Friday, February 23, 2018

Wildlife Watch January

The year 2018 started off with bitter temperatures where everything on the prairies tucked down tight except for browsing wildlife and people with things to do and places to go. Nelson was the first of the family to spot something other than birds when he caught sight of these Mule Deer trying to hide in some brush on January 2nd.

Mule Deer, Southeastern Saskatchewan, January 2018. Credit: Nelson Draper

On January 7th, Nelson saw the white flash of White-tailed Deer bounding across a stubble field and stopped to get this shot.

White-tailed Deer, Southeastern Saskatchewan, January 2018. Credit: Nelson Draper

As posted in Bird Watch January, I was only spotting my usual sparrows, redpolls, and chickadees that stayed the winter at home and it wasn't until I headed to town on January 9 that I saw 2 ravens and a Great Horned Owl. Not only did I see the owl on my way back to Draper's Acres, but I also saw this Mule Deer hiding behind a slough in the middle of a stubble field. 

Mule Deer, RM Montmartre, SK, January 2018. Credit: Anita Mae Draper

A few days later, Nelson motioned me to look at the security camera. There was a moose right outside our front door. Well, okay, he was 30 feet from the steps, but still...

We tried taking pics of the moose through the windows without any success, so out of desperation, I squeaked open the front door and ducked my head and camera out into the bitter cold. Nary a sight of it. 

"Where is it?" I stage-whispered over to Nelson. 

"Right there, by the tree," he answered from the kitchen.

I stepped out and aimed my camera at the still-lit Christmas tree, but couldn't see anything beyond it except tracks in the snow. Since Nels could no longer see it either, we locked up for the night and went to replay the security camera footage. It looks confused, doesn't it? 

Moose captured on security camera, January 2018

The next morning I went out for my usual photo foray and immortalized the moose tracks before they got covered by more snow or even melted away. 

Moose Tracks in Snow, Draper's Acres, Montmartre, SK, January 2018. Credit: Anita Mae Draper

That was January 12th and later that day as I headed back to the farm after dropping off some parcels at the post office, I took a route further to the west. I don't often go this way in the winter because it involves a couple of steep valleys and I'm unfamiliar with how they react to snow drifts and ice. But it hadn't snowed in several days, a weird January thaw was on its way, and I wanted to see what was out there. 

I didn't see anything driving through the first smaller valley, and I didn't think there was anything while driving through the second valley, either, but as I drove up the side, I spotted movement to the right at the corner of my eye. With the impression that I'd seen a deer, I climaxed the ridge and then turned around at the next approach. I drove back down the into the valley, confirming the presence of several deer on the west side of the hill, as well as several more at the bottom. Apparently, they'd waited until I passed before coming out of hiding. Wanting to take pics in a safe area, I continued through and up to the top of the other side where I could safely turn around. I then drove back down to the valley bottom where I pulled over onto the shoulder. 

Surprisingly, 3 deer stayed on the east side of the road where they searched for food on the frozen bottom of the dried slough. The image you see here is one of the three, clearly showing that it's a Mule Deer from the size of its ears and the colour of its tail. 

Mule Deer, RM Montmartre, SK, January 2018. Credit: Anita Mae Draper

To the west beside a large body of water were more deer trying to hide in some scrub brush that was sparse enough to show parts of them, yet thick enough to keep me from getting a good shot. Between them and me was a Game Preserve sign that stated no hunting was permitted, which could explain why they weren't all running away. The last time I was in the area shore birds caught my attention, so between the birds and the deer, I'll check back this way again. 

With sunset approaching, I headed out of the valley, stopping only to photograph the Mule Deer that had first caught my eye. Can you see them in this next photo?

Mule Deer, RM Montmartre, SK, January 2018. Credit: Anita Mae Draper

I thought that was the end of my blessings for the day, yet as I drove on with my head moving left to right to catch any movement, I spotted several dark objects on the shore of another frozen body of water. Under the colourful rays of a the setting sun, I pulled off the road onto an approach and scrutinized the landscape to the west.

Coyote Pack on Shore, RM Montmartre, SK, January 2018. Credit: Anita Mae Draper

Do you see the white snow bank in the middle of the image? That's where I saw dark spots and out here on the prairies, a dark spot on the snow is a good indication of wildlife. So I pulled out my camera and zoomed in, thinking I'd see large rocks or something. Instead I found a coyote pack.

Coyote Pack on Shore, RM Montmartre, SK, January 2018. Credit: Anita Mae Draper

There were 4 coyotes in total, but only three would fit in my long-range shot. Any closer and the image gets blocky. One coyote left the pack and headed across the ice, while the other coyotes tucked their heads into their legs and looked like the rocks I first imagined. It was time to move on. 

I took a bunch of sunset pics as I drove home, each one showing bokeh spots from the dust, ice crystals and whatnot attained from driving down prairie roads with an open window in the middle of January. 

Sunset, RM Montmartre, SK, January  2018. Credit: Anita Mae Draper

I'll end our January Wildlife Watch with a video Nelson took on the way to church on January 28th. Although JJ also took video of the same moose with his phone, the quality was inferior with blocky images compared to what you see here. Please remember this was taken with with a cell phone and not our usualy cameras.  

Other posts that show what we've seen so far in 2018 are:

Pins of our bird and wildlife photos can be found on the following Pinterest boards:

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Owl Sightings

On January 9th while on my way to town, I caught sight of two ravens land near an owl in a copse of trees. After pulling to the side of the road, I reached for my camera in time to see the ravens fly at the Great Horned Owl as if trying to scare it off. After taking a few fly-pasts, they settled in a nearby tree.

Great Horned Owl and Common Ravens, South of Montmartre, SK, January 2018. Source: Anita Mae Draper

A while later, after finishing my errands and heading back to the farm, I pulled over when I passed the same copse of trees and can only assume it was the same Great Horned Owl perched high, with nary a raven in sight.

Great Horned Owl in Trees, South of Montmartre, SK, January 2018. Source: Anita Mae Draper

At least it look like an owl, but I had to zoom in to confirm it. He gave me the eye and then flew down to a lower branch. Due to the distance and wind pushing air currents between my camera and the owl my photos aren't the best, but they're clear enough to see his ears tufts pinned back. I'm not sure about owls, but in a horse it means he's getting ticked off.

Great Horned Owl, South of Montmartre, SK, January 2018. Source: Anita Mae Draper

On January 18th while out and about Nelson also caught sight of a Great Horned Owl, although he couldn't get a clear image could considering the wind and low light level of the early morning.

Great Horned Owl, South of Montmartre, SK, January 2018. Source: Nelson Draper

People are spotting a record number of Snowy Owls this winter of 2017-2018, especially around the Saskatoon area of the province. I haven't seen any this winter, yet Nelson has sighted a few while out and about, including this one on January 31st. It was out in a field and near the end of his camera's focal range, but it's the first one he's been able to capture as proof that they're in our area, too.

Snowy Owl, Southeastern Saskatchewan, January 2018. Source: Nelson Draper

And then on February 1st, he managed to photograph this Snowy Owl female on a hydro pole in the same Southeastern Sask area as the one above in the field. Perhaps it was even the same one.

Snowy Owl female, Southeastern Saskatchewan, January 2018. Source: Nelson Draper

Since we're talking owls, I'll show you pics of a Snowy Owl male, that I saw back in Nov 2015 but never posted on this blog yet. The owl was very cooperative and turned his head completely around so I could take some pics. In the first photo he's looking back, so we see the back of his head...

Snowy Owl, South of  Montmartre, SK, November 2015. Source: Anita Mae Draper

and then he turns and tells me to leave...

Snowy Owl, South of  Montmartre, SK, November 2015. Source: Anita Mae Draper

If you like owls, you might like our post on the Great Horned Owl who came to visit outside my office window last August.

Pins for the above images in this post can be viewed on my Photos: Birds Pinterest board.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Bird Watch January

Although Saskatchewan's winter weather is miserable this year due to the bitter and prolonged cold, we experienced more wildlife at Draper's Acres than we've ever noticed in January.

For instance, on January 4th I spotted this Sharp-shinned Hawk perched at the corner of the shelterbelt where he was looking out over the field and slough. I took a couple pics through the window, but my camera wanted to focus on the bare branches and not on the hawk on the other side of them. I returned to my office and was surprised several minutes later, when he appeared outside my office window where he perched about ten feet from the suet feeder. Smart bird. Yet I was relieved when he left empty-clawed about fifteen minutes later.

Sharp-shinned Hawk, Saskatchewan, Canada, January 2018. Source: Anita Mae Draper

Sharp-shinned Hawk, Saskatchewan, Canada, January 2018. Source: Anita Mae Draper

This year we've been blessed with 3 resident Black-capped Chickadees and half a dozen Common Redpolls along with our 18 or so House Sparrows. The sparrows are very territorial and kept setting up guards all around the yard when the chickadees and redpolls first came along, but the newcomers were very persistant.

The favourite food of the House Sparrows seems to be the regular mixed bird seed which they share with each other until it nears the bottom of the feeder. Then they become sparring sparrows.

Sparring House Sparrows, Saskatchewan, Canada, January 2018. Source: Anita Mae Draper

Common Redpolls are an exciting addition to our daily views. Previously, they've stopped by a couple times throughout the winter, but this year we see them in the Siberian Elm shelterbelts, poplars, and apple trees. Once in awhile they'll land near the sparrows, but their favourite feeder is filled with black sunflower-like niger seeds in the middle of the yard.

Common Redpoll, Male, Saskatchewan, CanadaJanuary 2018. Source: Anita Mae Draper
Common Redpoll, Female, Saskatchewan, CanadaJanuary 2018. Source: Anita Mae Draper

The Black-capped Chickadees are a blessing as we love to walk outside and hear the familiar melody of this little winter bird. The chickadee is always on the move, either collecting seeds to hide, or looking for them when the niger feeder is empty. On inclement days it spends time digging bits of peanut from this wire feeder which makes me wonder if he's after the protein or oil content in them.

Black-capped Chickadee and Peanut Feeder, Saskatchewan, CanadaJanuary 2018. Source: Anita Mae Draper
The chickadees don't appear to like the suet feeder, but work at getting seeds out during the warmer days, supposedly when the suet is softer.

Black-billed Magpies are constant throughout the year and will make 2 or 3 nests in our yard during the summer. During the winter we'll see them every so often, but I thought it was wishful thinking to find one checking out the nests on January 16. I managed to get a nice shot as it flew from one nest to the other.

Black-billed Magpie in Flight, Saskatchewan, CanadaJanuary 2018. Source: Anita Mae Draper

This post only includes birds sighted at Draper's Acres during January 2018. Once past our fences, we spotted several owls and a flock of snow buntings as well as deer, moose, and coyotes.

Pins for the above images in this post can be viewed on my Photos: Birds Pinterest board.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Nature Watch: Great Horned Owl

A few days ago, I walked into my office and was halfway to my desk when I spotted a Great Horned Owl looking in my window. I deked to the right to hide behind the drapes. A few seconds later, I leaned to the left and peered out to see if it was still was leaning to the right peering back at me.

I snapped back from view and reached for my camera...but I'd left it in the living room!

Since I didn't want to yell, I whipped out my phone and texted Nelson who was also in the house…

Moments later I heard him padding down the hall. I motioned him to stop before he reached the door and jabbed my finger in the owl's direction. Nelson peered around the corner and his eyes widened. I stepped into view, took the camera, and clicked away at the owl. Behind me, I heard Nelson retreat, and then he returned and I heard him taking pics, too. 

Great Horned Owl, Front View. Source: Nelson Draper

Great Horned Owl, Looking to side. Source: Anita Mae Draper

The owl looked around and at us for a minute or so, and then turned and hopped away to another branch. The last photo of the owl looking back reminds me of a 1950s chenille bedspread due to the unique feather placement.

Great Horned Owl, Looking Back. Source: Nelson Draper

The owl checked out the place for a minute or so, and then turned and hopped away to another branch. This last photo of the owl looking back at us reminds me of a 1950's chenille bedspread due to the unique feather placement. However, when I look at its extended back and down to its feathered legs and sharp talons, I'm reminded more of a wary cat than a comfy bed. As usual, I'm amazed at God's creativity when I see something as special as a Great Horned Owl. By the way, the use of the word, horned, refers to its ear tufts.

Here's a short clip of the owl before and after it had hopped to another branch. If the video doesn't work, you can find it at: 

Of course, this owl encounter has given me ideas about including the scene in a story, similar to how I included the cranes in my novella, Sweet Love Grows. I enjoy adding wildlife to my stories and hope the readers can see that.

Do you have a favorite owl, whether real, virtual, or fiction? Have you had an encounter with one? Care to share? 

Note: Since it's my blogging day, this post is also published on Aug 16, 2017 at

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Nature Watch March 2017

We're playing post catch-up at Draper's Acres with some photos we took in March of this year. I'll start off with this photo of a Sharp-Tailed Grouse taken by Nelson while out-and-about on March 5.

Sharp-tailed Grouse, Southeastern Saskatchewan, March 5, 2017

On March 8th, Nelson was greeted by a special sunrise called a sun dog, a rarity this year. It was also a milder winter and although we received a good amount of snow, it wasn't all at once. With the mild weather, what snow did fall melted and blew away so there wasn't a huge buildup like other years.

Sun Dog, Southeastern Saskatchewan, March 8, 2017 at 7:37 am

A week later, Nelson saw a herd of White-tailed deer trotting across the prairie, but it was this shot of three of them with the breath-taking sunrise in the background that caught my eye.

White-tailed Deer, Southeastern Saskatchewan, March 15, 2017 at 7:04 am

Meanwhile, back at Draper's Acres, I took dozens of shots of this Black-capped Chickadee this winter but he moved so fast while searching for food among the evergreens that I only managed a couple decent photographs. With that speed, I figure he deserves his chance to shine on our blog.

Black-Capped Chickadee, Mar 19, 2017, Montmartre, SK

On March 24th I saw a coyote running across the southern part of the field where it rises out of our small valley. The light was horrid at noon on that dreary day, but here's what I saw . . . from our living room, looking through the longest zoom on my P520 Nikon, the coyote had an ethereal quality as it crossed the stubble near the top of the rise with nothing but sky behind it.

Coyote, March 24, 2017, Montmartre, SK

The wind was playing havoc with the air currents between the coyote and the trees on the southwest corner of our land when the coyote crossed that portion. By that time I was standing on my porch and it stopped to get a look at me before continuing his trot to points west.

Coyote, March 24, 2017, Montmartre, SK

While washing dishes the next day, I looked out the window and saw a mouse darting out of a snow tunnel near the feeder stand. He latched onto a food particle, spent a couple minutes devouring it, then darted back into the tunnel. A small flock of migrating juncos landed and then hopped about feeding on dropped seeds. During one of the rodent's forays, I snapped this shot to use as a size comparison between the two amicable species.

Dark-eyed Junco and Mouse, March 25, 2017, Montmartre, SK

March 26 was a Sunday which gave us the chance to check out migrating waterfowl in the sloughs along the way. We saw Canada Geese and Mallards, and a special treat in the form of a regal pair of Northern Pintails.

Canada Goose and Northern Pintails, March 26, 2017, Mutrie, SK

A few hours later, I saw a Downy Woodpecker on the power pole beside this feeder full of Niger seeds. She spent some time on the side of the pole, and up near the top, and then finally flew down and latched onto the feeder. She hung there and ate for a long time while the feeder swung in the wind like a pendulum.

Downy Woodpecker, March 26, 2017, Montmartre, SK

After supper of the same Sunday, we saw the first American Robin of the season. I played with the settings to mute the branches in the photograph so that the robin as well as the caption were more visible, and then I explained how I did it on my photo blog.

American Robin, March 26, 2017, Montmartre, SK

European starlings usually come through this time of year in a mixed flock with Robins, Red-wing Blackbirds, and Yellow-headed Blackbirds, but this year a small flock of about half a dozen starlings were by themselves. They came on the worst weather days and so I didn't get a photo of them, but because they are so unusual, I'm providing a photo I took of one two years ago:

European Starling, April 2, 2015, Montmartre, SK

Flocks of snow geese also came through, flying high above our heads, including this fabulous formation taken by Nelson.

Snow Geese, Southeastern Saskatchewan, March 29, 2017

During March we also saw:

  • A Hawk in a blizzard on Mar 3
  • Another Coyote on Mar 20
  • Tree Sparrow on Mar 26 
  • Mallards on Mar 26
  • Moose on Mar 28
  • Horned Lark on Mar 29
  • Red-winged Blackbirds on Mar 30
  • *Black-billed Magpies
  • *House Sparrows

* Year-round residents at Draper's Acres

From our photo files, it appears that the migrating birds arrived one week earlier than last year, but it was a weird month as you'll see when the next Nature Watch post goes up here at Draper's Acres. We hope you'll check it out.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Nature Watch: Meadowlark and Robin

When Nelson handed me his camera on April 18th, I was hoping for one or two great shots to pick from. I almost fell out of my chair when I saw his meadowlark shot.

I love this image because of the Western Meadowlark's pose, the clarity of the image, and also its overall 3D effect.

Western Meadowlark, Southeastern Saskatchewan, April 18, 2016.
Photo Credit: Nelson Draper

One of the things we've noticed, however, is that our cell phones, messenger apps, Facebook timeline, etc seems to be tailored for square images. The horizontal or vertical ones don't fit right and look too small, or your device is locked so that it doesn't rotate and then you have to unlock it to see one photo, etc. Or you'll be skimming down your Facebook timeline and see half an image, or half a word, etc. Yes, you can click on it to see the larger version, but many people don't. To alleviate that, I'm playing around with using square images only like the ones below.

Western Meadowlark, Southeastern Saskatchewan, April 18, 2016.
Photo Credit: Nelson Draper

My contender for the best photo for April 18th is this robin sitting on an old hand pump. Although you can't see much detail in the robin, I like this photo because it reminds me of my earliest memories of when we lived with a hand pump in the kitchen. And then as a twelve year old, I wished we had one in the kitchen when we lived on a rented farm without any plumbing facilities at all. The pump sits on a huge boulder decorated with orange lichen. Whenever I see it I'm reminded of what used to be and how I am blessed with so much today.

American Robin on Hand Pump, Montmartre, Saskatchewan, 
April 18, 2016. Photo Credit: Anita Mae Draper

I'd like to point out that both of the above images can be used as Facebook birthday cards because they're square and there's lots of room for the sentiment.

Also, all of the images credited to me or Nelson are free to copy. Let us know if you'd like the location/date label deleted and we'll send you one without the extra info.