Evening Photography

I went for a drive one evening at the end of April with the intent of photographing the nearby one-room school house in the beautiful evening light, but I saw some good birds as well.

There were lots of Snow Geese, Canada Geese, and Northern Pintails feeding in our field and in the neighbours’; Northern Shovelers, Buffleheads, American Avocets, Lesser Yellowlegs, Tree Swallows, Snow Buntings, and a Red-tailed Hawk were also around.

A pair of Buffleheads,


Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/500, ISO 160, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

Northern Shovelers,


Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/400, ISO 160, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

Driving down one of the back roads, there was a big raptor sitting on a fence post, and it was a Peregrine Falcon! I took a few photos before it flew off. This is the second Peregrine I’ve seen in the area. The last and first one I saw was in September last year.

The Peregrine Falcon — such a stately bird,


Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/400, ISO 160, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light


Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/400, ISO 160, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

A view of the school from distance,


Nikon D610, handheld, f6.3, 1/640, ISO 100, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

I switched my 200-500 mm lens to the 50mm lens to better photograph the school. A Great Horned Owl was sitting in the back window of the school, and because of the lens switch, I didn’t get very good photos.

The departing Great Horned Owl,


Nikon D610, handheld, f1.4D, 1/400, ISO 160, Nikkor 50mm, natural light

The quaint Chatsworth School,


Nikon D610, handheld, f1.4D, 1/500, ISO 125, Nikkor 50mm, natural light

Two Rock Pigeons then flew out the windows, and that pretty much concluded the birding for the evening.


Nikon D610, handheld, f1.4D, 1/1,000, ISO 320, Nikkor 50mm, natural light

Fall for Raptors

I’ve been seeing a large number of raptors lately, from American Kestrels to Bald Eagles. This past Wednesday, I drove around looking for raptors and enjoying the colours of fall. The day was very overcast and cool, but I saw some top-quality birds!

This American Kestrel had been hunting around our house for the past few days, finally perching long enough for me to get a photo. The photos are not the best quality, but I love the colours of the kestrel and the trees behind it,IMG_9757IMG_9755

I barely got out of the truck, opting to park on the side of the road most of the time. I live in an area where the county roads have a good deal of traffic at harvest time — combines, swathers, grain trucks, pickup trucks going to town for parts. But the roads are quiet on rainy days when farmers are at home waiting for the fields and grain to dry.

Whether rural roads are quiet or busy, I always park in as much of the ditch as I can when birding with a vehicle, and I never park on the crest of the hill. If I’m driving and see a bird sitting close to the road, I check the rearview mirror to make sure it’s safe to pull over.

Our neighbours often stop to check on me when I’m watching something from the truck, just to make sure I’m not having any trouble. Everyone knows by now that I’m birding/photographing birds, but it’s a very nice gesture and I appreciate the stop very much.

I love birding by vehicle because you can get fairly close to some birds. Ducks and geese are very cautious at this time of year, so watching birds from the truck gives me more of a chance to look at them. I took our new truck as it’s very quiet, excellent on fuel, and has ample room for my scope, two cameras, and binoculars in the front seat.

A Blue-winged Teal,IMG_9761

This summer, the American White Pelicans frequented the slough (pond) across the road. There was only one this time, accompanied by Black-bellied Plovers, Long-billed Dowitchers, Killdeer, Lesser Yellowlegs, Mallards, Gadwalls, teals, Northern Shovelers, an adult Bald Eagle; Snow, Greater White-fronted, and Canada Geese; Ring-billed Gulls, and Sandhill Cranes.

The American White Pelican and a Ring-billed Gull,IMG_9763

In the willows along the road were White-crowned, White-throated, and Clay-coloured Sparrows, American Goldfinches, and Yellow-rumped Warblers.

The birds were very difficult to photograph as they stayed hidden in the branches, like this White-crowned Sparrow,IMG_9774

I left the slough and headed north. A Blue Jay flew out of a neighbour’s yard and there was a Northern Goshawk sitting in a dead tree just up the hill. I was disappointed I didn’t get a photo of the goshawk, but just then, a Great-horned Owl landed in the tree in front of me.

The owl was uncomfortable with my presence so it took off. Fortunately, it landed nearby in the slough just off the road.

The Great-horned Owl flying away,IMG_9775

I quietly got out of the truck and snuck around the slough and got these photos — my best yet of the species!IMG_9782IMG_9784

After five minutes, the owl flew away, scaring a pair of Lesser Yellowlegs on take off,IMG_9789

The most interesting sighting of the afternoon was a Eurasian-collared Dove that flew out of the willows. At first, I though the dove was a Sharp-shinned Hawk, but then it came into view. I’ve never seen this species before, but their range is moving northward in Alberta so I might be seeing more of theses doves in the future.IMG_9791

The migrating geese enjoy feeding on the combined grain fields. I spent 15 minutes taking pictures with my new camera,DSC_0782DSC_0798

The building on the hill is Chatsworth School, a one-room school house between 1917 – 1953 for all the children in the area,DSC_0816DSC_0817

Playing with the exposure a little bit,DSC_0821

The sun was shining through the clouds,DSC_0829

After an hour and a half, I started heading back home and was passing by our wheat field. On a six-acre section of the field, we’re growing Red Fife Wheat, the oldest variety of wheat in Canada, originally from the Ukraine. This Red-tailed Hawk was sitting in the poplars along the field and there was a Merlin on a fence post.

Red-tailed Hawk,IMG_9803

I took these photos of the Merlin with my Nikon D610 with the 70-200mm lens. I cropped them just a bit,


All the raptor species I saw on my drive: American Kestrel, Bald Eagle, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Great-horned Owl, Merlin, Red-tailed Hawk, and Northern Harrier.

Feathers on Friday

If you would like to join me for my Feathers on Friday meme, please put the link to your blog post in the comments and I’ll add the link to my post.

I saw this Great Horned Owl earlier in the week and I was finally able to get my first photo of a Great Horned Owl,


More Feathers on Friday Posts:

:: From Ethan at Bird Boy: Feathers on Friday

:: From Josiah at Birds in Your Backyard: Feathers on Friday


Snow Goose Chase 2012

The other week I joined the AlbertaBird listserv to find out about bird sightings through the province and also connect with other Alberta birders.

After joining I got an email from one member, Bob Parsons, who is the Special Events Co-ordinator for the Edmonton Nature Club, inviting my family and me to the annual Snow Goose Chase on April 28 in Tofield. Luckily, that day was free (the only free April Saturday on our calendar in fact) so I was able to say “Yes”!

We did our morning chores as quickly as possible despite a heavy spring snowstorm all day Friday and early Saturday, and left at 8 am to be at Tofield by 10. On our drive I saw about 50,000 Snow, Canada, and Greater White-fronted Geese, 11 American Kestrels, 16 Red-tailed Hawks, many species of ducks, three Yellow-headed Blackbirds, and many Purple Martins in Tofield.

There were some terrific displays at the Community Centre, including three live raptors from the Edmonton Valley Zoo; celebrated Canadian naturalist John Acorn, whose show, “Acorn the Nature Nut” my brothers and I loved when we were younger; a live garter snake (a female, approximately one meter long), scorpion, and Malaysian katydid, from the Royal Alberta Museum (RAM), shown by Pete Heule, the Museum’s Bug Room Co-ordinator (we like his features on CBC radio); a live Burrowing Owl from the Beaverhill Bird Observatory, which I’ve just joined as a member; a Bugs & Beetles wetland display, including fairy shrimp which I had never seen before; and animal pelts from Bill Abercrombie of Alberta Trapline Adventures.

One of my favorite exhibits was the mounted owls of Alberta, displayed by Jocelyn Hudon, curator of ornithology at the Royal Alberta Museum. I also found out that the RAM has a new exhibit, “Fashioning Feathers” about the dangerous connection between fashion and natural history, running from March 24, 2012 to January 6, 2013, which I am very eager to see, especially because I read a little bit about the subject while researching the Carolina Parakeet for my 4H speech.

Mr. Parsons did a wonderful job organizing everything and also taking time out to welcome my family and me on what was such a busy day for him. It was also great to meet some of the other members of AlbertaBird — including John Acorn and Jocelyn Hudon — and put faces to the names. I had a terrific day and hope to go again next year! Below are some pictures I took Saturday.

A Spectacled Owl from South America, from the Edmonton Valley Zoo,

A Great-horned Owl, also from the Edmonton Valley Zoo,

A badger pelt,

The Burrowing Owl from the Beaverhill Bird Observatory, which I was able to hold (photo by Alexander Wasylik),


Mounted owls of Alberta from the Royal Alberta Museum,

The Malaysian katydid,

Two Nature Nuts — here I am with John Acorn (photo by Caroline LeCourtois),


Back in April, on our way to town, my dad and I found a dead Great-horned owl in the ditch. We took it to our friend at the local college. He is the program head of the Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation department, and arranged to have it stuffed and mounted.

The stuffed owl just returned, and I thought since you saw the “before” you might like to see the “after”. As you can see, the taxidermist included a northern pocket gopher in the owl’s talons.



Hanging on a line

This morning my brothers and I went out to do our farm chores, and on our way to the corrals we saw something on the power line. We could tell that whatever it was had died. On further inspection I saw it was a large bird and as we got closer still I could tell it was an owl. I didn’t have my binoculars or camera with me, so after chores I went back to the house to grab the vital tools I would need to identify what tuned out to be an owl on the power line.

The owl must have flown into the power line, hooked and/or broke its wing, and wasn’t able to free itself.

Here are photos of the owl my brothers and I found this morning.

The view from the road,

I looked with my binoculars before I took pictures and I could see it was Short-eared Owl,

Earlier this year as my dad I were going to town, we found a dead Great-horned Owl in the ditch. Today’s bird is the second dead owl I’ve found. Here is one photo of the Great-horned Owl we found in April,