Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Alberta Trip - 2008 - and home again.

With just two days to go before we hit the road, it is definitely time to get the report on last years spring trip finished! You will recall we were at Yoho National Park. From there we headed west on highway 1, through Revelstoke, then taking highway 97A and heading south to Veron, where we headed to Ellison Provincial Park. Not that many years ago my late mother and aunt both lived along the Okanangan Landing Road which leads to this campground. The area really hadn't changed that much in the approximately 10 years we had been away. Ellison Provincial Park is obviously a very popular park and not 'dog friendly'. Years ago there was an area at the south end of the campground where those of us who chose to travel with 4 legged companions could actually access the lake - now there are private homes in the area. Because of this and all the other areas where dogs weren't allowed, I have no pictures of the place apart from these deer that were spotted browsing in the bushes.
The next day, June 15, 2008 we were on the final stretch. Driving through the city of Kelowna was enough to make one want to turn around and head back to the hills.....definitely a 'city'....across the new floating bridge, headed to the 'Connector' that takes you to Merritt. It was along the connector that I finally saw a moose - unfortunately, too far away to take a picture, even if you could get stopped in time.

Just past where you can turn to take the old highway to Princeton, there is a grasslands site at the side of the road where we stopped to give the dogs (and us) a chance to stretch our legs. There is a parking lot here and a nice display area explaining the importance of grasslands. In the above photo you can see the road that leads into the hills and a number of recreation sites. We have driven to these sites in the past, and now that we have the more suitable truck/camper set up, will have to attempt a visit to them at some point in the future as the habitat, especially in spring, if fantastic.

In the above shot I was attempting to capture the 'blue' of the hillside. Unfortunately, it doesn't look as impressive in a picture as it did in real life. Blue lupins were in flower, looking absolutely spectacular in the sunshine.

Some of the grassland flowers were Sticky Geranium.......

Death Cammas.......

The gorgeous dark blue Larkspur or Wild Delpinium.......

a closer view of the wild Delpinium.....

The blue Lupins that covered the hillsides......

and a less common 'Chocolate' lily or Frittilaria

This shot, taken from the parking lot at the site, is of the main highway, affectionately known as the 'Connector'....looking westward, the town of Merritt is too far off, there is a long hill descending down into the town. From Merritt we turned south onto the Coquilla highway.

One final stop at a rest area.....and in less than an hour we'd be pulling up to our own place. The end of a most enjoyable trip!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Alberta Trip - 2008 - Back to B.C.

In less than one weeks time we will be on the road for this year's I had better get the trip we took to Alberta, last June finished.... as you recall we were at Crimson Lake just outside of Rocky Mountain House in Alberta, being less than enchanted with the spot, we were up and on the road early. We had never traveled the David Thompson Highway from Rocky Mountain House to Saskatchewan Crossing before and despite the less than ideal weather, we were quit enchanted with the route and lamented the fact that we were towing a trailer as there were all sorts of interesting recreational spots that invited exploration. Now we have a more suitable rig...that will be on a future 'to do' list. This was a rest area along the highway.
Ernie had to go over and examine this rock formation and find out what the black stuff was - it was coal. (remember you can click on the picture to enlarge it then use your back button to return to the blog)

You didn't know that metal guards were really scratching posts for Big Horn Sheep did you!

When your coat looks like that no wonder you need a good back scratcher!

This was another area we pulled into for a bit of a break...seems to me we had some lunch here.

This is a close up of the little flowers, close as I can figure they are 'Fern leaf Candytuft'. Once we got to Saskatchewan crossing in Banff National Park, we headed south on the parkway. We would have liked to have stayed at Waterfowl Lakes campground but unfortunately it wasn't open yet. It is one of our favorite campgrounds in the Rocky Mountain National Parks.

Passed Crowsfoot Glacier....the bottom 'toe' has pretty much disappeared now, leaving a 2 toed crow foot.

Took another break at Peyto Lake. You can just make out the highway we had traveled on in the top right part of the picture.

While Ernie took in the view, Shantz had a view of her own......

This Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel was running around underneath the viewing platform. As there was still snow in a lot of the areas, it had probably just woken up from hibernation.

The Chalis Cup Anemone were just breaking through the ground in areas where the snow had melted (it wasn't quite the middle of June)

These Cut-leaf Anemone were just slightly ahead....they must have been in a sunny spot (when it wasn't raining or snowing which is what it was trying to do while we were there). Back on the road until we hit Lake Louise when we turned west, heading to Yoho National Park.

After a long day of driving we headed to Chancellor Peak campground at the west end of Yoho National Park. We had stayed here the previous year. This particular campground had been closed for a number of years and had just reopened in 2007. It is a lovely campground on the Kicking Horse River.

The end of a long will note that this was a 'pull through' campsite! You don't find many of them in National Parks!

The road into the campground had the Kicking Horse River on one side and this smallish pond on the other. There is a railroad running just along the back of this pond.

These magenta colored flowers are Northern Hedysarum....they were a little past their prime...

Well these Yellow Ladyslippers were just coming into flower.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tunkwa Lake - May 2009 - Part 4

Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny again, although temperatures had dropped down to freezing again over night. While we enjoyed our morning coffee, Shantz (on the extreme right) enjoyed her version of husky television - the small brown dot on the left........
This, folks, is just one of the reasons why owners of Siberian Huskies don't let their dogs run free, but keep them on a leash at all times. No, they aren't 'part wolf' - they just retain a really strong hunting instinct, in fact they are perfectly capable of fending for themselves....something we have to keep in mind at all times!

Today the object being stalked was this Yellow Bellied Marmot that would shortly dive into it's metal culvert.....

This morning our walk was headed in a slightly different direction. This picture shows the spillway between Tunkwa and Leighton Lakes. We are heading over to that dark ridge.

This view better shows the area. That little hillside is where the Bald Eagles nest, in fact is a very 'birdy' place - we wouldn't have time to explore it this trip......

One of the many Killdeer in the area led the way along the well beaten path......

Yes, we're still coming!

When you reach the crest of the hill, this is the sight in front of you. This pond area is always alive with birds. The song of Marsh Wren and the not so melodious call of the Yellow Headed Blackbirds greet you.

There is always all sorts of waterfowl.....this day, lots of American Coot, many many Lesser Scaup ducks, some Northern Shovelers, Canvasbacks, Ruddy Ducks, even some Red Heads.

We even saw a pair of Wilson's Phalarope wading in the water.

That grove of Aspen trees on the right hand side was our ultimate destination.

This Aspen grove is a veritable avian nursery! Every cavity nesting bird in the area nests here. This visit, it was a bit early yet but sit yourself down sometime in June and just watch the activity that takes place!

There were dozens of excited Tree Swallows checking out all the sites. A female sticks her head out of this one.....

and a pair excitedly comment over the merits of this one! We also saw European Starling and Northern Flicker....later there will be Mountain Bluebirds and Red Naped Sapsucker joining the party....and who knows what else!

Unfortunately, for us, this visit had to come to an end, so we reluctantly started back to camp and ultimately, to home.

Tunkwa Lake - May 2009 - Part 3

Sometimes, in fact usually, the best way to observe birds is to pick a likely spot and then just sit and watch and see who shows up, so after lunch, that is exactly what I did. Of course we had picked the likely spot when we all I had to do was sit. A steady stream of birds continued to arrive at the pond.......starting with this Savannah Sparrow
This White Crowned Sparrow also showed up, in fact there had been a whole bunch of them busy bathing earlier in the morning....I had watched the activity from my bed in the camper. Several Song Sparrows also showed up....but can't post pictures of everybody!

I carry a little hummingbird feeder with me and when I heard one buzz through the campsite, I quickly put it out. It didn't take long for this male Rufous Hummingbird to show up. I have seen Calliope Hummingbirds here in the past but didn't seen any during this short visit.

A pair of American Crow were busy nest building. The one above has a mouthful of building materials.

If you look very carefully you can just make out one of the crows in this Juniper bush, the nest itself is in the lower part of the picture.

Yellow Rump Warblers were a constant...the above shot shows where they get their name!

This fellow had grabbed himself a bug for lunch......

while this one is drying off after an afternoon bath.

Although not quite as numerous as the Yellow-rumped, there were a lot of these Orange Crowned Warblers around as well. I was sitting on a picnic table, the branches of this little spruce tree were almost touching the seat of the table......

by sitting very still, this warbler was so close I could have reached out and touched it. I also saw a Yellow Warbler, and a male Wilson's Warbler, but didn't manage photos of either.

all of a sudden this male Hairy Woodpecker flew in and landed on this little dead pine tree that was right behind our camper .......

he flew down to this cut off stump where he feasted on ants that I had seen running around on it earlier......

he then flew over to a fallen aspen log that was laying in the water, and proceeded to work from one end of it to the other.

one last 'Hairy Woodpecker' picture! By now it was time to get up and stretch my legs and go for a bit of a 'wander'....

In the more open area, just past my wooded pond, I could see some Mountain Bluebirds flying around, above we have one of the males......

and this is one of the females.

this pair of American Kestrals had just finished enjoying a little 'afternoon delight!'

My wanders took me down to the bluff that over looked the lake. When I looked down, this Canada Goose was sitting on a nest on a rock at the base of the bluff.
By then it was time to head back for supper (Mushroom stuffed Chicken breasts, roast potatoes, corn on the cob and Cesar salad - we don't believe in 'roughing' it just 'cause we aren't at home!)
After dinner it was time to go our separate ways....Ernie and Shantz headed off for a long walk, while April (the old shih tzu) and I went for a more leisurely amble.

Ernie and Shantz found a couple of Western Meadowlarks and took this picture - I don't think he even realized there was a Mountain Bluebird there as well!

While April and I wandered down by the lake, I could hear a bird call that I knew I should know! Suddenly the light dawned - Sandhill Cranes! I looked up and there was a flock of 20 birds, they flew around in circles a couple of times, checking out the camping area I guess, and then headed off across the lake, presumably to the unpopulated area on the far shore.

on our way back to the camper, the geese were once more heading into the campground for their evening grazing.......

There was one Cackling Goose in the group. The Cackling Goose is the smaller goose on the right hand side of the picture, actually a sub-species of Canada Geese.