Birthday Lifers (Calgary to Kootenay Bay)
For me, work was finally slowing down and some deserved vacation time was in order. A vacation to the Kootenays in British Columbia was planned with Jean's mum and her partner Danie months in advance and my excitement in adding western species to the life list grew exponentially as the day of our departure drew nearer.
The first day, my birthday, would be spent travelling. Rising at 4:00 AM for the 7:15 AM flight from Hamilton was not as bad as I thought it would be. You gotta love travelling west. It was still morning when we arrived at 9:00 AM CST.
Before disembarking the plane, the first bird added to the Alberta list was, drum roll please, a Rock Pigeon. Woo hoo!!
The rental car picked up, a sweet Volvo S60 substituted for the unavailable Chevy Impala (Ahh, c'est damage.), we left the airport and started our trip south to Highway 3. Jean's mum would be first at the wheel. "What's this button for?", Danie would say from the front passenger seat. Whack!! Instant whip lash for Jean and I. The button flips down the back seat headrests. Word of caution. Do not push this button when you have passengers sitting in the back! We immediately ticked 2 lifers from the Volvo. Black-billed Magpie (#262) as we exited the airport and Franklin's Gull (#263) as we crossed the meandering Bow River many times before leaving Calgary.
Further south in Nanton, we spotted a Swainson's Hawk (#264) soaring towards us, its wings uplifted in vulturelike flight. I'm sure glad I was not driving for this leg of the trip.
After lunch in Fort Macleod, we headed west on Hwy. 3 towards the continental divide. We stopped at the Burmis Tree, a pine marking the eastern edge of Alberta's Crowsnest Pass. The tree is an estimated 7 centuries old and died in the late 1970's.
We entered B.C. after passing through Crowsnest Pass with 9 birds added to the new provincial list. The British Columbia list was now the priority.
Though we spotted no lifers, we found Canada Goose, American Robin, Cedar Waxwing and Northern Rough-winged Swallow during a short stop a Mount Broadwood Heritage Conservation Area, slightly east of Elko. A nemesis flycatcher remained unidentified.
Passing through Cranbrook, Moyie, Yahk and Creston on our way to Kootenay Bay, we observed Osprey (nesting pair), Common Raven, Brown-headed Cowbird and Tree Swallow. Other wildlife seen included a pair of Mule Deer feeding on some bushes in a hotel parking lot and a Black Bear foraging in the yard of what seemed an uninhabited residence.
We arrived in Kootenay Bay, tired from the long day of travelling. It was a good birthday, I crossed the continental divide for the first time and added 3 species to the life list. With a good night's sleep I would be refreshed and ready to tick some more western birds.
All images by Jean.