Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Canadian Wildlife

I interrupt this blog for a much needed UPDATE to my descriptions of the following wildlife. I have just received a "Dear Sister" letter from Bill correcting my memory, or perhaps my comprehension of wildlife, having been sheltered from the same for so many years! Actually, this is a great way to get said brother to email me! Corrections will be in red, to match my embarrassment!

There were several things that we particularly wanted to see on our trip to the northwest. For me, it was the mountains. For some reason I find mountains, especially snow-capped ranges of mountains, so magnificent, so majestic, and the closest I've come to seeing them has been at an airport, changing planes.

Bill and Graham, on the other hand, were especially anxious to see some of the animals that live in and around the parks. For two days our Tour Director, Russell, teased us with his stories of seeing, or not seeing, various wildlife on this tour. He cautioned our group that the sightings might be few and far between, as that had been the case just two weeks before. "Just yell BEAR! if you see anything," he told us.

I have to say, and our Tour Director admitted, that we got to see an unusual number of sightings once we got into Canada. Plus, our T.D. was almost as excited as the rest of our group when an animal happened by on the road. Often times he would see several cars stopped on the road and tell us, "There must be a bear ahead, look out the right side of the bus!" And sure enough, there would be a bear or maybe a long-horned sheep, right by the side of the road. We would stop for maybe ten minutes, until the last picture was taken, and then we'd start off again, always on the lookout for more wildlife.

So here are some of our pictures, in no particular order. Many were taken on the highway, and I couldn't tell you where to save my life. Others will be more identifiable and I'll tell you where, when and how we got that pic.

This cute little guy is a Marmot and we met him at our hotel in Spokane. Bill and I walked a path behind the hotel in the evening and again after breakfast and came across this fellow and his harem. He is obviously used to humans and knows that sometimes one will bring him some crackers (guilty!) or other yummy treat.

One of our stops on the way through Montana was the National Bison Reserve. Again, Russell cautioned us that we probably wouldn't see any bison out that afternoon, but, not too far down the road we came across this trio, and there is a newborn calf laying beside the two on the right.

Here we are at Sun Peaks, a ski resort just outside of Kamloops, Canada. Once again, Bill and I were out walking and noticed this cute little fella in the trees. He posed for some pictures, we continued our walk, and I swear the same little squirrel kept showing up where we were walking! I have no doubt he was hoping for a bite of something to eat, but I was fresh out of crackers!

These are actually mountain goats, although they are still cute and still remind me of my Westie.
Here we are on the road, somewhere in Canada, and these mountain sheep are grazing on some salt flats. These two were part of a group, but it was hard to get them into the grass for better contrast in the picture. Don't they have interesting faces? Reminds me just a little of my Westie!

Ahhh, now here is one guy that everyone was hoping to see! What is the second animal you think of from Canada? A moose, of course! Russell stopped the bus for us and we waited several minutes before this guy would turn and face us for a good picture. Isn't he just magnificent?
He says this is not a moose but an elk. Is he sure? It looks like a moose to me. Here is a picture he sent of a moose: And this one he says is a mountain sheep that we saw outside of Banff. Well, gee whiz, it was up so high, who could tell???

Normally Graham is a snoozer on the bus rides between stops, but as we got closer to these craggy mountains, he got more alert and began sighting in his "hunter's eye" to look for mountain goats. This picture is just incredible because the original photo was taken so far away that I couldn't even detect the goat in it. Bill put this on his computer and tweaked and cropped it until we got this closeup of this incredible goat. He is walking on a sheer cliff, folks! How in the world does he do it?
Here's the real goat:

What a story there is behind these pictures! We were snoozing along in the bus when, all of a sudden, Russell shouts "Bear! Bear!" and everyone wakes up, the bus driver puts on the brakes and pulls over to the side of the road, and there on our left is this black bear, munching some grass and flowers. So everyone is leaning to the left, taking pictures over each other, and we're all going crazy, when the bear decides he's had enough of us and starts meandering up and over the berm. Then, suddenly, he turns back, looks at our bus, and walks back into the highway and right in front of our bus. He must have seen some dandelions on that side of the road, because he went straight to them and gave all of us on that side of the bus an opportunity to get photos up close. After about ten minutes we had had enough and set out on a quest for "more bear!"

This last photo is Graham's ultimate prize. All along he had been hoping (and verbalizing his wish) to see a grizzly bear. "It will make my day if I can just see one!" All to no avail, as Russell assured us that grizzlies just don't come close to the highways. Sorry. So as we were headed up to Jasper on Saturday, we stopped for lunch at the Chateau Lake Louise - another beautiful, wonderful experience - and after lunch Bill and I took our usual walk around the perimeter, photographing the frozen lake, and left Graham resting on a bench. At some point, as he was about to doze off, he heard some commotion in a meadow adjacent to the lake, got up and ran to see what was happening, and nearly fell over himself when he saw these three grizzlies munching on the grass there. This is one of his pictures that Bill tweaked and cropped for him, and he immediately became the hero of the day, as he was the only one of our group to have seen the bears! What a joy!

Well, I hope you enjoy the wildlife. There's no telling what I'll pull out next!

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