As a wildlife and nature photographer, I am always amazed at the things that I find on my travels around Manitoba. This province is so rich with what it has to share with us, if we just keep our eyes open and look for opportunities that are all around us. With such abundance and beauty, I am never at a loss for anything to photograph. These are just a few of my favourites over the last year.
Male Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) and I are having a chat about the weather.
One of my very favourite ducks is the Wood Duck. Both the male and the female have striking colours, but it is the male that catches my eye, along with almost ever other photographer I know. These beauties really know how to attract a female when it comes time for courting, with their dazzling reds, yellows, greens and blues. You can’t miss them as they swim along the pond or marsh, looking for a mate.
Male Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon)
During early Spring of 2017 I was looking to see what I could find in Winnipeg. I headed for Bunn’s Creek and to my dismay, much of the trails were flooded. So after parking went towards the Red River to see if I could spot any early spring birds. While I was walking along the bank of the river, this Male Belted Kingfisher flew out of the trees and over the river. These birds are very quick and agile hunters, so I was quite pleased to be able to get a picture of one in flight.
Male Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)
Along the same path that I saw the Kingfisher, I happened to look up and to my surprise was a Male Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker drilling holes into a tree for sap. This was my first ever photo of one of these very beautiful members of the Woodpecker family. They are fairly common in Winnipeg and Manitoba, but not a bird I had had the pleasure of seeing up until this point.
Red Fox Kit (Vulpes vulpes) keeping an eye on it's surroundings
During one of my frequent visits to Southwest Manitoba during the Summer of 2017, I had the pleasure of seeing a family of Red Foxes, which had built their den under an abandoned building. Besides the Female, I saw 3 Kits in total, but this single one is my favourite of all the photos I took of these adorable looking foxes. Foxes are fairly abundant around Manitoba, but being more of a nocturnal animal they are not always seen during the light of day.
Great Horned Owlet (Bubo virginiansus) enjoying the evening sun
I love all owls and have to say that they are one of my very favourite birds, with the Great Horned Owl being my third favourite, behind both the Great Gray and the Snowy Owls. Many people are not aware that these beauties live in close proximity to us, nesting in parks and other natural wooded sections of Winnipeg and are abundant all over Manitoba north to the tree line. During the Spring if you pay attention you may find a pair nesting nearby and this gives you an opportunity to quietly observe the young as they hatch, fledge and grow to become adult.
Female Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) in Flight
Of all the Hawks, I would have to say that the Northern Harrier is my very favourite. It may not have the striking plumage seen on a Rough-Legged Hawk, but to me these are the most beautiful and graceful of them all. They are easily distinguished between male and female, being the only hawk that has different coloured plumage between sexes. You can often see them hunting along the open prairie and many marshes that dot our landscape, and will often hover, before plunging down for a quick meal of a small rodent or snake that it spots from above.
Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) along the shores of the Lee River
I spotted these two Lesser Yellowlegs along the shores of the Lee River at Old Pinawa Dam Site Provincial Park in Eastern Manitoba. They are a beautiful member of the Sandpiper family and very common throughout Manitoba. I spent about 1/2 hour watching and photographing these two and was pleased that they didn’t fly away, staying close enough for me to get a few photos.
American toad (Anaxyrus americanus) enjoying a little sunshine
Although the American Toad is a fairly common toad in Manitoba, I had not seen one in a number of years, and this was the very first one I have ever photographed. My memories of the American Toad were from childhood, when I and my siblings would head over to the ditches and marshes around Winnipeg Beach where we had our cottage, trying to capture these to take home with us. Mysteriously they all disappeared each night, and it was not until I was much older that I realized my Dad would let them all go after we had gone to bed.
Female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) giving me sass!
Although some say there are three species of Hummingbird in Manitoba (Broad-Tailed, Rufous and Ruby-Throated), I have only ever seen the Ruby-Throated in my travels. And they are everywhere in Southern Manitoba during the Spring, Summer and Fall. I find them at Winnipeg’s English Gardens in Assiniboine Park and find them fun to watch and photograph while they chase one another from flower to flower and compete with the Bees and Butterflies for that delicious nectar.
Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis), commonly known as the Whiskey Jack
Up until this last Fall, the Gray Jay has been one of those birds that has eluded me, while all my other friends and fellow photographers had seen them everywhere in Eastern Manitoba and had lots of photos of them. So for me this was a real treat. These gregarious birds are the most human friendly of the Jays we have in Manitoba and as members of the Corvid family, along with Crows, Ravens and Magpies, are highly intelligent. They have been known to steal the food right out of your hand or off of your plate if you are not paying attention. And recently they were voted as Canada’s favourite Bird, but this was not adopted by our Government as being our official bird yet.
Hoo, you lookin' at? Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus)
My second favourite Owl, next to the Great Gray, is the Snowy Owl. These magnificent owls come south during the winter, living up north of the tree line to the high Arctic during the rest of the year. During extremely harsh winters and when food becomes scarce in the north, we tend to see more of the Snowy Owls here in the south. They are fearless hunters and have the strongest talon grip of all owls in North America. This one is likely a female with it’s darker barring, but because both sexes are born with barring and sometimes you will find darker males and all white older females, one should never make a guess and only state the sex of these owls based on having them in the hand and knowing what to look for.
Bull Elk (Cervus canadensis) ~ My very first sighting of an Elk in the wild.
Up until this past Summer, the only place I had ever seen an Elk was in the Zoo. That changed when I saw this magnificent Bull Elk, not a common sight to see one all alone from the herd. There is a herd of about 50 or 60 Elk that roams around Southwestern Manitoba and I have yet to see any more than just this one. I hope to spot more of them on one of my trips to Southwest Manitoba again this year.
So there you have it, some of my favourite photos from 2017. I have many more, and it is so hard to chose from them all, but I hope over time to share more of my photos and the stories behind them all with you in future blogs. So check back often to see what’s on the menu for next time.