What is soaring through the Rockies?

My husband was listening to CBC radio and heard an interview with the Rocky Mountain Eagle Research Society.   This group has performed 26 annual raptor migration counts at the same site location in Kananaskis Country (Alberta) every spring and fall.  The public is invited to join the group who continue to provide data to assist in understanding the Golden Eagles.  We decided this would be a great adventure!  Sunday morning we headed off to find the Hay Meadow site…

When we turned onto Mt. Allan Drive off of Highway 40, we saw a herd of Elk in the meadow.   I poked my head around a tree to see if I was able to capture some moments…it was so interesting to watch.  This young elk seemed to be the lookout.  The moment they sensed my presence, he would not take his eyes off me…Elk lookout for herd Kananaskis cropped wmThe herd slowly moved past him, one by one, while he kept watch…elk Passing by the lookout Kananaskis cropped wm

Elk lookout checking while others keeping an eyeful watch cropped wmI didn’t realize how small he was(relatively speaking) until this large male wandered by…we had a long stare at each other!

When the last elk came to the edge of the opening, the lookout moved on with the herd and this one kept on eye on me right to the last moment…almost peeking around the pine before scampering to catch up with the herd!  What a great start to our adventure!!Elk peeking around tree Kananskis cropped wmWe found the Stoney Trail day use parking lot and hiked on the scenic route through the trees meandering next to the Kananaskis River….peaceful and filled with beauty!  We popped out at a clearing and in front of us, high on the top of a pine tree was a small bird.   My husband thought it was a Grey Jay, also known as “Whiskey Jack” to many in Alberta…but when I zoomed in on the little fellow, I was giddy and ecstatic!!!  It was a Pygmy Owl…Pygmy Owl on tree top Kananaskis cropped wmIf you have never heard of a Northern Pygmy Owl, let me give you a little info.   These little birds full grown are 6 – 7 inches (16 – 18 cm)…about the same size as a house sparrow!  These owls are mostly dark brown and white, with long tails, smoothly rounded heads, and piercing yellow eyes.  It was a stretch to capture this moment as this tiny little fellow was at the very top of a tall pine tree…but I had to share…

The trail came out at Hay Meadows and there on the river bank were the Eagle watchers.   They were busy scanning the peaks for traffic, but took the time to explain what they were doing, shared a map of the surrounding peaks so we can follow the sightings as they called out the location.  The Meadow was so amazing, my husband and I continued on the trail to see if there were any birds or wildlife in the area.  As we came around the second wooden hut, we heard a high-pitched series of toots…it was a second Northern Pygmy, this time right above our heads…so tiny and so cute!!!!Pygmy Owl so cute Kananaskis cropped wmThis tiny owl has earned the reputation of a ferocious hunter.  They hunt during the day by sitting quietly and surprising their prey.   We watched as it moved from tree to tree, scoping out the meadow for lunch!Pygmy Owl cute and curious Kananaskis cropped wmPygmy Owl scanning the meadow Kananaskis wmPygmy Owl Sideview cropped with tail Kananaskis wmIf I was a songbird, I would definitively be frightened if I suddenly came into contact with these eyes…so serious…Pygmy Owl Stare down cropped wmThe Eagle watchers spotted 93 birds on the 26th…for full details of what was spotted here is the link to the Eagle Watch!  Thank you to the Rocky Mountain Eagle Research Foundation for the invitation to be a part of the 2017 annual spring migration!!



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