The weather for the past week has been unseasonably warm, I’m sitting in my backyard blind waiting for a skittish woodpecker to show. He's been a frequent visitor of late, but the Chinook cloud is now starting to build and I’m quickly losing the light, if he doesn’t show up soon I’ll have to call it a day.
Its late afternoon in mid-December, and I realize that weather-wise we're living on borrowed time, it wont be long before the snows return. My thoughts wander back to mid-February when I made a trip to Jasper to spend a few days photographing elk and bighorn sheep. There are many challenges to winter nature photography but there are many advantages too. With shortened daylight hours, sunrise and sunset shots can be taken after breakfast and before supper, so despite the shortened day, its more relaxed than during the summer months. Deep snow also makes it easier to spot wildlife. Winter is especially tough on them and their very survival may depend upon how well they conserve their energy. One of the ways they do that is by travelling on roads and frozen rivers. It was on one of those frozen rivers that I spotted a solitary grey wolf, and while it was some distance away, it was a rare sighting, and one of the year’s highlights for me.
As winter drew to a close, I remained closer to home, photographing migrating tundra and trumpeter swans, and thousands of snow geese that stopped to feed in the stubble fields and rest up in the potholes of southern Alberta. As the snow melt continued, they were followed by avocets, black-necked stilts and marbled godwits, many of which nested along the shores of our lakes and ponds.
In June I travelled to Alaska, but unlike most nature photographers who head to Denali or Katmai, I opted instead for the remoteness of western Alaska. A few minutes outside Nome, there are no fences, power lines, windmills or cell towers, and other than a few widely scattered Iñupiat communities and abandoned gold mines, there is no human footprint whatsoever. It’s here that many migratory birds come to nest, among them swans, loons, jaegers, ptarmigan, plovers, warblers and wagtails. But there are mammals on this windswept tundra too and sightings of caribou and musk ox were lifetime “firsts” for me.
I spent most of the summer months in the mountain parks – Kootenay, Banff, Jasper and Waterton-Glacier. There I was fortunate to find both black and grizzly bears, both species recently emerged from hibernation, some with new cubs, all feasting on fresh crops of dandelions and wildflowers they seem to enjoy so much.
Leaving the mountain parks briefly I travelled to Elk Island National Park to photograph the rare wood bison, then as summer wore on I returned to photograph blue birds, eagles, hawks, owls and mountain goats, and complete a few day hikes into the back country.
As fall approached I was hoping the bears would have a good berry season that would bring them down from their summer in the high country. But that wasn’t to be the case this year. But it was a good year for photographing Bull Moose that I encountered in Kananaskis Country, Glacier NP in Montana and Grand Teton NP in Wyoming. Fall is also a great time of year for landscape photography, and I spent many early mornings and late evenings photographing tranquil alpine lakes amid spectacular mountain scenery.
It’s really starting to cool off now and that skittish woodpecker is looking more and more like a no-show, it’s time to pack up my gear and take down the blind. It’s been an incredible year and I feel so very fortunate to have seen so much in so many wonderful places. Along with the wildlife and spectacular scenery I encountered, I also met some amazing people, many of whom also appreciate and enjoy spending quality time in our natural world. It was a pleasure to meet you all.
As this year draws to a close, I want to thank you all for visiting my website, and for the kind comments you post here. I also want to wish each of you a wonderful holiday season along with good health and much happiness in 2015.