Tag Archive: Rocky mountains

Great grey owls are the tallest owls in North America, and yet they weigh about half as much as snowy or great horned owls. They are in essence giant fluff balls and need to always be on the lookout for potential predators. I found this great grey owl on a recent trip through the Rockies. Surprisingly, it was out hunting during the middle of the day, when many of its potential predators were out and about. It was on high alert for large raptors and when it spotted a circling red-tailed hawk, it immediately went into defensive mode. It locked its eyes on the hawk, fluffed itself up and tried to appear as intimidating as possible.

GGO high alert WMDeciding that the intimidation factor wasn’t having the desired results, it made a quick retreat!

GGO launching into flight WM

Heading to the ground allowed the owl to both hide under the bushes and provided camouflage. Any attack from the hawk would allow the owl to roll over on its back and use its talons to fend off the raptor. If you’ve ever come across an injured owl or hawk on the ground, you’ve probably experienced this same strategy first hand.

GGO on ground WMAfter several minutes the hawk soared over to another meadow and the owl relaxed. With the coast clear, it flew off low to the ground.

GGO flight exit WMThis process was repeated a few more times, but with the spring rodent supply being so plentiful the easy prey must have outweighed the hassle of putting up with the pesky hawk.

Wild Pup

Wolf pup black 2014

Wild wolf sightings are always thrilling, but seeing and photographing wolf pups takes it to a whole new level. Finding them is the first challenge. Getting any decent photos is the next. I positioned myself next to a small clearing and silently waited, hoping one of them would come out into the clearing. Luck was on my side that day and I managed to get a few decent photos of this little black pup, no more than 3 months old before it trotted off to join its siblings as they explored their surroundings.

Curious Lynx

Lynx slink WM ss

One more photo from the amazing, wild lynx encounter! Which lynx photo do you prefer?

Sunset river yellow and green trees cropped and edited WM

After a busy few months I’m starting to get back on track with my photography. I took this photo earlier this month in northern British Columbia near the Yukon border. It was more spring like in the Yukon than in Calgary, so that was a nice, pleasant surprise!

Ironically, it seems every time I’m on this road there is a caribou connection. The first time I drove this section it was to complete a long distance transport of a herd of caribou from Fairbanks, Alaska to Fort St. John BC, so we only stopped for fueling up and short breaks.  This time it was because I was presenting at the North American Caribou Workshop in Whitehorse, Yukon and I decided to drive rather than fly. It was a great trip with lots of wildlife sightings, including numerous caribou along the way.

Over the next month or so I will post a few photos from the trip. I hope you enjoy them!

Pika mouthfull landscape WMOn a 3-4 hour round trip hike into a backcountry area of the Rockies my girlfriend was struggling to stay motivated and it was clear she wasn’t enjoying the steady uphill climb. While she can carry a heavy pack and hike like a machine in the prairies on scorching hot days while I whither under the sun, she detests any uphill hikes in the mountains. Finding a hike that would be enjoyable was out of the question, it was just a matter of finding one that had a big enough reward at the end to make it worth it!  I tried picking one that was not very steep and that had a tea house at the end where we could treat ourselves to drinks and treats in a beautiful wilderness setting. While that helped get her to the trail head, it didn’t guarantee that she would want to do anything like it again. Thankfully, her love of small mammals seems to trump almost anything else and as luck would have it there were lots where we were heading, including pika, a species she had never laid eyes on before!

After visiting the tea house and trying some of homemade treats and teas we went over to a huge rock avalanche area with a nearby meadow full of lush vegetation; about as ideal a spot for pika as you can find. We sat quietly on the rocks and within a few minutes we were rewarded with our first pika, then another and another! We watched as they sun bathed on the rocks, learned their favourite feeding spots and travel routes and saw them unsuccessfully trying to defend their stashes from the raiding chipmunks. It was a rodent biologists dream come true and needless to say the torture of the uphill hike quickly melted away and was replaced by her excitement at seeing and watching these little farmers go about their daily lives.

With the pika and chipmunks providing the entertainment, I focused on photography. I set up my wide angle lens on a rock next to an area that it routinely passed by on the way back to its hay stash. I pre-focused on the spot I guess it would pass through, moved back and waited with my remote in hand. It didn’t take long before it jumped along the rocks with a mouth full of green grass completely unconcerned by the addition a clicking camera.

That little pika really did save the day and plans are in the works for the next mountain wildlife hike!