It’s the weekend and the holiday season is in full swing! For many that means having a few drinks and while we may think we are unique in the animal world for liking to consume alcoholic products, sometimes overindulging and getting ourselves intoxicated, there are many other species that do the same thing. Sometimes on purpose, sometimes by accident!
Take these Bohemian waxwings for example. Recently we treated several of these birds that came into the wildlife hospital with various injuries related to trauma. In early winter and spring it is common to come across large numbers of these birds on the ground, unable to fly and appearing drunk. They are in fact drunk! Many berries ferment on trees and in Alberta a good example is mountain ash, a favourite of bohemian waxwings. If they don’t overindulged they are usually fine, but if they get a little carried away, they consume enough alcohol that they start falling out of trees!
Some get picked off my cats and other predators, some recover soon enough to fly away and some try to fly but end up hitting windows, cars, buildings, etc. That’s the most likely reason why we had a handful come into us earlier this fall. We put them through our recovery program, which consisted of fluids, pain killers, rest, and a diet of non-fermented berries. They quickly sobered up and after several days, any lingering sore muscles, aches and pains were gone and they were ready to rejoin their flocks. Not too different from many people during the holiday season I would say!
The New Year has not resulted in a slow down in my opportunistic backyard wildlife photography and in fact it seems to have picked up a bit! This time it was the largest cervid in North America to make an appearance and while the photo isn’t great, it is was more to document the sighting than anything!
I was enjoying the beautiful morning sunrise in Calgary while cooking breakfast when I looked out the kitchen window and noticed this cow and calf moose making their way down the path to the backyard pond! I immediately sprang into action, racing around the house throwing on warm clothes and my boots while grabbing my camera and coat hoping they would still be there when I got out the back door. Sure enough, they had stopped where I last saw them to nibble on some shoots. I walked down the small hill to the pond and managed to snap off a few photos before the mother got spooked by something and trotted across the frozen pond with her calf in tow. By this point, several cars and pedestrians had stopped along the road to take in the rare event. As everyone looked on, the moose made their way up the bank and down the sidewalk ignoring the backlog of traffic before disappearing out of sight.
Every year a few moose end up in Calgary. They make their way into the city by travelling along rivers and park systems. Thankfully, these two appeared to know their way around the neighbourhood and successfully navigated all the city traffic, houses and pedestrians on their way to more suitable habitat on the outskirts of town. Those that wander too far into the city require ‘assistance’ from the local Fish and Wildlife officers, who sometimes need to sedate and move the moose if they get stuck in someone’s backyard or wander into the downtown core.
It will be hard to top this latest backyard wildlife sighting but it left me wondering what wildlife will be next to show up at my doorstep?
Prairie hares, also known as white-tailed jackrabbits are frequent backyard visitors in Calgary neighbourhoods but since they are primarily nocturnal, getting decent photographs of them is not easy. Sometimes a bit of luck is all that is required! This photo is probably the easiest wildlife photograph I have ever taken. I didn’t even have to leave the house! I just grabbed my camera, opened the sliding door and snapped off a few photos before the last of the sunlight disappeared.
On one of the recent cold snaps in Calgary, a light dusting of snow covered the branches of the aspen trees in my backyard, creating a beautiful winter wonderland. I’m sure in a few months I will be longing for a tropical retreat, but for now I’m enjoying winter!
I often drive several hundred kilometers and spend countless hours outside trying to find wildlife to photograph. However, sometimes it’s much easier. This past week I just had to look out my office window! Sitting in a stand of aspen trees was this great horned owl. Not surprisingly the usual four squirrels that frequent the backyard were nowhere to be seen. I quickly grabbed my camera, took a few photographs and returned to the warmth of my office to watch the owl from a distance.
It was a great year for snowy owl sightings in and around Calgary. A bumper crop of lemmings in the north last year resulted in a population explosion of snowies that were seen as far south as Texas. One even made it over to Hawaii where it was promptly shot! I photographed this one several times throughout the winter near the town of Balzac.
Canada Day fireworks in downtown Calgary. I took this picture from a hill overlooking the Calgary Zoo