Loaded to the gunnels with snow shoes, poles, winter clothing and optics, the four of us met at 6:30 and drove west in winter darkness, laughing about our odds of spotting a white bird on white snow.
|Can you spot the ptarmigan?|
We take a break in Lake Louise where I’m treated to the finest chocolate chip cookie I’ve ever enjoyed, and probably the largest. Twenty minutes or so later, as we approach the entrance to Num-ti-jah Lodge, driver Phil spots suspicious tracks on the snowbank, and Ray locates the White-tailed Ptarmigan nibbling on willow buds five meters away.
So much for snow shoes! Our ptarmigan calmly poses for several photographs and we eventually leave it to finish its breakfast. Searching willow patches as we drive on to Bow Summit yields no more ptarmigan.
|View from the Banff-Jasper Highway, just south of Bow Summit|
The mountain views are spectacular in the morning sun as we work our way back south. At Morant’s Curve (a view spot made famous by Nicholas Morant who photographed for Canadian Pacific in the 1930’s and 40’s), Phil got quite excited when a train came by, providing a view almost like in the old CP ads (alas, the train was headed in the wrong direction).
Along the Bow Valley Parkway we find an American Dipper in the open water of the Bow, and at Vermilion Lakes a small flock of Green-winged Teal. Along the way we manage to spot several Elk.
A detour onto Sibbald Trail in Kananaskis takes us eventually down Powderface Trail to Dawson Trailhead. As we are searching for a drumming woodpecker, a Northern Pygmy-Owl hoots nearby and soon flies into view, allowing for great looks and photos, while another calls in the distance. The tooting continues as we pull out of the parking lot and head for home.