Anne Elliott

Anne Elliott

Posted on 08/24/2016


Photo taken on August 20, 2016


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Animals in the Wild Animals in the Wild



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Anne Elliott
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Highway 40
Callospermophilus lateralis
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© Anne Elliott 2016
FZ200#4
20 August 2016
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Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel
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Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel
This little Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel was so far away that it looked more like a Chipmunk. It was hanging out with the Pikas (or Rock Rabbits) at Rock Glacier four days ago.

All three photos posted today were taken on 20 August 2016, when I went with friend, Pam, for a long day out in Kananaskis (the mountain area of the Rocky Mountains that is closest to Calgary). What a great day we had, seeing so many different things in such beautiful scenery.

We met up in the city at 7:00 am and drove southwards through Millarville and took the back way from Turner Valley to Highway 40. This is exactly the route that I had planned to go when I was all set to take my daughter on 4 August. Then my car's muffler and catalytic converter died and I haven't been able to go on any long drives at all. Nothing further than maybe five or ten minutes from home, with a vehicle that sounds dreadful with its loud, broken muffler noise and the loudest rattle that sounds as if the bottom of my car is about to fall off.

Before we left the town of Turner Valley (on Highway 22), we called in for a few minutes at friend Jackie's garden to see if there were any interesting birds at all her feeders. We only saw Pine Siskins, but no doubt all sorts of other species would arrive for her during the day.

Our first stop along Highway 40, which is the highway that goes right through Kananaskis, giving spectacular scenic views every inch of the way, was at Highwood House. This small store/gas station, at such a convenient location, is known for its Hummingbird feeders. We were lucky enough to see either one or maybe two of these teeny birds, and I did manage to get one blurry shot, just for the record. I thought they would all have left by now, fairly late August.

Continuing on our way north, we eventually came to Rock Glacier where we happily watched one or two little Pikas (Rock Rabbits) darting all over the massive scree slope, busily collecting plants to store and dry in their "caves", ready for the winter months. I will add more information about these very small animals when I post a photo of one of them. Already have lots of information under previously posted Pika images. These are such difficult creatures to photograph - only six or seven inches long and more or less the same colour as the surrounding mountain of broken rock (talus slope). It was nice to catch sight of a distant Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel, too.

Our next destination, after bumping into friend Kerri who was photographing the PIkas, was Buller's Pond, near Spray Lakes along the Spray Lakes/Smith-Dorrien road. I don't remember ever going there before and we were so glad we called in. Just before we got there, we took a drive up the mountainside road to Mt. Shark and gazed at the mountain scene before our eyes when we reached the highest parking lot. I have been up here maybe two or three times before, but in winter time.

Soon, we arrived at Buller Pond, which is a lovely pond/lake, where we saw masses of small, green, jelly-like 'blobs' floating near the edge of the water. I finally found out what I think is the correct ID for them - Ophrydium versatile.

""These blobs are made by a colonial microscopic single-celled protozoan called Ophrydium versatile. They can be found all over the world in fresh water. The individual cells line up side by side in the “blob” and attach themselves to a jelly-like substance they secrete. They are symbiotic with microscopic Chlorella algae which live inside the Ophrydium cells and give the blob its green color. " Fro the link below;

askanaturalist.com/what-are-these-green-jelly-blobs/

It was here that, while walking through the trees near the edge of the pond, I suddenly gasped and couldn't believe my eyes. There was a beautiful Spruce Grouse perched on a log, with a second one lying at the base of the stump. Such a beautiful sight! I quietly called Pam to come and see what I had just found and we spent some time watching them. These two birds, with their gorgeous feathers, showed no sign of moving, allowing us plenty of time to take photos. Eventually, I saw yet another one of them moving around on the ground nearby, and then a fourth one. So, it seems that it was a mother and her three young ones. What an absolute treat to come across these spectacular birds and to be given time to really enjoy them.

Once back on Highway 40, we started driving back on Highway 40, heading for home. We just couldn't resist calling in again at Rock Glacier, where I was able to get closer and perhaps better photos of one of the Pikas. Then, fifteen minutes later, we saw several cars pulled over at the sides of the highway. Could it finally be a bear? Unfortunately, no, it wasn't, but instead we saw a group of five Bighorn Sheep, four at the edge of the road and a fifth standing in the road as if to let us know that she owned the road and had right of way. One of the Sheep started walking along the edge in the direction of our vehicle. She walked with determination and I was taken off guard when she came level with my window and I managed to zoom out a little and got a few quick shots that show the whole of her head, unlike the photo I posted the other day : ) Her focus, however, was on a photographer who was out of his car and had walked towards her, then crouched down to photograph her as she got closer and closer to him. She stopped just a matter of maybe six feet from him - we drove off now that the road was clear, so I've no idea if anything happened between the Sheep and the photographer, but he was doing everything that a photographer (or anyone) should not be doing.

Thank you so much, Pam, for enabling me to get out to the mountains! It was such a fun, enjoyable day, in beautiful weather, spectacular scenery, and much-enjoyed company!

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