Monday, May 07, 2012

Calgary to Banff

Gorgeous Mountain Bluebird (Male)
Canada’s diversities extend far beyond its wildlife, well demonstrated today by the weather. Yesterday we were basking in glorious spring sunshine and a high of 17C, today as we pulled out of Calgary, almost complete whiteout and snowflakes the size of your hand!

As a rule we always attempt to keep away from the main highways and so our 130km drive to Banff was taken using highway 1A, a very scenic back route and one we’ve taken several times before. This is not the UK and so the roads were not a problem due to a bit of snow so within 30 minutes we were out of downtown Calgary and heading out towards the Canadian Rockies.

Mountain Bluebird (Female)
On this particular route there are a good number of lagoons and the Bow River, which extends down from Banff, is a constant companion. Douglas Fir are prominent throughout the journey and your constantly on the lookout for wildlife. Around 45 minutes out and you come to Ghost Dam, a large body of water and where we spent our first night during our 2010 visit. Today’s stop was just for coffee, and a chance to have a first search for anything of interest.

By now there was no sign of snow and the sun had already started to break through. The water produced a good number of low flying Swallows, so far out no chance of any positive ID, and as we sat in the dinette we were entertained by a lone Richardson’s ground squirrel, who went about his business until scurrying back down his hole when a Raven decided to pay him a visit!

Richardson's Ground Squirrel
The first Raptor of the day was a Cooper’s Hawk, perched majestically in a Fir tree alongside the road, but unfortunately no place to stop and take photographic advantage. By the time we reached the entrance to Banff National Park, stopping for some good views of Mountain Goat, Big Horn Sheep and White-tailed Deer, the weather was once again glorious sunshine.

As we made our way up towards Banff, now within the National Park, a blue flash which whizzed across the road in front of us turned out to be a gorgeous Mountain Bluebird. On further investigation I managed to locate a pair of these magnificent looking birds, (pictured) who’d probably not long arrived, and spent a good 10 minutes in their magical company before moving on.

Big-horn Sheep
Just prior to arriving at the Tunnel Mountain RV Park, tonight’s stop off, Dee located our first Barrow’s Goldeneye of this trip, when a pair was on a nearby lagoon; Great Blue Heron and American Robin were also seen. Once again it’s great to be back in the Rockies, and especially Banff the town we were married in during 2009. The scenery is simply stunning, the people extremely friendly and the wildlife very obliging. Tomorrow we head for Radium Hot Springs and the weather is looking good!