Friday, June 17, 2016

Grizzly Highway Encounter

Driving back from Windermere we spotted an adult grizzly walking along a path in the forest beside the highway. We slowed to a stop and watched as the bear continued down the path. We followed slowly on the shoulder and then stopped when the bear emerged from the forest and started to walk in the ditch. The bear disappeared from my view in the driver's seat but was still visible by Karen in the passenger seat. 

"Karen, I can't see the bear anymore."

"Dad, the bear is right next to us." 

A moment later the bear walked out of the ditch in front of the car, 
nonchalantly ambled across the two-lane highway,
started to browse the dandelions by the roadside, 
then continued to walk in the grass by the opposite side of the road. 

We decided not to let the puppy out for a pee. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Hummingbird Nest

Hummingbird Nest

I found a hummingbird nest on my front porch a few weeks ago!

Likely the nest blew out of a nearby tree. The two closest trees are a cypress and a crabapple. The cypress was only four meters away. The crabapple was about 8 meters away. Likely the nest was in the cypress.

The most common hummingbird in my garden is the Rufous but Ruby-throated and Calliope hummingbirds also visit. For several years I have regularly heard and seen the typical territorial display of the Rufous Hummingbird, which might imply these hummers nest in my yard. I do not see displays of the Ruby-throated or Calliope Hummingbirds. Based on prevalence, likely the nest was built by a Rufous Hummingbird. 

The nest is made mostly of grass but there are some small wood chips or bark, and down is evident both on the inside and outside of the cup. The down is likely willow-seed from the Black-bud Willows in the garden. 

All three species use plant material bound with spiders' webs, are lined with down, and the outside is usually covered with flakes of lichens. Lichen is not common in my garden but is available in the forests down by the Elbow River. There was no evidence of lichen on the outside of the nest. 

Ruby-throated nests are described with a thick lining of down and the nest is bound smoothly and tightly with spiders' webs. Calliope nests are also thickly-lined with down. The nest in the photo was not thickly lined with down and was not tightly bound or smooth. Perhaps the nest was under construction when the wind intervened.

The dimensions of the nest (inches) and the reported dimensions of nests for the three hummers who visit my garden are shown in the table below.

Diameter Height 
Outside Inside Outside  Inside 
Nest in photo  1   ¾ ¾
Rufous  2 1   ⅞
Ruby-throated  1 - 1¾ ¾ - 1   ¾
Calliope 1½ - 1¾ 1⅛-1⅞   ⅞

Baicich PJ and Harrison CJO. Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds. Princeton UP, Princeton, New Jersey, 2005.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Spruce Grouse

Spruce Grouse - Falcipennis canadensis

The boreal forest is the preferred habitat for the Spruce Grouse. 

These birds are common in closed (dense forest canopy) conifer forests. The birds are often solitary and unusually tame for a wild species.

Sibley David A. The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior. Alfred A Knopf, Inc. New York. 2001.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Hoary Marmot

Hoary Marmot - Marmota caligata

The name, "hoary," refers to the "mantle" of white hairs over the shoulders. These mammals are the largest marmot in Canada.

Hoary Marmots are colonial and live together in burrows where they share food. They often sun themselves in shallow depressions on rocks close to their burrow. They vocalize a loud, high-pitched alarm whistle when a predator is recognized.

Predators include Coyote, Wolf, Grizzly Bear, Red Fox, and Golden Eagle.


Naughton, Donna. The Natural History of Canadian Mammals. University of Toronto Press. 2012. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Mule Deer

Mule Deer - Odocoileus hemionus

The larger ears and the black tip to the tail are two common clues that distinguish a Mule Deer from the more common White-tailed Deer. Both species live in the area where I hike. The hoof prints and the scat are similar.


Gadd Ben. Handbook of the Canadian Rockies. Corax Press. Jasper, Alberta. 1986.

Naughton Donna. The Natural History of Canadian Mammals. U of Toronto Press. 2012.