Trip to Alberta and Saskatchewan, October, 2015

In October of 2015, we accepted the invitation of old friends and visited them in Leduc, just south of Edmonton, Alberta. The main reason to go was to help them celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. We had all met at David Dunlap Observatory in Richmond Hill, Ontario, where we were all studying astronomy. The evening we arrived, we went to a lecture by Alan Stern on the New Horizons mission to Pluto..

Our friend is also into bird banding and he took us to an evening of banding sawwhet owls. We were lucky; they caught 2 owls while we were there. I actually held one in my hand. I had never realized how tiny they were and how light - just a handful of feathers with huge eyes. Bill took several photos which are on his blog Rhapsodies of the Wise Old Bird. As we were about to leave, we looked at the sky and saw northern lights. As we stood and watched, a pale glow near the horizon with a few streamers of greenish light suddenly filled the sky with green curtains and streamers. My dad called the northern lights the merry dancers and they certainly danced for us that night. See Bill's photos on his blog Rhapsodies of the Wise Old Bird. We continued to photograph the aurora from our neighbours' back yard.

As our friends had some appointments, we hired a car and drove to Lake Louise in Banff National Park. From there we visited Moraine Lake and Lake Louise in Banff National Park and Emerald Lake, the natural bridge on the Kicking Horse River, and the breath-taking Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park in B.C. We then drove south, stopping in Banff town and Canmore on our way to Brooks. From there we visited Dinosaur Provincial Park in the badlands along the Red Deer River. We went on the fossil safari into the bone beds and saw lots of fossils of dinosaur bones, turtle shells, crocodile skin, and a tree. There were also lots of hoodoos to admire along the way. From there we drove north to Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park also in the badlands along the Red Deer River. This was a site where plains First Nation people drove buffalo over the cliffs. Before horses were introduced into North America, this was their method of hunting buffalo. This park is also the site of the most important bone bed in the world of the Albertosaurus dinosaur. From there it was just a short drive to Leduc, in time to celebrate Thanksgiving with our friends and their family.

Then it was off to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to meet old friends there. We had known them for over 15 years via the Internet and Skype but had never met them face to face. We only had a couple of days but they certainly packed a lot of treats into them for us. We visited a park beside the South Saskatchewan River, visited the Canadian Light Source synchrotron institute at the University of Saskachewan campus in Saskatoon, photographed more northern lights at a dark site just outside the city,.and went to a Saskatoon berry farm with restaurant beside the South Saskatchewan River south of the city. The chicken wings with Saskatoon berry BBQ sauce were heavenly. On the way there we were lucky to see a huge flock of sandhill cranes which had stopped for the night on their migration south.

Then we drove back to Edmonton via Elk Island Nation Park for the big celebration of the 50th wedding anniversary. There were other old friends from David Dunlap Observatory whom we had not seen for 48 years. What a party! The next day was a quiet day except for another bird banding trip first thing in the morning. Songbirds were being banded, mostly chickadees plus a couple of woodpeckers and juncos. The sawwhet owls were so docile to hold. The chickadees were vicious. There was no way I was going to hold one of them in my hand and be eaten alive! But it was very interesting and we wonder if there is any bird banding done near home in Orillia. This hobby might just be catching (sorry for the awful pun.) Anyway, we look forward to seeing our friends at Point Pelee National Park next spring to see the birds migrating north.


An old grain elevator and church on the shore of Telford Lake in Leduc.

Telford Lake is about 3 km long. It is a park, nature preserve and recreation area for the city of Leduc. The fall colours were at their height when we were there.

Northern lights from our friends' back yard in Leduc. The Pleiades are at the top right. Below them are the Hyades. The bright star at the top left is Capella in the constellation Auriga.

On the way to Lake Louise we made a short stop at Lake Minnewanka near Banff.
Lake Louise and the Victoria Glacier in Banff National Park. Unfortunately the tops of the mountains are in the clouds but the wind-still weather was perfect for glorious reflections in the lake.
Chateau Lake Louise
Steller's jay. I had never seen one before and thought it must be an escaped tropical bird with its irridescent blue feathers. I almost didn't take a photo but then did so that I could identify it.

Clark's nutcracker. At first I thought this was a grey jay until it obligingly hopped onto the fence almost beside me.

Moraine Lake and the Valley of the 10 Peaks in Banff National Park.

A CPR train in the station at Field, B.C. It had just come down the Kicking Horse Pass.
A freight train ascending the Kicking Horse Pass. The end of the train is entering a tunnel on the left while the engine is arleady out of the tunnel above it. The tunnels form figure 8s which make the grades much smaller and safer for the trains to negotiate up and down the pass..
A natural bridge on the Kicking Horse River near Field in Yoho National Park.

Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, B.C.

Whisky Jack Falls across the Yoho River Valley from Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park. It is a cascade waterfall about 60 metres high. Whisky Jack is another name for the Canada or grey jay.
Takakka Falls is just over 300 metres high. The water flows into the Yoho river which flows into the Kicking Horse River northeast of Field. Takakkaw comes from the Cree language and means "it is magnificent". Yoho is a Cree expression of awe, sort of like Wow.
Mount Rundle and Sulphur Mountain from Vermillion Lakes just north of Banff.
Mount Rundle and the Bow River from the Bow Rriver Bridge in Banff.
Cascade Mountain and Main Street, Banff. We were very disappointed to learn that the elk have been taken out of Banff.
The Three Sisters mountains near Canmore. Canmore is on the Bow River, near the southeastern boundary of Banff National Park.
An Albertosaurus dinosaur stalks the badlands along the Red Deer River in Dinosaur Provincial Park.
Badlands in Dinosaur Provincial Park. These hoodoos look like a camel with a pyramid in the background.
Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park on the Red Deer River. It is an ancient Cree site where they drove buffalo over the cliffs to provide meat and skins for the tribe. It is also the site of the most important bone bed of Albertosaurus dinosaurs.
A plains buffalo posed for us in Elk Island National Park. We also saw wood buffalo but could not stop on the highway to photograph them. The differences between plains and wood buffalo are.explained here.
A close-up of a plains buffalo. I was very glad to use the telephoto lens and not have to be actually close to the beast. They are BIG!




Saskatoon is located on the South Saskatchewan River.
The Canadian Light Source is a synchrotron installation at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. It is a research institute using synchrotron radiation to investigate biological, chemical, geological, medical and physical processes. The work there ranges from cancer research to solar panel development.
Sandhill cranes in a newly havested grain field about 10 km south of Saskatoon.
There were hundreds if not thousands of cranes as well as many Canada geese. It was just before sunset and the birds were settling in for the night. The next day they were gone, heading further south for the winter.
Sunset on the South Saskatchewan River, south of Saskatoon.

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November 1, 2015
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