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In beautiful surroundings

Had a wonderful day out yesterday, with friends Cathy and Terry, driving to Banff and part of the Bow Valley Parkway, including the Lake Minnewanka loop, which is where we watched a group of about eight Mountain Sheep. I left home about 5:30 a.m. and got back home around 10:00 p.m., I think, so it was a long day (about 17 hours!), giving us time to find all sorts of interesting and/or beautiful things. Thanks so much, Cathy and Terry! Will have to add a bit more about our finds later today, as I have to get ready to go out for a bird walk in Fish Creek Park this morning.


Later: a few more words in between backing up and deleting a few more photo files - I'm almost out of hard drive room again! Have been taking too many photos recently, which hasn't helped. Our day yesterday started off incredibly, when Terry spotted "something" moving across a distant meadow. Cathy and I got a few extremely distant shots, and we are sure it was an Otter. Will post it in the next few days and perhaps someone "out there" could either correct or confirm the ID for us. Would be much appreciated. I've never seen an Otter before - not seen very often here. We spent the day driving various places, including the Smith-Dorrien/Spray Trail through the mountains from Canmore (what a road that is! Definitely not one to be done in bad weather, ha!). We stopped and had our packed lunches at The Peter Lougheed Visitor Information Center. This is an interesting place, with beautiful displays inside. It also has a balcony which overlooks a huge meadow, where sometimes Grizzly Bears and Moose can be seen. We were out of luck with these two animals, but thoroughly enjoyed watching the antics of endless little Columbian Ground Squirrels, playing on ground that had, over the years, been ripped up by Grizzly Bears. Their loud squeaks came to a sudden stop when a beautiful Coyote walked into the scene. Fascinating to watch her check the little burrows, hoping to be able to drag out one of the Ground Squirrels to take home to feed her babies. There were Barn Swallows around the building, too, including one that flew to a nest under the eaves. While we were watching all these things going on, Cathy and I suddenly realized that there was a tiny something "buzzing" in front of us - a tiny Hummingbird, hovering. I think we were both so taken by surprise, that neither of us thought to try and grab a photo, ha. Also drove part of the Bow Valley Parkway. On the way back, my friends very kindly finished off with the Lake Minnewanka loop, even though it was getting quite late in the evening, where we saw the Mountain Sheep in my image above, along with another seven in the group. I love the view over Lake Minnewanka. And there is something about Mountain Sheep - in their expression and eyes. They seem very calm creatures, who tend to think (correctly!) that the area belongs to them and so walk along in the middle of the road if they want to. I always like seeing how patient most drivers are when this happens. At one part of our drive, along Mt. Shark Road, we all saw an animal that did not look familiar to any of us. We ruled out Weasels, Pine Marten, etc. and ended up concluding that this very dark animal must have been a Fisher (which I've never seen before). Other creatures we saw were another gorgeous Coyote, who followed the road (along the top of the embankment, mainly in sight of us. So interesting to watch how carefully she moved, or froze, when watching for something to catch of supper (we didn't see her catch anything - those Columbian Ground Squirrels definitely know how to let out a screeching alarm, ha). More Mountain Sheep along the Smith-Dorrien/Spray Trail, not far from Canmore. We were even lucky enough to see a few Mountain Goats very high up on the rocky cliff. Distant shots, but so much nicer to see them in their natural environment instead of at the Calgary Zoo : ) And now I feel totally exhausted all over again, just thinking about, and writing about, our amazing day. I feel incredibly lucky to be treated to a day like this - can't thank you enough, Cathy and Terry!

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Taken on May 20, 2012