On 24 August 2022, it turned out to be an 11-hour day, driving a total of 483 km. Fortunately, it was not an extremely hot day, thanks to the drop in temperature the last day or two, together with some much-needed rain. Luckily, I was not going to go to the mountains, as you could barely see them through the thick haze (smoke?).
My actual destination was the Alberta Birds of Prey Centre, near Lethbridge. I know some people feel that photographing birds that are not out in the wild is cheating or misleading. I kind of agree, though I think it's fine as long as someone says where a photo was taken - wild or in captivity. September 2016 was the very first time I was brave enough to do this long drive myself, but I really, really wanted to go. Since then, I have repeated the drive every year except for 2021.
This Centre is a wonderful place that rehabilitates and releases (whenever possible) various birds of prey - hawks, owls, Bald Eagles, Turkey Vultures, and Golden Eagles. Some of these birds act as Wildlife Ambassadors, too, including educating the public away from the Centre. Sometimes, a bird is used as a foster parent, too.
Because I knew what a long drive this would be, I drove on highways almost all the time. Just one gravel back road was the exception. As it happened, I almost immediately came across two juvenile Swainson's Hawks perched on adjacent fence posts. They were beautiful birds, showing off the attractive feather patterns on their backs. They just sat there, unconcerned by the presence of my car, and were still there when I left a short while later. You have to love Swainson's juveniles. The yellow in the background is a field in harvest colour. These were just two of several hawks I saw in the wild this day. Of course, I saw all sorts of birds of prey once I reached the Centre. Always fun to have a young Great Horned Owl or a tiny Burrowing Owl perched on ones arm. I asked if they had a Turkey Vulture and they had two, in one of the small cages/enclosures outdoors. These Vultures are so much smaller than I always think they are.
On the way home, I checked to see if I could see a Common Nighthawk and did eventually spot one, on a pole out in a field. Zoomed in and took a handful of identical photos, and posted one just for the record yesterday.
This was definitely a rewarding - and exhausting - day, full of sightings of all kinds. My favourite kind of day! I actually managed to leave home just after 8:00 am and got back a few minutes before 7:00 pm, earlier than I was expecting.
Tags: Alberta Canada S of Calgary Alberta Birds of Prey Centre rehabilitation centre nature ornithology avian bird bird of prey raptor Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus young video alert vocalize outdoor tethered summer 24 August 2022 Canon SX60 Canon SX60 Powershot annkelliott Anne Elliott immature
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On 22 August 2022, I was lucky enough to see this huge 'raft' of American White Pelicans in a feeding frenzy. They formed a huge line of closely-packed birds and gradually moved across the lake. The odd one or two Double-crested Cormorants joined in, too.
On 22 August 2022, I was so happy to see this juvenile Black-crowned Night-heron. It was out of sight when I got to the location, but then suddenly flew to this post.
With rain in the forecast for a few days, I decided to get out for a few hours yesterday. My first stop was at the Saskatoon Farm to buy some very fresh vegetables, and some fruit from BC. While there, I enjoyed a late breakfast to keep me going till I got home.
From the Farm, I drove a bit further south and called in at Frank Lake. I so rarely go to this location, but before too long, the gate will be closed and I will have to wait till next year. While there, I bumped into a fellow birder/photographer, who gave me a heads-up about seeing a juvenile Black-crowned Night-heron and also the Great Egret that many people have been seeing. No sign of the Egret, but I love juvenile Black-crowned Night-herons with their beautiful brown and white patterns.
Stopping briefly at the ponds near Frank Lake, I was saddened to see that they had both dried up, thanks to our very hot weather for so long and mostly lack of rain, though it did rain part of yesterday and this morning. So thankful. Frank Lake's water level had also gone down.
The American White Pelicans gave a spectacular display with a feeding frenzy. They all gathered together in a very long line, closely packed. A couple of reports from the same day mentioned seeing about 300 of these large, beautiful birds, which sounds about right to me. The video posted here shows only a few of them.
One of the things I was also glad to see on this visit was the Maximillan Sunflower. Not native to here, but so beautiful. Not many of them, so they were not being invasive. This is the only place I have ever seen them.
On the way home, I drove a few back roads and found a couple of hawks - a Red-tailed Hawk and a Swainson's. Can never have too many hawks!
Tags: Alberta Canada SE of Calgary Frank Lake video nature wildlife avian ornithology bird American White Pelican Pelecanus erythrorhynchos maybe around 300? group raft feeding frenzy feeding frenzy fishing moving water lake outdoor summer 22 August 2022 Canon SX60 Canon SX60 Powershot annkelliott Anne Elliott © Anne Elliott 2022 © All Rights Reserved
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Monday, 18 July 2022: our temperature is 15°C (windchill 14°C) just after 11:00 am. Sunrise was at 5:42 am, and sunset is at 9:41 pm. Thank goodness, the heatwave has broken and today is cooler with rain! Back to warm weather tomorrow.
Three days ago, on 14 July 2022, I found this Grizzly Bear family when there was no one else around, and pulled over way, way down the road. All the cars afterwards overtook me and some were maybe 3-6 feet away from the bears. I did eventually pull forward a little bit, but people still passed me and went and parked in front of me, sometimes blocking my view. All about getting their close photos and not giving wildlife their space.
I had just been exploring one of my several favourite places in Kananaskis. Once back at my car, I took a few bites of a sandwich and happened to glance way down the road. Looked like there were Bighorn Sheep, but when I zoomed in on my camera to check, I discovered that it was a family of Grizzly Bears. Not wanting to invade their space, I took what photos I could from a great distance, before pulling forward a little. Not the best photos, but definitely better than nothing. So relieved that I had not encountered them on my short walk!!!
The main reason for my trip was simply to get out of my unbearably hot home! I had made a few drives closer to home recently, for the same reason. This time, I needed a change.
This time, I went to the mountains, hoping that I might see a few different things. Calling in at Highwood House, I was lucky to see a Hummingbird quickly visit the feeders. First time, it left too fast, but I managed a photo or two the second visit.
Partly because I left home much later than I had hoped, I didn't drive as far as I might have otherwise done. There are a few mountain peaks and ranges that I always love to see along the highway and I always stop to take a few shots.
On the way back to the city, I called in at my 'usual' area closer to home, but I think most of the birds must have been sheltering from the hot sun. So many birds during this heat wave have their beaks open because of the heat. A pair of Mountain Bluebirds made my decision worthwhile.
Tags: Alberta Canada SW of Calgary Kananaskis K-Country Rocky Mountains video nature wildlife wild animal bear Grizzly Bear two sub-adult Ursus arctos horribilis family mother cubs play-fighting middle of the highway vehicle outdoor summer 14 July 2022 Canon SX60 Canon SX60 Powershot annkelliott Anne Elliott
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Single loud note. Photo-bombed by an buzzing insect. It sounded like there there were two different birds, but it may have been just one making two slightly different single notes.
Yesterday. 8 July 2022, was kind of a weird day, at least in the afternoon when I did a short drive SW of Calgary. I needed to get out for awhile, after spending a few hours the previous day trying to work out why my emails have not been updating on my iPad mini. No success.
Decided to just do my usual short drive to the SW, just to catch a Bluebird or two or anything else of interest/beauty. Also looked to see if there were any fungi growing yet, and found a handful during an extremely short walk. Maybe still a bit too early for others.
Two highlights for me were an absolutely beautiful sky for a short while - Altocumulus clouds? The other was finding a Bobolink that gave me somewhat closer views than I have seen at a different location so far.
When I first arrived in the SW, there were road construction vehicles on pretty well every road I usually drive. So disappointing. Later in the afternoon, they all eventually either parked off the side of the road or drove somewhere else. I wasn't sure if I should drive on one of the roads, now empty, but decided to take the risk and just drive slowly. One of my best sightings was the reward.
Getting back to the city, I needed to fill up with gas, ready for the next drive. Waiting to pay took some time as the gas store scanner wouldn't work, so no one could pay or get change. Shortly afterwards, one of the traffic lights close to home was not working, either. My queue of traffic couldn't get a green light. I was glad to finally get home!
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"Thursday, 7 July 2022, continues a stormy stretch on the Prairies with a renewed threat for severe storms across Alberta. Tornadoes are possible. Stay alert!" From the Weather Network. Calgary was in the risk area for one or two tornadoes this afternoon, as well as very large hail. Really wished I didn't have two appointments mid to late afternoon. What a drive it was! The heavy rain started when I was driving north to pick up an ordered meal from Forage Foods in Marda Loop. A bit of hail in with the rain, but thank goodness no large hailstones. As I pulled into the parking lot, there was an almighty thunderclap - just one and no more. The drive home was the same torrential rain until I was almost home. When I reached home, there was no water evidence anywhere at all. Part way home, a beautiful rainbow formed in the distance and it was interesting to see how a small rainbow formed each time a car drove through the water on the road and sent the water flying. Unfortunately, I was on a major highway at rush hour, so there was no chance to stop and take a photo. I was glad to get home!
Yesterday, 6 July 2022, I spent some time at the Saskatoon Farm and then drove a little further SE of Calgary to drive a few familiar roads. Turned out to be a gloomy afternoon, with rain. Managed a few photos, though.
The most exciting find was a very distant American Badger, out in the middle of a huge field. I still can't believe that I actually spotted it. The field was a mix of dark soil and green. I just caught sight of some movement,that looked like maybe a dog. Definitely not a Coyote, as it was very low to the ground. When I finally managed to find it through my viewfinder, I was in shock - a Badger? Spent a little time pulled over in my car, watching it once it reached its sett (den). For a while, it kept looking out. It was almost playing "hide-and-seek" with a Richardson's Ground Squirrel, which came within maybe three feet or so of the den. Each animal was well aware of the presence of the other. I sat there, wondering if I might witness a rather unpleasant capture, but nothing happened. Photos and video are all poor quality given the distance and gloom and rain. However, I was thrilled to bits to experience this. This was only my seventh Badger seen in many years. Sat in my car with the windows down to take photos, of course, and my car quickly filled with annoying, buzzing mosquitoes, ha.
Tags: Alberta Canada SE of Calgary nature wildlife badger American Badger in its sett (den) very distant field soil camouflage outdoor 6 July 2022 Canon SX60 Canon SX60 Powershot annkelliott Anne Elliott
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