summer, my friend Jamie, Crzy Cnuk Photography, and I visited the Highwood House in Kananaskis to check out the hummingbirds that frequent the feeders. We were lucky enough to meet an amazing women who was there banding hummingbirds, and she mentioned to us that sometimes you can see bats sleeping under the eaves of the house. Jamie and I both excitedly checked on that trip, and many subsequent trips, until finally I was rewarded with my first bat sighting in July. Unfortunately Jamie was not with me this time, but I’m sure he’ll keep looking.
Badger in daylight in a field – August 2016
I have seen several badgers, but haven’t had much luck photographing them – they were in poor light, partially blocked, too quick, etc. A couple of years ago, I started imagining finding a badger in a field, out in the open and easily viewable. I knew this scenario was not super common, but definitely a possibility – I’ve seen many photographs of such a scene. As a result, I’ve actually had badgers on my mind more often than I care to admit. If I’m driving around in a prairie area, I’m watching for potential den sites, thinking an active den is my best chance of seeing badgers during the day. A few weeks ago, I saw it! While driving, I happened to notice some furry, low-to-the-ground, rug-like figures digging in a patch of dry dirt – two badgers. Success! Here’s one of them:
With the harsh light, my pictures are not great, but this is one of my most memorable manifestations of the summer. I really feel like my steadfast vision and active imagination are what brought the badger-viewing dream to fruition. If I hadn’t become so accustomed to looking for badgers, there is no way I would have seen the dirt-colored figures in the dirt, especially since I was driving 100k/hour. I barely saw the movement, but the second I did I knew exactly what it was.
Like with all my sightings, I was just expecting to see the badgers in the field someday, but I knew I had no control over where or when – all I could do was put myself in an environment (both physically and mentally) where the sighting was a possibility and keep my eyes wide open. That’s how it works 🙂
These were actually only a few of my manifestations – there was also the side-by-side frog and toad at Buller Pond, a ‘flying’ (jumping) pika at Rock Glacier, my first thirteen-lined ground squirrel south of Claresholm, my first peregrine falcon north of Lethbridge – the list goes on, and summer is not even over yet. I can’t wait to see what mother nature has in sort for me next.
Until next time, continue loving life and all things wild 🙂