Shoulder Season

Fine art wildlife photo - trumpeter swanTrumpeter swans early morning on Lac La Biche Lake

I live on two of the largest migratory bird paths in North America, the Central and the Mississippi Flyways. Lac La Biche is home to more than 200 species of birds and is renowned for bird watching. Its namesake lake has 170 km of shoreline. While there are terrific bird viewing opportunities in February and March in Florida, I do not need to spend a lot of money on a trip to another country when I have such variety and opportunities in my own backyard!

Fine art photograph of a great blue heronGreat Blue Heron at sunset, Lac La Biche Lake

Lac La Biche was designated as a bird sanctuary by the Government of Canada in 1920. In 1999 Lac La Biche Lake was recognized as an Important Birding Area (IBA) by BirdLife International and the Canadian Nature Federation. The Government of Alberta also recognizes the lake as an ESA an Environmentally Significant Area. 

Fine art wildlife photograph of a white pelicanWhite Pelican on Lac La Biche Lake

Right now migration is in winding down, many birds have passed through, a few like the white pelican and double-crested cormorants are still to arrive and others like the trumpeter swan will soon be gone. It is an incredible time to see species I would not otherwise be able to see. So it is why as soon as the snow has melted enough I am spending most of my time along the shoreline. 

Fine art wildlife photograph of trumpeter swansTrumpeter swans at sunrise with gold reflecting on the water, Lac La Biche Lake

This past weekend I spent a blessed three hours early Saturday morning photographing three trumpeter swans. I know they would soon be gone and not seen again until the fall when they migrated through the area. The swans were in a bay. The lake still is mostly covered with ice, however, there is a swath about 100ft wide where the water is open along the shoreline. The swans swam back and forth in the makeshift channel in the bay. 

Fine art wildlife photograph of trumpeter swansA trio of trumpeter swans, Lac La Biche Lake

I arrived early in the morning before sunrise and lay in the sand photographing the swans against the backdrop of ice reflecting the pinks of the rising sun. After about an hour and the wonderful colors of the sunrise had been lost and I was thinking of moving on and checking out some fox dens for any signs of kits, a fog slowly started to roll in. I waited for it to engulf the bay, partly obscuring the swans but also making for terrific photo opportunities. So I stayed almost another two hours. 

Fine art wildlife photograph of trumpeter swansTrumpeter swans in the early morning fog, Lac La Biche Lake

That might seem like a long time, three hours photographing swans, but you need to spend that type of time, hoping for the moment the swans align, shake or demonstrate some other behaviour that will give the remarkable shot. As I lay in the sand another photographer came along. I remember he said, "Swans? I've never seen them". He crouched took a few photos staying less than five minutes and then left. I was surprised if he had never seen swans before that he did not stay longer, but this encounter also highlights my message of what is in your own backyard that you have never seen.  Explore the wildlife in your own area. Get out and enjoy nature as much as you can. Hone your skills and then consider if a photo tour is worth it. If you decide it is you will at least have a lot of practice at home and be ready to get great photos when you go abroad.