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An Osprey nest built on the girder bridge, where the road crosses the Bow River at Castle Junction, near Banff. For more photos of the nest,  click here.
On returning to Hwy 1 we had our best find of the day - an Osprey on a large nest built right on the top of the girder bridge taking the road over the Bow River to join the Bow Valley Parkway - the scenic road back to Banff. After taking several photos, we continued on, stopping at an area of willow and alder wetland, where we saw a Great Blue Heron, being mobbed by Red-winged Blackbirds, and also a Yellow Warbler and a couple of empidonax flycatchers. We stopped to check out the Muleshoe Lake area, but unfortunately, just as we'd seen a Chipping Sparrow, and 2 Bald Eagles, perched atop some trees in the distance, a family with some very noisy children and a dog arrived. We figured we wouldn't see much else, so we cut our losses and headed for the Vermilion Lakes area, just on the edge of Banff. Here we got the following species: Osprey - soaring overhead, Canada Geese, Common Yellowthroat, Killdeer, Song Sparrow, Mallards, American Robin, Ruby-crowned Kinglets and a pair of Black-billed Magpies. As it began to rain, we decided to call it a day and head for the Ptarmigan Hotel in Banff. As we left, we could hear a commotion and stopped to investigate. For several minutes we were delighted by the antics of an Osprey, raven and some magpies mobbing a Bald Eagle, perched, apparently minding his own business, in the trees above the lake!

22 species, with 1 lifer

To end the day, we drove to Maligne Canyon, intending to go all the way up to Maligne Lake. However, it was much further than we thought, so we decided to explore just the canyon itself, from its various viewpoints at bridges 1 through 6. At the first & second bridges we heard chickadees, and at the 5th bridge there was an Osprey perched atop a pine tree by the river. Below the 6th bridge the Maligne River emerges from the canyon, and there is a walk along the river bank. This was the most productive and it was here that we saw 6 Black Swifts* flying overhead, as we stood at the confluence of the Maligne and Athabasca Rivers. It was interesting to note that the waters of the Maligne River were blue in comparison to the white glacial fed waters of the Athabasca River, and that junction could be seen for quite a way downstream (see photo above). Also seen here was the only kingfisher we found on the trip - a Belted, and on the river there was a female Common Merganser. In the woods: American Crows, Common Ravens and Yellow-rumped Warblers.

Before returning to Jasper, we stopped at Mildred Lake (below) on the edge of the Jasper Park Lodge complex that we had visited the afternoon before. We were hoping to find a Barrow's Goldeneye - well we did find a female Goldeneye with young, but are pretty sure she was a Common (photos are on a separate page). Also on the lake, were a Common Loon and a family of Red-necked Grebes* our last lifer for the day. In the trees: a Northern Flicker, Dark-eyed Junco, some American Robins and more Yellow-rumped Warblers.

31 species with 6 lifers

Canadian Rockies Trip
part 3
JASPER AREA

Day 5  Friday, 13th July 2001               

At our guesthouse we saw a Black-billed Magpie in the yard as we were leaving for our day of birding the recommended areas around Jasper. First we headed for Cottonwood Slough, located near Patricia Lake on the road to Pyramid Lake. Stopping at a small lake en route, we saw Ring-necked Ducks, American Robin and Red-winged Blackbirds. We then decided to do a woodland walk along the Patricia Loop Trail where we saw Common Raven, Ruby-crowned Kinglet and a singing Yellow-rumped Warbler. It was nice to see and hear this drab winter visitor to Texas in his beautiful summer costume! The trail came out on to the shores of Patricia Lake, where we spotted a female Common Loon with 2 young - tried to take a couple of photos with the 300mm lens, but she was a little far out (see below). On the path ahead of us were 2 Gray Jays, feasting on the insects in a pile of horse manure, and also seen - a pair of
Dark-eyed Juncos
(Oregon race).

Cottonwood Slough (pronounced "sloo") is an area of lakes produced by a series of beaver dams along the valley. It was a lovely walk and productive birdwise, though we made sure to take care and keep a lookout for bears - didn't encounter any, but did see some evidence of their presence with large scratch marks on a tree just off the track, where we had been sitting enjoying the view, overlooking a small lake. Birds seen on the first section: Red-breasted Nuthatch, Red-winged Blackbirds, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Dark-eyed Junco, female Blackpoll Warbler, Swainson's Thrush and
Lincoln's Sparrow*
. In the area of the beaver lakes, we saw a beautiful male American Redstart, 2 male Common
Yellowthroats, Swamp Sparrow, American Robin, Yellow-rumped Warbler
, Least Flycatcher*, Yellow Warbler and 3 Ring-necked Ducks.

The trail had now come out into an open area above the valley of beaver lakes, and we were able to look down onto the wetlands between the lakes. Two ducks were resting on a jetty at one end of a lake. At first we thought they were a pair, but we made sketches and took notes and photos, and on our return home, we decided that they were 2 different species: a female or eclipse male Bufflehead and an eclipse male Hooded Merganser*. The best sighting for the area, however, causing a great stir amongst the Red-winged Blackbirds and alarm calls through the area, was a Merlin* perched on top a bush.

To end the day, we drove to Maligne Canyon, intending to go all the way up to Maligne Lake. However, it was much further than we thought, so we decided to explore just the canyon itself, from its various viewpoints at bridges 1 through 6. At the first & second bridges we heard chickadees, and at the 5th bridge there was an Osprey perched atop a pine tree by the river. Below the 6th bridge the Maligne River emerges from the canyon, and there is a walk along the river bank. This was the most productive and it was here that we saw 6 Black Swifts* flying overhead, as we stood at the confluence of the Maligne and Athabasca Rivers. It was interesting to note that the waters of the Maligne River were blue in comparison to the white glacial fed waters of the Athabasca River, and that junction could be seen for quite a way downstream (see photo above). Also seen here was the only kingfisher we found on the trip - a Belted, and on the river there was a female Common Merganser. In the woods: American Crows, Common Ravens and Yellow-rumped Warblers.

Before returning to Jasper, we stopped at Mildred Lake (below) on the edge of the Jasper Park Lodge complex that we had visited the afternoon before. We were hoping to find a Barrow's Goldeneye - well we did find a female Goldeneye with young, but are pretty sure she was a Common (photos are on a separate page). Also on the lake, were a Common Loon and a family of Red-necked Grebes* our last lifer for the day. In the trees: a Northern Flicker, Dark-eyed Junco, some American Robins and more Yellow-rumped Warblers.

31 species with 6 lifers

JASPER  back to BANFF

Day 6 - Saturday 14th July 2001          

Today we headed south back to Banff, and along the way we saw Cliff Swallows flying around a bridge over a ravine. We couldn't see the nests, but there was obviously a colony here. Later, at a pull-in just south of the Athabasca Glacier Tourist Center, we were very fortunate to see a beautiful male Mountain Bluebird*, which just happened to land on the top of a sign, while were stopped for a break (elevation 2000 meters above SL). At the Bow Lake picnic area there were the usual birds checking out the picnic leftovers: Clark's Nutcrackers, a pair of Brown-headed Cowbirds, Common Raven and on the lakeshore a Spotted Sandpiper.

About 20 miles from Banff, at Castle Junction, Hwy 93 turns off to the right, heading southwest through Kootenay National Park to Radium Hot Springs. We followed the highway for about 5 miles to check out the Vermilion Pass Burn, where there had been an enormous fire about 30 years before. We had heard we might find some rare woodpeckers here, such as Lewis's and Black-backed, which like the habitat of a burned out forest, but the Fireweed Trail was very disappointing and we saw no woodpeckers and very little else  only a Yellow-rumped Warbler, American Robin and 7 Pine Siskins. As we were leaving the parking lot, we spotted a large raptor soaring overhead, which turned out to be an immature Bald
Eagle
, making up a bit for the paucity of the burned area.
On returning to Hwy 1 we had our best find of the day - an Osprey on a large nest built right on the top of the girder bridge taking the road over the Bow River to join the Bow Valley Parkway - the scenic road back to Banff. After taking several photos, we continued on, stopping at an area of willow and alder wetland, where we saw a Great Blue Heron, being mobbed by Red-winged Blackbirds, and also a Yellow Warbler and a couple of empidonax flycatchers. We stopped to check out the Muleshoe Lake area, but unfortunately, just as we'd seen a Chipping Sparrow, and 2 Bald Eagles, perched atop some trees in the distance, a family with some very noisy children and a dog arrived. We figured we wouldn't see much else, so we cut our losses and headed for the Vermilion Lakes area, just on the edge of Banff. Here we got the following species: Osprey - soaring overhead, Canada Geese, Common Yellowthroat, Killdeer, Song Sparrow, Mallards, American Robin, Ruby-crowned Kinglets and a pair of Black-billed Magpies. As it began to rain, we decided to call it a day and head for the Ptarmigan Hotel in Banff. As we left, we could hear a commotion and stopped to investigate. For several minutes we were delighted by the antics of an Osprey, raven and some magpies mobbing a Bald Eagle, perched, apparently minding his own business, in the trees above the lake!

22 species, with 1 lifer

Return Journey - Banff to Calgary to Houston

Day 7  Sunday 15th July 2001                  

Today we left the beautiful scenery of the Banff National Park and headed back to Calgary to catch a flight back to our home near Houston! There were lots of House Sparrows in Banff, and en route we noted: American Crows, Black-billed Magpies, 3 Red-tailed Hawks and a Canada Goose. At the airport there were the usual Rock Doves (feral pigeons) and several Barn Swallows.
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One of the beaver created lakes in Cottonwood Slough
Patricia Lake where we saw the Common Loon family
The female Common Loon and 2 young on Patricia Lake, near Jasper.
The confluence of the Maligne & Athabasca Rivers. Note the white glacier fed waters of the Athabasca on the right (and my birding partner/husband on the left!)
One of the lakes in the Cottonwood Slough, created by the beaver activity in the area.
An Osprey nest built on the girder bridge, where the road crosses the Bow River at Castle Junction, near Banff. For more photos of the nest,  click here.
The deep narrow section of the Maligne Canyon, between the 1st & 2nd bridges.
Family of Red-necked Grebes on Mildred Lake
Female Common Goldeneye and ducklings
Vermilion Lakes, near Banff, with Mt. Rundle in the distance. This is a good example of a mountain eroded from a thrust-faulted slab.
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© Helen Baines 2002                
Comments or suggestions, please:
Total of 74 species seen, with 23 lifers