An adorable fox kit leans in to get a hard to reach spot. This was one of five kits being raised by their hard working parents in Waterton Lakes National Park earlier this spring
I don’t get down to Waterton as much as I would like these days but when I do make the trip it is always special. Having spent lots of time there in the past, I have certain spots I like to revisit to see if the wildlife is still following the same rhythms. Even though much of the park was closed due to the recent flooding I wasn’t disappointed when we came across the huge flock of cliff swallows I have been watching for a few years now. I took this photo with a 12-24mm wide angle lens so that gives you an idea of how close the birds get. It felt like I was in the middle of their flock and they didn’t seem concerned in the least by our presence, often times hovering only a few feet away as the strong winds blew through the mountain passes.
The strong winds were perfect for the swallows to use to hover above the water in search of insects. I used the opportunity to try to get a few close-ups of them in flight. Not an easy feat even when they are close-by and cooperative.
This one is my favourite of the close-ups. It clearly shows the aerodynamic profile of the wings and how the birds use their tail feathers to help stabilize and steer themselves through the air.
I’m in the danger zone taking this picture but thankfully none of the swallows took issue with me and I made it out no worse for wear!
A thick blanket of fog encircles a stand of trees on a cool morning in Waterton Lakes National Park.
This clump of feathers appeared almost like a ground nest, but in fact the feathers are all that remain of a grey jay that was likely consumed by a fisher or a pine marten.
This photo is from last year as well. The cliff swallows routinely nest under the bridge just before the main gate and whenever I heavy truck goes over the bridge they on mass, fly out from underneath. For a few minutes they circle from above to make sure it is safe to return to their nests so I set up on the bridge with my wide angle lens on a bright sunny morning and didn’t have to wait too long before a truck went past and I was able to catch them in flight with the mountain range in the background.
I’m going through images from last year that I haven’t gotten around to posting. This is from the buffalo paddock in Waterton Lakes National Park. The herd crested over a hill just as the sun rose above the landscape allowing me to create this image of a young male calf having some golden grass for breakfast.
This past weekend in Waterton was unseasonably warm with Saturday above 30 degrees Celsius and little to know wind. Excellent weather for enjoying the park, but I knew that the black bears would be suffering from the high heat and lack of wind and would likely be searching out water to cool off. When I first came across this big male black bear he was busy feeding on berries. However, after about an hour of being in the direct sunlight he was panting heavily and he kept looking over a small ridge in the direction of a creek. Within a few minutes he lumbered through the Saskatoon berry bushes, through a small cluster of aspen trees before heading down the rocky shoreline. I quickly went to the opposite side of the creek and got into position as he descended the bank. Without hesitation he walked into the creek and laid down, first on one side and then the other making sure to get as much of his body covered in the cool fast running water. His panting quickly stopped and for several minutes he just laid in the water…the human equivalent of lounging in the pool with a cold drink in hand! But a bear in the fall has an insatiable hunger. They need to eat almost constantly to put on enough weight to survive the winter and so I’m sure his hunger for food quickly overrode his temporary relief from the heat.
Sufficiently cooled off, he makes his way across the creek in search of more food.
Having made his way through the grasslands, his powerful sense of smell lead him to a cluster of berry bushes shaded by the the aspen and poplar forests. The large mountain in the background is Mt. Vimy.
About ten minutes after leaving the big male bear at the base of Mt. Vimy I decided to try my luck at another lake that I have seen black bears swimming in before. Literally within a few minutes of walking along the lake I spotted something swimming on the other side. From a distance I initially thought it was a beaver because of the distance it was away from the shore and only its head was above the water, but as I got closer and zoomed in with my telephoto lens I realized it was a black bear swimming around the lake! I couldn’t believe my luck! It had been 5 years since I last saw a bear in this lake. I started fumbling with my camera gear hoping that I could capture a few decent photos before she got out of the water. She swam for about 50 meters before she looked in my direction but if she spotted me, she did not care that I was there as she continued along until she reached a shallow point at the tip of the lake. This photo was taken just prior to that. The dark areas in the water are the shadows cast by the huge pine trees surrounding the lake.
Once she reached the shallow tip of the lake she splashed and rolled around getting her head and ears wet. I guessed that she would begin to shake her head and so I quickly selected a shutter speed that I hoped would capture the motion of her head shaking and radiating water droplets while keeping her eye in focus. I have been trying for years to get photos of wildlife doing this behaviour but each time I have been a bit off with the shutter speed and aperture with the image either too blurry or too static. This time I got lucky! She turned and faced me before shaking her head back and forth to get the water off her face and ears. For sure, one of my favourite photos to date.
Still not caring that I was nearby, she rolled around in the shallow water playing with sunken sticks like they were bath toys. She then lifted up her back feet, laid back and surveyed the lake. A few moments passed before she decided bath time was over. She casually waded over to the shore, walked up the bank and instead of shaking the water off she just drip dried as she disappeared into the pine forest in search of more berries to eat. Certainly the best few hours of black bear photography that I have had to date and an experience I won’t forget.