Monday, May 07, 2012

Banff to Radium

Sunrise @ Bannf
It was 6am and -5C when I finally decided to get out of bed and put the heating on. Lovely warm days and bitterly cold nights are the order of the day while were way up in the Rockies.

An early morning walk before breakfast produced some spectacular scenes with the sun just touching the mountain tops producing plumes of cloud rising against the amazingly blue sky. I’ve seen Ruby-crowned Kinglet on several occasions before in Canada, a gorgeous little migratory passerine with a striking ruby red crown, but I’ve never heard one singing. A song I was unfamiliar with turned out to be a lovely male perched high in a Pine Tree. Pine Siskin were also constantly flicking around and I was surprised to come across a Savannah Sparrow, when I located one sitting on top of a boulder, looking stunning in the morning sun and likely on passage.

Downy Woodpecker
We set off after breakfast towards our next stop of Radium Springs but diverted slightly to visit Johnson’ Canyon, a 3km walk which takes you up to some stunning waterfalls and small glaciers. One of the lagoons on route held a pair of Bufflehead and a lone Barrow’s Goldeneye but things were generally quiet apart from the odd Tree Swallow filtering through.

I have to say that the walk to the top falls at Johnson’s was treacherous on occasions with thick ice on the walkways, so Dee and went up with extreme caution. A little too early in the year for Black Swift which nest here but we did manage some good views of Varied Thrush, a summer visitor and a bird which has an amazing trilled whistle call.

Our next stop Radium Hot Springs and the only way to get to there is on the main highway so with exception to the various stunning lookout points and occasional Deer the drive through was uneventful on the birding front, with surprisingly few Raptors on the wing although we did managed Coopers Hawk and Bald Eagle.

Mourning Cloak
We parked up around mid-afternoon at the Canyon RV Park, an excellent campground we discovered during our 2010 tour. With it being so early in the season we even managed to get the same pitch which sits right next to a fast running brook, American Dipper can be seen regularly from our RV window!

After a few beers in the lovely spring sunshine Dee and I took an afternoon stroll, discovering a nice walk which runs parallel to the grounds. Here we discovered numerous Butterflies, including at least 30 Holly Blue, numerous Mourning Cloak, Orange Tip and several other varieties of unknown Blues and Whites, something for me to get my teeth into!

Song Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker, Pine Siskin, and our first Hutton’s Vireo and Orange-crowned Warblers were all recorded, along with the ever present American Robin.

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