Thursday, 21 June 2012

Kananaskis Country

Kananaskis Country (or K Country as it is often called) is a recreational area west of Calgary.  For visitors to Calgary with limited time, it is the closest mountain area to the city – just a 45 minute drive to the west.  It is a multi-use area which means logging and oil exploration are on-going.  However, the birding and wildlife viewing can be quite good.
Kananaskis Country as seen from the Elpoca Viewpoint

This morning, Ray, Mike and I headed to K Country for a leisurely morning outing.  Ray and Mike had a couple of catch-up birds to find, I was looking to get some photos and we had a team target – American Pika.

We started off on Sibbald Trail and headed straight for the wetlands.  Mike needed Alder Flycatcher and they are usually quite common.  However, today, its cousin, Willow Flycatcher, was the common bird but we eventually found an Alder for Mike.  Can you tell the two flycatchers apart?

Any differences you see are probably due to differences in lighting, shooting angle or pose of the bird.  According to Kenn Kaufman in his book, “Field Guide to Advanced Birding”, the two are virtually impossible to tell apart visually, even in the hand.  For the record, the one on the top is an Alder Flycatcher and on the bottom is a Willow Flycatcher.  I was much closer to the Willow, thus the photo shows more detail.  I got even closer to an inquisitive juvenile Gray Jay.
Gray Jay (juvenile)

While flycatcher watching, we also saw a couple of sapsuckers, one a “good” Yellow-bellied and the other had a bit of Red-naped in him.  The Yellow-bellied was another catch-up bird for Mike.  We were looking for a MacGillivray’s Warbler for Ray but didn’t find one.  There were a lot of Northern Waterthrush calling and one posed briefly in nice lighting.
Northern Waterthrush

We then drove to Highwood Pass to look for the pika.  On the road up to the pass, there is a “rock glacier” and this is where the pikas live.
American Pika habitat

I expected that we would need to carefully scope the rocks to find one but, just as we started up a short trail, Ray called out, “I’ve got one”.  The American Pika ran between Ray and me, posed for a photo, and then ran up into the rocks.  If only all mammals were as cooperative!
American Pika

On the way home, we made a couple of more stops, the final one at Mt. Lorette Ponds.  This is a beautiful spot and a reliable site for Townsend’s Warblers.  We saw many of these warblers in BC but the trees are much taller there so it is always a treat to get good views.
Townsend's Warbler

Tomorrow, the four of us will head to eastern Alberta to find five target birds and hopefully, a couple of good mammals.

1 comment:

  1. Exquisite photos, Brian. I am behind on reading all of the posts but am so enjoying your Big Year. What fun!