Another amazing trip out in Kananaskis Country, I took the entire Highwood loop heading south out of calgary. Shortly after going over the pass I spotted a young grizzly bear on the roadside (almost in the same place as on my previous trip), and spent quite a while photographing it before it wandered off into the trees. By the time I finished with the bear the weather which had started out pretty crappy had blown through, and it turned out to be an absolutely beautiful night.
Not much to say, sometimes you just have a good day. I found this beauty on the side of Highway 40 and spent literally a couple of hours sitting back in the car watching. There was very little traffic and all the people that stopped to look were unusually respectful, turning off engines and staying in their cars. He/she never appeared to be even the slightest bit stressed out and had no reason to run off.
It was there on the roadside long enough that I eventually left it at one point, but when I ran into a group of Big-Horned Sheep a kilometre or so down the road, heading at a fast pace straight toward the bear I thought I would go back and see what happened. In the end it wasn’t all that exciting. The herd was trotting along down the middle of the road when suddenly all of them stopped in their tracks and looked up at the direction of the bear. There was a pause and then they all turned and ran back in the direction that they had come from. The bear didn’t even notice. In it’s defence I should point out that it was directly up wind of the sheep.
Of all the Bears I’ve seen this was definitely my best encounter to date, and one of the most beautiful example of an Eastern Slope Grizzly Bear I have ever seen.
What a great weekend… Karl and I headed out to Jasper on Friday morning making quick time (especially for us) up Highway 93. We stopped briefly for a Mountain Goat on the side of a cliff overlooking the highway, but other than that it was a pretty uneventful drive with cloudy overcast skies not worth photographing.
We made it to the campground relatively early, we had reserved a spot at Whistlers Campground, and on the way in we passed a bunch of Elk with cute little spotted fawns, but were too lazy to change lenses and decided to come back after setting up camp. Big big mistake, we never saw them again.
Later on we had some great success on the Malign Lake Road spotting a bunch of Black Bears, although with overcast skies the light was lacking and faded quickly, but the road was quite and we were able to spend some time photographing them.
The next morning we drove west to Mount Robson and encountered a grizzly on the side of Highway 16, but couldn’t really get into a decent position, until it crossed over the road in front of us. I managed to grab a couple of shots as we passed by on the busy highway, but it was so deep in the ditch that the angle made it almost impossible.
Back at the campground we met up with the Derkowski’s for lunch while they set up camp. After a bit more evening exploring and a ridiculously close encounter on foot with a black bear, we had spotted it from across the lake then parked and walked down to were it was heading and it popped up right in front of us, closer than we had expected.
After that it was dinner time and we feasted on some of the best ever Campfire Chili, and relaxed around the fire enjoying the all you can burn firewood that the campground offers.
The way back was slow with traffic. A washroom break was made amusing by the Parkway’s resident Ravens, and we spotted a beautiful bull Elk with velvet antlers on the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff.
I started out in the prairies, watching swallows (which are almost impossible to photography) working on their nest at one of the roadside birdhouses. After that I headed up through Jumpingpound spotting Buffleheads and Goldeneyes in one of the ponds along the way. Next it was a White-Crowned Sparrow (my first), when I stopped to use the washroom at Mount Lorette Ponds.
When I left town the weather was pretty crappy, windy and cloudy, and not very nice, but the further I got into mountains the nicer it got. By the time I made it to the Shark Mountain turn-off on Spray-Lakes trail it was a beautiful spring evening. While there was still snow higher-up, it was great to see the rivers and streams had already thawed and were flowing high with spring melt.
On the return trip I spotted a pair of Grizzlies (mother and cub), walking down highway 40 from what must have been at least a kilometre or two in the distance. Cutting the engine I coasted down the hill doing my best not to spook them, but a winters worth of gravel on the roadway grinding under my tires was enough to scare them off the road before I could get very close. Thankfully I had my long lens and 1.4X on and was able to get some great shots of them crossing the road and climbing over the guard rail.
After leaving the road they climbed down the embankment, and I spent a half hour or so before it got too dark watching them (from a really bad angle) while they fed on new spring growth.
There was an Elk on the hillside about 20 metres behind them, and neither the bear nor the Elk even blinked at the others presence, they just kept on grazing. I found this very interesting, because everyone knows bears are blood thirsty carnivorous that kill everything they see…
One of the main reasons that I wanted to go down to Waterton National Park was for the wildlife.
I found the first bear of the day a short ways up the canyon parkway across a ravine eating berries on the hillside that sloped down from the golf course. Although I had a nice clear view of it, it was a long way off and there wasn’t enough light to get a decent shutter speed with my 2X-TC. I shot a few photos, and watched for a while before it disappeared into the bushes.
Further down the parkway I passed a car pulled over on the side of the road, the people in it were looking at something in the trees and I caught a glimpse of movement, but didn’t stop (the road is really narrow).
Just after I passed by, the car pulled away, and I couldn’t resist the urge to go back for a second look. On my second pass I saw nothing, and another car came rushing up behind me, so I passed by again and turned around to head back towards the canyon. On the third pass I again saw some movement, and was finally able to stop for a closer look.
At first glance I thought it was a coyote, but then It walked out of the trees and right up beside my car. It was coloured like a coyote, and about the size of a coyote, but it was obviously still a puppy (most noticeable by it’s massive paws). Suddenly it occurred to me that it was actually a wolf pup.
Then I got really excited, and started shooting away, completely forgetting to check my camera settings and ended up with a lot of motion blurred photos shot at f6.3 (idiot)!!!
Anyway, the wolf pup walked right passed my car and onto the road (there’s nothing more frustrating than watching an animal especially a wolf walk around ten feet in front of the car with all possible shots blocked by a bug splattered wind-shield). It was walking down the middle of the road up a blind hill, I was further back, and could just barely see a car speeding towards us before it went out of view behind the hill, and had to make a really quick decision. I revved the engine, and laid on the horn (foregoing all chance at taking more photos), chasing the wolf off the road just in time for the car to crest the hill and speed by (I’m sure they were doing at lease 30km over the 50km speed limit), completely clueless of how close it came to hitting the puppy.
After the wolf I didn’t really have much other luck with any wildlife. I spotted another (it may have been the same one from earlier) black bear, but it was far back in the trees eating berries, and on the main road just outside of town so I only had time to snap a couple of shots while traffic piled up behind me.
Later on a huge brown grizzly bear crossed the road in front of my car a few kilometres from the US border, but it was way too fast to get any photos.
I tried photographing some Herons in the lake, but they were too far out in the water for a decent shot.
I drove around the flats looking for rutting elk (this was one of the main reasons that I had decided to come down), but I never even caught a glimpse of one.
I ended the day at the Buffalo paddocks (the other main reason for my visit), this was also a pretty big disappointment as they were a long way off the road, and the light was absolutely horrible, so I finally gave up and headed home.
As I mentioned in the previous post, I had a great trip out to Kananaskis. What I didn’t really mention is the dozens of Big Horned Sheep, the multiple Snowshoe Hares, the two absolutely beautiful Brown Bears, or the amazing encounter with a mother Grizzly and her little cub.