We have been experiencing some rather hot weather recently and this has kept wildlife activity to a minimum. I decided to head out a little earlier than usual this morning hoping that I might increase my odds of spotting some animals before the sun started to heat things up. My bet payed off when a fox came trotting towards me on the trail I was on. She was very focused and didn't seem to even notice me until she was right in front of me, when she came to an abrupt stop to see what I was all about. The fox had an impressive number of voles (Red-backed voles likely) in her mouth, I counted seven in the photo. I'm sure her kits will be very happy when she returns to the den. From my observations of coyotes catching ground squirrels, the technique used is to catch the prey then set them in a pile to be more readily collected at the end of the hunt.  The prey can then be stuffed into the mouth and carried off to safety. 

A little later on my hike I encountered a Golden-mantle Ground Squirrel perched on a boulder. This little fella had a mouthful as well, but had the advantage of being able to pack the food items into his cheek pouches. This got me wondering why fox and other carnivores never evolved to have pockets of some sort to carry stuff. Marsupials have a pouch to carry their developing young but not what I was thinking of. Anyway, I thought it was interesting how the two species I just happened to see this morning had different solutions to the same problem. Here is the cheeky Ground Squirrel.


I have had Neil Young's 2010 album Le Noise in my vehicle since its release and I must have listened to it a thousand times. I love all the cuts on the album, but one of the songs in particular "struck a chord" with me, that song is "Rumblin". Here are some of the lyrics:

I can feel the weather changing
I can see it all around, all around
Can't you feel that new wind blowing?
Don't you recognize that sound that sound, that sound?
And the earth is slowly spinning, spinning slowly, slowly changing
I feel something in the air

So what has "Rumblin" got to do with my photography? Well, I feel something in the air too. The rapid and serious decline in songbirds in North America has been well documented. Every year the diversity of species and numbers of birds I see at the places I return to is obviously reduced. However, I sense that there are other sweeping changes in the prevalence and movements of many other species here in the foothills of Alberta. For example, I saw only a couple of Great Grey Owls this winter, Grizzly bears sightings have been quite uncommon this spring, skunks are showing up where they haven't been seen before, no winter finches were identified in our Christmas bird count, Woodland Caribou sightings are way down. These are anecdotal of course but they are still valid observations in my opinion. I drove the bumper to bumper traffic on Hwy 16 west through Jasper National Park and into Mount Robson Provincial Park this long weekend and was shocked at the damage done to the coniferous forest by Mountain Pine Beetle, the once verdant green forest has turned to red. The spread of the beetle is believed to be largely due to milder winter conditions in the western areas of the Canadian boreal forest. 

If you want to photograph wildlife you have to be an optimist and you have to be determined, it is a prerequisite.  I accept that there are good and bad years, there are winners and there are losers. I was very happy to hear on the news yesterday that Beaverhill Lake east of Edmonton which had been completely dried up has water again due to recent heavy rainfall in the region, and the waterfowl, gulls and other birds are back too. What a good news story.!  I'm thankful for the hard working, diligent biologists and techs that study and monitor the environment. I hope the politicians and decision makers use their data to help manage the changes that are occurring. I have to find a way to do my part too....we all must. 

Here's a photo I have entitled "Rumblin"



Time To Go

Grizzly bears are interesting and complex animals. The maternal instincts of the mother grizzly are legendary, she is both attentive and protective of her young - to the death if necessary. It is touching to observe the sow grizzly nurse her young, guide their first wobbly steps and lead them to food and protection in their first days away from the den. Mortality can be high in the first couple of years; lack of food and predation from aggressive male grizzlies is particularly dangerous to the cubs. If the cubs survive however, the mother grizzly must ultimately force her cubs to become independent. Hopefully they have learned the lessons of survival mom has shared so they can move into the second stage of their lifecycle at around three years of age. Recently I had the privilege of observing and photographing a couple of young bears just beginning the difficult process of independence. I was glad that the two cubs at least had each other, they stayed very close together I noticed. Yes, their was some squabbling over a freshly captured ground squirrel and you could tell that one of the cubs was a bit more assertive than its sibling but I have to think that their odds are a little better having some companionship . Here's a photo of the pair heading up a hillside towards forest cover for the night (fingers crossed for these amazing creatures!)

9th Migratory Bird Days in the Wadden Sea - East Atlantic Flyway

Millions of migratory birds use the North Sea's tidal flats as a roosting and feeding area. Every year in spring and autumn, they pass through the Wadden Sea on their journey from their Arctic breeding grounds to their wintering areas in West Africa.

The annual Migratory Bird Days - nine days in autumn dedicated to migratory birds and bird migration - are held along the German coast from the Dutch border to the Elbe River and on its seven islands from Borkum to Wangerooge. 200 events offer the chance to experience and learn about bird migration: entertaining - playful - thoughtful - artistic - competent - culinary - there is something for everyone!

I was pleased to have my photo of a Snow Bunting selected for use in this wonderful conservation effort. The photograph is featured on the posters, pamphlets and other printed literature promoting this important event. I thank Gondolf Reichert and the administration of the National Park of the Wadden Sea of Lower Saxony in northwest Germany for this honour. I hope the event scheduled 14-22 October 2017 is a huge success. I would really like to attend this event, I'll be sure to post some photos if I can make it! 

Sad Bear Story

Welcome to my Web Blog, this is my first entry! I debated what would be a fitting subject to start things off. Unfortunately, I must start with an event that had a strong emotional impact on me, a sad case of a wildlife death near home. In May of 2016 with high expectations of a busy and exciting season of nature photography I received a call from a friend that a Grizzly Bear was present just outside town. I grabbed my photography equipment and went to the site that had been described and the bear was in fact still there. He was a great looking bear, healthy and in his prime just feeding along the road right of way. Two or three other photographers were there as well and we enjoyed the presence of this beautiful bear. A biologist acquaintance of mine also arrived at the scene, she happened to be monitoring this bear that had been fitted with a GPS collar as part of an ongoing Grizzly Bear Study in the foothills of the Rockies. After about a half hour the Grizzly wandered out of sight into the forest, what an encounter. A couple of days later I received a courtesy update e-mail from my biologist acquaintance. She regretted to inform me that the bear # G141 had been shot and that the death was being investigated. I was shocked and angered to hear such tragic news, how could this possibly happen. Who in their right mind would kill such a majestic animal and why?

The ensuing investigation lead to the arrest of two "men", one from Edson and the other from Fort McMurray, Alberta. Here is a link to the story as presented by the CBC's Andrea Huncar :

At the time of this writing, Feb. 20, 2017 I do not believe the case has been resolved in the courts. Unfortunately, this year saw a separate case of Grizzly Bear poaching in the areas outside Jasper National Park. Grizzlies are apex predators and their continued existence in the ecosystem will depend on societies response to the case of G141, and others. Wanton destruction of bears by humans can not be allowed to be "normalized", it isn't normal! Bears are intelligent creatures and are having a hard enough time maintaining their populations in an ever shrinking hostile landscape. So, started off my little blog by blowing off some steam about a subject that has been on my mind and will continue to bother me I suspect. I am anticipating the resolution of this case in the courts of Alberta. For now, here is a photo of bear # G141 - someone cared about you.