Monday 14 September 2009

Canada: the Icefields Parkway

After a hectic weekend birding (twitching up for the Lincs King Eider on Saturday, and then largely seawatching on Sunday - see JL's excellent account of a cracking day), I'm too tired to write very much here. Fortunately, the following pictures from the Banff-Jasper highway (AKA the Icefields Parkway) in the Canadian Rockies tell a much more impressive story than I ever could. In summary - go there, you won't regret it!

 Athabasca Falls
The lower reaches of the Athabasca Glacier, which feeds the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Oceans.
All the rivers fed by glaciers were flowing a peculiar milky white colour in August
A real hardship to drive 240km of road like this...
Maligne Canyon
 The river just above Sunwapta Falls
 And, appropriately for the last photo, one of the most amazing sunsets I've ever seen.

Thursday 3 September 2009

Canada: the land mammals

Next batch of photos: everyone say 'aaaaah, cute'....

 Chipmunk (need to work out which species in due course...)
Yellow-bellied Marmot - a pair of these had apparently made a rather chic home for themselves along the inside of a concrete crash barrier, which conveniently had marmot-sized holes every metre or so!

Columbian Ground Squirrel - pretty common, and very loud!

Elk - a small group of these were feeding on the roadside just outside Jasper, early one morning. 

 White-tailed Deer - near the western extreme of their range in SE British Columbia

Tuesday 1 September 2009

Canada: best of the birds

Here's the first collection of highlights from Canada - a selection of the best bird photos. Although the scenery and mammals were very good, this is a birding blog after all, so they get published first!
Bald Eagle - these were relatively abundant, seen well several times. Adult perched on Vancouver Island near Ucluelet above, and a juvenile from the Kootenays below.

Blue Grouse - this male showed fearlessly for a few minutes on the roadside near the top of the gravel road to Blackwall Meadows in the Manning Provincial Park.

California Quail - some large groups seen in the Okanagan valley. "Cool hair!" was the quote, I think...

Clark's Nutcracker - seen in several locations, especially at higher altitudes. This very tame one was feeding on crumbs in a layby on the Icefield Parkway, though!

Great Horned Owl - the final addition to the trip list, this was one of two juveniles seen roosting at the Reifel Bird Sanctuary near Vancouver Airport. A superb way to end the trip!

Great Blue Heron - common, but photogenic. In the first photo, it appears that the bird has a transparent inner eyelid closed as it fishes. I believe Dippers have this adaptation, but need to check whether herons do as well. Anybody know? Leave me a comment if you do!

Killdeer - pretty common, seen most days somewhere or other.

Merlin - I was woken up by two juveniles calling loudly from pines around a campsite in the Okanagan, and then saw the female bringing in food. Incredible to see them in such a public place, given their typical choice of bleak and remote moorlands for breeding sites in Europe.

Osprey - seen most days, these recently fledged juveniles were photographed still around their nest in Invermere. Conveniently, the site was best viewed from the first-floor deck outside a nearby pub!

Red-necked Phalarope - I found and identified this bird on the pool by the visitor centre at the Reifel reserve. Somewhat bizarre that the many other visitors had apparently not noticed it feeding manically a few feet away, but maybe that's just the way birding works on the other side of the pond?!

Rufous Hummingbird - we saw a few of these in the end, but the excitement when we saw the first one was huge. Amazing creatures.... Suzanne and Rebecca reckon they fly like the Snitch (apologies if you've not read Harry Potter), and admittedly I can see the similarity!

Sora - this is one of two or three birds seen well at Salmon Arm, near the harbour, which turned out to be the only site where we saw this species.

Two-barred (AKA White-winged) Crossbill - small groups seen on the top half of the road up Mount Revelstoke. Better photos may have followed if we hadn't been evacuated back off the mountain due to a nearby forest fire!

Western Kingbird - despite our location, we saw roughly equal numbers of Eastern and Western Kingbird. The former must surely be a potential vagrant to Europe, early in the autumn?

Wilson's Warbler - one of the commoner warblers (after the omni-present Yellow-rumped), but always a welcome sight for sore eyes!

Yellowlegs sp - I've got other photos of this bird, and know what it is! Anyone brave enough to stick their neck out and ID it from this one?!

Yellow-rumped Warbler - another photo from the Reifel Sanctuary, but could've been taken almost anywhere. I have the call lodged in my head now, so watch out for the mega alert on Scilly in a few weeks time! I wish....