Steve Williamson is an award winning wildlife photographer & conservationist living in British Columbia's Comox Valley. He spends a lot of his time working along the BC coast & when possible works with conservation charities in the Great Bear Rainforest & with the eco-tourism industry. Working with these organisations has enabled Steve to see many of the amazing sights & wildlife.
A shot from my last visit to Jasper National Park in Alberta – this male rocky mountain bighorn sheep seemed quite happy to pose for photographs before heading down the rocks in search of a shrubbery or grass to chew on (see hungry sheep). Bighorn sheep are fairly common in Jasper, where approximately 3000 of the animals call the park home. Being grass loving grazers, bighorns will migrate seasonally around the park from low-lying grassy slopes, up to the lush alpine meadows in the summer. But no matter what the season, they always keep a rocky ledge just a stone throws away, just in case!
This young female grizzly bear certainly seemed to be trying to tell us she was ‘tired’ and didn’t want to get up for those of us watching her and her sister on this particular day. The two ‘Sleepy Sisters’ are old favourites and were featured together a little while after this shot was taken a few years back. This bear, her sibling and her mom are still regular sightings at a well known bear viewing location here on the BC coast and were still around last season, but it is still a little early to see if they’re going to show this year, but hopefully they will, maybe with cubs of their own!
Here’s another springtime shot from my recent field trip away – a red fox mom and her young kit. A gentle moment between mum and her baby, but I think the kit is assessing it’s chances and asking mum for some solid food. Soon after I took this shot, mum trotted off across the moor and came back with a baby rabbit that she’d manage to unearth for her demanding youngster.
Lots of bears around British Columbia will already have emerged from their winter dens and some will have already started to arrive down on the coast. With last winter being so mild, there were even reports in parts of northern BC of grizzly bears being seen at the beginning of April. Quite often some of the first bears to emerge are the male bears, like this handsome guy seen here, photographed in mid-May a couple of years back. He’s looking good and in his prime and no doubt soon after this shot was taken he would have been looking out for an eligible female (or two) as mating season for grizzlies seems to kick in by early June.
Well, I didn’t have to travel far in to the field to find this guy – he was just in my back garden when I arrived home last week. It was a lovely warm spring day and this garter snake was out sunning himself on a nearby concrete slab. Hearing or sensing my approach he slithered away under a bush, so I just stood, watched and waited. After a short while he cautiously reappeared, peeking over this rock to see if the coast was clear back to his warm spot in the sun. (See also Garter Snake).
I’m just back from my first field trip of the year – photographing foxes, mums and kits around their den sites. Here we see a couple of red fox kits wrestling and tumbling just over the entrance to their den. These little guys had been coming out of their den for about ten days or so, but didn’t range much farther than 10 to 15 metres from the opening at present. Throughout May they will grow rapidly and will range a little farther every couple of days as they learn the basic survival skills from their mother. They will eventually disappear in to the surrounding forest to continue their growing and learning alone, by the end of the month or early June.
Eagles and crows certainly have a ‘love/hate’ relationship. I’ve often seen crows harassing their much larger foe for nothing more than flying past them in a tree. Crows will also raid any unattended eggs left in an eagle’s nest (and other birds too) given the slightest opportunity and they will of course move in pretty quick if the chance of some free food presents itself if an eagle leaves something it’s been eating behind. But I’ve also seen them sitting and tolerating each other with no problems whatsoever, usually whilst waiting for a an opportunity to feed. On other occasions I’ve seen eagles exact swift justice too, for example one time I saw an eagle fly over the top of a pair of crows sitting on a rock, and I would swear the crows gave a visible sigh of relief as the eagle went by, only for the eagle in a flash to swing back round and nail one of the crows to the rock it was sat on.
All across coastal British Columbia right now lots of important little pink flowers are popping out to enjoy the spring sun. In many parts of the coast the flowers quite often herald the arrival of the rufous hummingbird as well as spring itself. These flowers, measuring approximately 3 or 4cm across, grow in bushes that can be quite thick and a little prickly and belong to the shrub known as the Salmonberry(Rubus spectabilis).
I say it’s important because it produces one of the first berries of the summer to ripen and is a vital food source for a whole host of wildlife. The berries are also eaten by many people, especially coastal first nations, who named the plant because the cluster of berries reminded them of salmon eggs. The flower produces nectar which is heartily enjoyed by the hummingbirds, butterflies and bees too. Once the berries start to form they help feed several other bird species including thrushes and robins, along with small and large mammals such as foxes and bears.
Every now and then a grizzly bear, especially a young grizzly bear will stick its nose somewhere it’s not supposed to. That’s what’s happened to this juvenile grizzly bear late last summer. If you take a closer look at the end of her nose, you will see she has the white needle-like quill of a porcupine sticking out of her nostril. I’d spotted some quills on the side of her nose a day or two earlier to this shot and they had gone by this encounter, but this one still remained embedded. In most cases they do fall out before they have a chance to become infected and fortunately for this bear, the final one in her nose there did finally fall out the next day. But in the meantime I’m sure her and her brother, who also had a couple of quills in his snout, learned a valuable lesson about staying away from porcupines!
Brrrrr, makes you feel cold just looking at it! A young ‘golden’ looking grizzly bear cub follows its mother up a fast flowing river in search of salmon during the fall here on the BC coast a few years back. This cub and its sibling were quite unique looking little cubs with their golden heads and white collars. They learnt fast too and in no time at all where pulling spawned out salmon from the river and even the odd live one after mom showed them how it was done. You can see more of these guys in the ‘Grizzlies‘ gallery.