Sunday, May 14, 2017

Banff....The Adventure Continues

After a bit of a delay I've finally managed to get around to my next post about my recent trip to Banff. I had hoped to get this done much sooner but a long trip, many photos to go through, work and a stretch of nice weather which had me pining to be outdoors all conspired against me.  Anyhow, without further ado.....

I was up early my second day and full of energy as I planned to check out more of the trail along the Bow as well as the Cave and Basin National Historic Site.  Fears of throngs of tourists were overblown and with the exception of the odd jogger or cyclist it was fairly deserted.  I was amused to see an elk lounging on a front lawn.

I stopped once I got to the canoe launch, a place I was to stop at each of the three mornings I was in Banff.  A tranquil place, I could have spent the entire morning there just taking in the mountain and the views  were it not for a few places I wanted to visit.

I actually didn't see much bird life that morning although I could certainly hear it, mostly robins and juncos and the odd magpie.  I managed to get at least one half-decent shot of an Oregon species which I don't get to see in Fort McMurray.  The one bird I did see in droves during my visit was Juncos.  Without exception, I'm pretty sure they were on every bird list I made while I was there.

A male common merganser swimming in the Bow.

I crossed over the bridge for the first time and continued toward the falls.  It was encouraging to see the sky starting to clear up after the highly variable weather of the day before.

It was pretty dark along the trail due the time of day and tall trees.  I walked about halfway to the falls without seeing much in the way of people or birds, other than this robin.

Approaching the falls (again) with much better light conditions.

Bow Falls.  I actually ended up spending much more time at the base of the falls then I thought I would.  There were few people and even fewer birds so I just soaked in the views and snapped a few quick photos.

Ending up at the Fairmont wasn't originally on my agenda.  I ended up here because I didn't want to do any backtracking and also because I REALLY needed to find a bathroom (which I eventually did.) It was only around mid-morning so there were no big crowds and it was great to see this iconic landmark.

Heading back in to town I bumped in to yet another elk near the bridge.

I crossed over to the other side and managed to get a decent photo as he came up out of the river bed.

Random photo of Cascade Mountain.  The weather was clearing but not enough to get the shot I wanted.

My plan for the afternoon was to head over to the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, essentially the birthplace of Canada's national park system.  I was to return there the following day as well and I  have a few photos that will be in my next post.  Before heading there though I stopped by a wooded area behind a building that I THINK was the original parks administration building.  I was under renovation so I couldn't access the park itself and had to content myself with the wooded area behind.  

This little area wasn't even on my agenda but rather one of those "hey I think I'll check this place out just for the hell of it" kind of places.  And in terms of variety of tree birds, it ended up being a gold mine.   While its a bit difficult to see, I spotted this white-breasted nuthatch right away.  

Juncos, chickadees, more nuthatches, yellow-dumped warblers and this three-toed woodpecker soon followed.

At one point I recall thinking that here I was pretty much standing in one spot for just over 20 minutes and I had already noted 10 species.  At this time of year back home if I had that many listed over a span of a couple hours I would consider that a very good day.

Another shot of Mount Rundle on my way to the hot springs.

Once at the springs, I took a short trail of about 2km which more or less followed the Bow River.  It was a muddy trail this time of year...a very muddy trail, and I spent more time trying to keep my feet dry and performing a hiker's version of a "grand jeter" than taking photos.  I did have solitude though.  More sensible people were on the drier, hard-parked trails.  Will mention here too, in case anyone was wondering, that I WAS carrying bear spray.  There were other people here and there but I didn't want to let that lull me in to thinking that a bear couldn't pass by.  I LOVE being outdoors, doing a trail and watching for new bird species and I love to head off into secluded areas for solace.  I just don't want to die doing doing it.  

I saw buffleheads (pictured below), loons and a couple common mergansers and also I believe a harrier though it was quite a distance away.

Once I got out of the mess I took a boardwalk down to the march which is fed by the hot springs slowly trickling down Sulphur Mountain.   I spent several minutes watching a Great Blue Heron as it fished and then was chased by a couple of Canada Geese before settling back down again in the grasses.

Buffleheads, ring-necked ducks, coots, pied-billed grebes, the odd merganser and loon.  You'll just have to take my word for it.  My binoculars and camera just didn't have the range, unfortunately.

Common Merganser.

I'm not really sure off the top of my head how many species I saw that day though I must have noted at least 30 by then.  Originally, I was shooting for 20-25 and I figured if I got to 30 I'd be over the moon.  But I had surely surpassed that number at this point....and I still had one more full day ahead of me. 

Another mountain peak.

At this point I'm sure my legs had logged at least 15km over some pretty crummy conditions at times.  I wanted to push on and do one more trail in particular but decided to call it a day at this point.  I still had another full day to enjoy this place and there was no point in carrying on and exhausting myself.  I headed back to my hotel to review my field notes, some photos and watch a little playoff hockey.

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