I was among a semi-circle of four photographers, laying flat, belly-down on the icy ground, heads awkwardly propped in front of our cameras, lenses aimed towards an opening in the water. If any of the people on the nearby path questioned our sanity, they were kind enough to keep quiet, continuing on with nothing more than puzzled looks. We had good reason for enduring such a back-breaking/neck-wrenching position – an adorable, water-logged creature was bound to pop out of the hole with a fish in her mouth at any moment. Over the past 6 hours, we had witnessed this very scene on more than one occasion – we needed to be ready for an encore.
What creature were we waiting for? Did she make another appearance? Keep scrolling – number three of my top wildlife encounters of 2017 reveals the answer…
10. Barred Owl in Fish Creek Park
A lifer for me! This celebrity owl, seen in North Glenmore park in January, garnered lots of attention from photographers and birders in Calgary. It took a few tries for me, but I’m so happy I finally got a chance to see and photograph this dark-eyed beauty.
9.Red-tailed Hawk vs. Golden Eagle
This scene was the first of many bird interactions I observed this year. It seemed like every raptor I saw in 2017 was being chased by a smaller bird, likely intent on protecting her territory. A red-tailed hawk pursuing a significantly larger golden eagle was by far the most dramatic, seen with photographer and friend Jamie Pentney in early April, SW of Calgary.
8. Burrowing Owl Couple
My visit to Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan in late April was a highlight for 2017. According to my friends Simon and Jill , who were exploring the park for three full days before I arrived, this burrowing owl couple showed up on the same evening that I arrived – what a treat to see these endangered owls in such a beautiful setting!
7. Sharp-tailed Grouse at Lek
I had seen glimpses of the elaborate mating displays of sharp-tailed grouse before, but never really had a good, solid look. During my grasslands trip, I was able to observe and photograph several sharpies at their staging ground known as a lek. Here are two males competing for a female’s attention.
6. Black bear cub in a tree
Is there anything cuter than a bear cub in a tree? I don’t think so – I had been desperate to capture this scene for years and the sight finally came to fruition in Waterton this past May.
5. Playful fox kits
What a treat to watch five fox kits at play in the Southern AB rockies in July! Being with my young protege/niece Lillian, a young girl with a growing passion for photography and nature, made this encounter extra special.
4. Long tailed weasel
My encounter with Willy the Wonder Weasel in June required a dedicated blog post.
3. American Mink
If you made it this far down my list, I’ll pat myself on the back for an effective intro cliff hanger 😉 Myself and three good friends – Jill, Simon and Jamie – were entertained by Millie the mink for a full eight hours one chilly day in Fish Creek Park in November. Did she pop out of the hole with a fish? She sure did, but not when us photographers were circling it, as described above. At that point, she popped out of another hole about 100 meters down stream of us. Despite her evasion, we were all ridiculously happy with our experience that day. This is the first opportunity I’ve had to observe and photograph this awesome little weasel 🙂 Even more amazing, this was about a week after another fantastic weasel encounter – keep scrolling…
2. Pine marten
My second ever encounter with a pine marten just barely missed being number one on my list for 2017. Simon and Jill have had a lot of success with weasels this year, particularly with martens. So, when Jamie and I meet them in Jasper in November, I knew a marten encounter was a very real possibility. Sure enough, an hour after we entered the realm of the ‘weasel whisperers,’ we were photographing the adorably entertaining marten named Marty. 🙂
1. Humpback Whale
I believe the spirit of our lost loved ones lives on in the beauty of mother nature’s creations. I’ve seen this at play during this past year on countless occasions – every animal sighting stirs my soul and reminds me that there is magic at work beyond the physical world. I owe a huge thanks to my dad and my friend Mary Beth, who both left the world this year, but are continuing to arrange miracles for me in the form of the animals I love so much. This humpback whale in Maui, revealing his enchanting beauty beyond the water in December, was an amazing end to my 2017 wildlife adventures.
Happy 2018 everyone! Until next time, continue loving life and everything wild.