Saturday, December 26, 2015

Deer Demise

Last fall I bushwhacked off a regular trail and came across the old skeletal remains of a deer. Below is the pelvis and part of the spinal column of the dead deer. 

This will be either a Mule Deer or a White-tailed Deer. I am not skilled enough to tell the difference. 

There is a break in the spinal column. Perhaps the deer was killed by a coyote and the spinal column was targeted to immobilise the deer. Alternatively, the break happened after death when any number of opportunistic carnivores happened upon the carcass and broke the column to access the nutrient-rich marrow. 

The rest of the skeleton was not around. The other parts were likely carried off to eat in a more secure location.  

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Ice Patterns on the Elbow River

Ice forms on the Elbow River every winter. 

The temperature during the winter can fluctuate from minus 10 degrees C to plus 10 in a day and the ice along the edge of the river forms, melts, reforms, and melts again to form a continuous display of patterns.  

The perfect circle in the ice above shows off the river floor.

This crack reminds me of a map of a river with tributaries. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

House Finch

During the colder months, House Finches arrive from points north and replace the niche occupied by the very similar Purple Finches, who live here in the warmer months, and who travel even further south for the winter. 

House Finches travel in flocks and choose higher locations in trees or on communication and utility wires to perch.

Males have reddish colouration due to the berries they eat. Females are attracted to the males with the most colour. Presumably these males eat more berries, which implies an enhanced nutritional state, and the better nutrition confers a genetic advantage.  

Sunday, December 06, 2015


This Killdeer - Charadrius vociferus - was totally nonplussed by my presence and allowed me within three meters while foraging for shoreline food. 

The distribution range noted in Sibley implies that Killdeer should not be in Calgary during the colder months but I occasionally see these shorebirds during the winter. eBird confirms sightings from December to February. 

Sibley DA. The Sibley Guide to Birds. Alfred A. Knopf. New York. 2000.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Gone to Seed

Where have all the flowers gone?

The seeds below are nature's promise for the spring. 

This bullrush (cat's tail) - Typha latifolia - was one of six or so in a new location by the Elbow River. There is a wetland about a kilometer away, which is the spring and summer home to dozens of Red-winged Blackbirds who nest at the base of these plants. The bullrush seeds were likely carried by wind, water, or an animal to the new location. The region the seeds took root seems ideal for a new bullrush wetland. Perhaps in a few years there will be Red-winged Blackbirds nesting in this location?

Bearberry or Kinnikinnick - Arctostaphlos uva-ursi
These berries are a so named because bears favor them as a food source.

Alberta Rose - Rosa acicularis

Common Fireweed - Epilobium angustifolium
The plumes have all but dispersed from this naked fireweed stalk.

Below are photos of other seeds common along the Elbow River.

The "cone" at the end of the willow shoot in the photo above is not a seed. This is a willow gall and home to a midge. The insect lives in the center of the gall. The gall has opened in the photo to the right.

Scotter GW & Flygare Halle. Wildflowers of the Canadian Rockies. Hurtig Publishers. Edmonton. 1986.