Sunday, 31 May 2009

Hummingbird Wars

Chris Fisher and John Acorn write, in "Birds of Alberta"...

The tiny Rufous Hummingbird is a delicate avian jewel, but it's beauty hides a relentless mean streak. Sit patiently... alongside a hummingbird feeder, and you'll soon notice the territoriality and aggressiveness of these birds - they buzz past one another and chase rivals for some distances. Although it must seem lifke life and death situations to these birds, to our eyes, the scale of conflicts between these mini mites is cute.

They don't know the half of it.

We have at least 3 females and 2 males using our feeder, and spent two hours on Saturday watching them all fight over it. The females guard it relentlessly, two rivals sitting together mere feet apart in a tree.

They seem to throw insults at one another, constantly chattering away, and acting big.

Let either one attempt to feed and the other chases and attacks with tail fathers spread out. They blast around the at 60 mph sky in violent aerial attacks oblivious to onlookers like me. Try and photograph that and see how you do...

The boys, on the other hand, with their iridescent red throats, appear to be allowed to eat at will.

Then the boys fly what appears to be a mating dance. They blast along at 60 mph, then pull up 100' in the air, perform a hammerhead stall, and rocket back they way they came. They then pull a u-turn somehow (we never saw how) then tear off and do it again, and again, and again. Amazing to watch.

These are just beautiful critters to see.

Raven's End

Raven's End is a book by Ben Gadd (who I happened to meet today), and it's also the name of the very, very popular hiking route to the east end of Yamnuska. "Very, very popular" means we ran into two large groups of 25 and 15, and about 60 others on the hike. This happens in part because this is also one of the best early season hikes, being snow free early in the season, and also because there are people who like to climb the backside to the top of Yamnuska. We saw at least 30 people doing just that.

It's a challenging walk, steep in sections, with some very nice views as you crest one sandstone ridge after another. These views are mostly of the Morely Flats and the front ranges.

It takes about 2 hours to see behind the ridge into CMC Valley, which was interesting to me because I have never seen it before.

There was one very cheeky golden mantled ground squirrel at the top. He got so close his nose almost touched my camera lens. He seemed to want to get into my backpack. My guess is he has been fed before...

He, too, seemed to enjoy the view of the CMC Valley...

It was a nice hike, not a great one, and possibly the best part was seeing a bald eagle on our way down.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Chesley's High School Grad

Chesley's grad and party were yesterday. 615 grads, plus parents and hangers on, equals a A LOT of people. First the grad:

Then there was the grad party itself. Take a peek at how beautiful my daughter is...

'Aint she cute?

Monday, 18 May 2009

The First Hike of 2009: Grassi Lakes

The plan for May 17 was to get in another day of spring skiing, but it just didn't work out that way. We felt lazy and didn't want to get up, so slept till 10, then went for a hike in the afternoon. We were not alone. Half the population of Canmore -- and their dogs -- chose to hike to Grassi Lakes in the 24° sunshine.

The waterfalls were churning, the forest was nice, the lakes were pretty as always...

...but for us, the best part of the hike were the birds. First, there was a Common Loon in the lower lake that didn't really seem to care that there were about 1,000 people and about 2,000 dogs on the shoreline, mere feet away.

Then there was an osprey nest, with a baby in it, and mom and dad both came to tend to the nest.

We were all excited about finding two separate bunches of birds. The first turned out to be about a dozen Gray Jays. The second started off as a single bird that we chased through the forest for a few minutes, then we saw about 2 dozen more, and it turned out to be Yellow Rumped Warbler, the most common warbler in Alberta.

Still, it was a wonderful day for a first hike of the year.