Laugh, Kookaburra

Keeping up with the blog has failed completely miserably.  I think, now, that I’ll still write the rest of the Canada blog posts, but I’m going to do them in between other things.  Today I want to share some photos with you, that I’m very pleased with.

My cousin runs a business with birds of prey, keeping owls, raptors and even a kookaburra for the purpose of education.  She visits schools, events, runs children’s parties and, along with a local photographer, runs photography days.  I was lucky enough to attend one of these days a couple of weeks ago and can’t believe the difference it made having someone standing by me, teaching me how to set up my camera and set up the shot.

First came Edna, the blue winged kookaburra.

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Photographer Tim Doggett had brought a reflection pool, so we stuck Edna on a log and let her pose.  Kookaburras are a type of kingfisher, so she was quite happy sitting by the water.

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Edna loved to pose for the camera!  The title of this blog is a bit misleading, blue winged kookaburras don’t laugh in the way laughing kookaburras do.  Edna, however, loves to chatter away to you.

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Despite not being the quickest flier, a combination of her relatively small size and clumsy nature meant getting a good photograph of this bird in flight really was challenging.

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Kookaburras are native to Northern Australia, living in open woodland and Melaleuca swamps where they eat fish, frogs and small mammals.

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And, like most birds of prey, when she was full she just wanted to sit.

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Next up we brought out Sparrow the Ashy Faced Owl.  Whilst they look a bit like a grubby barn owl, these owls come from the Caribbean, hence Sparrow being named after Captain Jack!

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Their dusty colour hides them well in the dry shrubland they live in.

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Like all owls, they have poor eyesight of close objects, and use the fine feathers on their face to identify where their food is.

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And finally, Igor the Kestrel.  Named after Igor Sikorsky, credited as the inventor of the modern helicopter, because one thing kestrels are known for is their ability to hover!

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He enjoyed stretching his wings in the sunshine and I think the patterns on the underside are just beautiful! I particularly like the heart shapes on the feathers.

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A much faster, lighter bird than the others, and much more of a hunter.  Native to Europe and Asia, you’ve probably seen one hovering over verges looking for unfortunately placed mice!

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Igor is only a young bird, but isn’t he gorgeous?

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Of course there were many, many more photos but there are only so many hours in the day! I’m hoping next time to be able to photograph some more of the birds, particularly the natives as I love the idea that I might see them in the wild.

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For more information on the birds and photography days, please visit http://www.thefeatheryfolk.co.uk/

All pictures taken using Nikon D3200

 

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The Bow Valley Parkway

After a couple of nights in Calgary to get over the jetlag, we hired a car and headed west towards the Rocky Mountains.  The view once we left Calgary was spectacular – Calgary faded away behind us, but in front the mountains rose out of the prairies, cloud bubbling over them like rapids over rocks.

Once we got into the Rockies we took a slight diversion off Highway 1 – the TransCanada Highway – onto Highway 1A, also known as the Bow Valley Parkway.  The Bow Valley Parkway runs from just after Banff, alongside the Trans Canada as far as Lake Louise, taking a more scenic route with a higher chance of seeing wildlife than on the main highway.  There are also several places to stop along the route.

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A wildlife bridge on Highway 1

The first place we stopped at was Johnston Canyon.  There is a resort with cabins at the bottom of the canyon, and a restaurant, as well as a car park for visitors who are hiking the canyon.  The car park was full and so we did what many, many other people were doing and parked alongside the highway, and then walked back to the entrance.

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In Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon was formed by Johnston Creek, and within the canyon are lower and upper falls, with the upper falls being 1.7 miles away, and taking about 45 minutes to walk to.  From there you can continue almost 1.9 miles (3km) to the Inkpots – seven coldwater springs which rise beside a meadow.  We didn’t make it this far as we wanted to stop at other places on the way so we only went as far as the Upper Falls, however having seen a picture of the Inkpots when I got back to England I wish we had carried on!

The walk through the canyon is an easy one, along wide paths and metal catwalks.  There were a lot of people when we visited – it’s certainly a popular spot so aim for low season or either ends of the day.

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A catwalk in Johnston Canyon

In terms of wildlife, the most exciting thing we saw was a Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel, although there were signs warning of wolves in the area which had become bold around humans and were stealing from picnics!

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A Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel

We ate at the restaurant at the bottom of the canyon before we left, which was very pleasant and surprisingly quiet given the popularity of the trail.  It was perhaps slightly expensive, but that was to be expected given its location and the lack of other eateries in the area.

Carrying on up the Bow Valley Parkway we stopped at Emerald Lake in the Yoho National Park.  When we arrived the weather had deteriorated somewhat and we looked around and took some photos in the mizzley rain.  We decided to hire a canoe anyway, and luckily the rain stopped and we even had a bit of sunshine!  We paddled to the other end of the lake, where it was very peaceful with a shallow creek running across a beach into the lake.

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Emerald Lake – the sky was a little murky but it was beautiful nonetheless! 

We left Highway 1A at Castle Junction and continued on the main Highway 1 to Canyon Hot Springs where we swam in the hot springs and stayed in a cabin overnight.  From there we went to Sicamous where we hired a houseboat and spent four days on the Shuswap Lake, which I will write about in my next blog.

Highway 1A was beautiful, but naturally much slower than the main highway.  To drive on Highway 1A, or to stop anywhere in the National Parks, you need to buy a parks pass from Parks Canada.  There is a kiosk for these at the entrance to Banff NP, or they are sold in lots of places within the parks.  At the entrance to the Bow Valley Parkway, Parks Canada were stopping every car to check for a pass.