Canada, Vancouver Island & The Rockies, Days 13-19, 29 May - 4 June 2023 - The Rocky Mountains

We left the Oliver area early on 29 May and began the long 7 hour journey to the village of Field in Yoho NP which was to be our home for the next 3 nights. After a stop in the town of Golden for supplies and a DQ Grill n Chill (previously known as Dairy Queen I believe) we checked in and just had enough time for an evening out at the nearby Emerald Lake. It was an incredibly beautiful spot and certainly lived up to its name. The birding was quiet with just the regular pine woodland stuff although some nice photographic views of Red-breasted Nuthatch were most welcome.


The following day we visited 3 of the scenic sites on our 'to do' list - Johnston Canyon, Tunnel Mountain Hoodoos and the superbly-named Lake Minnewanka. In line with most of our time in the mountains birding took a back seat as most places were walking through the same habitat although not crowded there were a few too many people about for birding. The highlights were American Dipper in Johnston Canyon, Swainson's Thrush at Tunnel Mountain and best of all 2 Western Grebes on Lake Minnewanka which were a lifer for me. Mammal's stole the show though with a huge mega Black Bear crossing the road near Tunnel Mountain closely followed by our first Elk (4)!


The last day of May and we had earmarked it for a visit to the iconic Lake Louise and a long hike to the Plain of Six Glaciers. It was probably the most scenic walk I've ever done and the birding had one or two surprises too. Top of the bill was an unexpected Hutton's Vireo at close range closely followed by 2 Slate-coloured Fox Sparrows in full song. Into the bargain I also has the only Tennessee Warbler of the whole trip, c15 Two-barred Crossbills, Wilson's Warbler, MacGillivray's Warbler, Mountain Chickadee, Greater Yellowlegs at the far end of Lake Louise, Canada Jay, Clark's Nutcracker and loads of Cliff Swallows nesting under the balconies of Chateaux Lake Louise. 

Later in the day a walk at Field gave us Black-billed Magpie, Rufous Hummingbird, Northern Flicker and Warbling Vireo of note. 


Leaving Field for our drive up the famous Icefields Parkway to Jasper the weather was rather inclement (the only day it was on the whole trip!) so we settled for stopping at a few sites en-route including Bow Lake, the amazingly blue Peyto Lake, the Athabasca Glaccier and Sunwapta Falls before reaching Jasper. A late afternoon walk around Annette Lake where Mountain Chickadee and Ruby-crowned Kinglet entertained. But not as much as a point-blank Black Bear nearby that evening before we had a nice meal out in Jasper. 


We had booked tickets for the 'Jasper Skytrain' on the morning of 2 June making sure we were on the first ascent of the day. While waiting a wander around the carpark and vicinity was good with a singing (not seen) Varied Thrush and about 20 Two-barred Crossbills flying about. Exploring the barren mountain landscape as we slowly weaved  our way to the top of The Whistler after our ascent in the cable car revealed the odd bird but not the hoped for ptarmigan. With a summer plumaged American Golden Plover, Grey-crowned Rosy Finch and a point blank American Horned Lark plus 2 Hoary Marmots it was hard to complain though! Talking to the warden while back down on the cp it seems the plover was a bit of a mega find!

After lunch in Jasper we headed out to Maligne Canyon for an afternoon walk which was very nice but a bit lacking in bird action. Nevertheless an Elk in the carpark, Hammond's Flycatcher, Cliff Swallow and then an amazing encounter with a 'Cinnamon' Black Bear and 3 cubs along the road made it a memorable afternoon.


The following morning we checked out of our digs in Jasper and decided to make the drive out to Maligne Lake as we'd heard how nice it was. It was quite a drive and not a good as we'd been told but a couple of walks and the carpark/bridge area did yield my first American Mink, c25 Two-barred Crossbills, Lincoln's Sparrow, Lesser Scaup and Cliff Swallow as well as the more regular sp. As we drove back towards Jasper a flock of Bighorn Sheep were causing traffic mayhem by a busy junction and then, up a slope towards the railway line a fine Grizzly Bear and cub were causing some interest, not least from us! 

We continued our drive past Jasper and on to Valemount, our final base in the mountains. A coffee stop at Mount Robson had us watching Rufous Hummingbird while admiring the view of the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies.

Our accommodation just outside Valemount was the wonderfully quirky, rustic but basic Teepee Meadows with a rather eccentric host! As we arrived I wondered if we were going to get out alive as it was extremely 'hillbilly'! It actually turned out to be one of our favourite places we'd stayed. The property had wonderful views and some half decent birds with 2 Blue-winged Teals on a marsh pond, American Redstart, Black-capped Chickadee, Purple Finch, Cedar Waxwing, Audubon's Warbler and Common Yellowthroat seen on that first evening. A couple of beers at the 3 Ranges bar and brewery in Valemount that evening rounded the day off perfectly. 


The next day I had an early morning walk at Teepee Meadows adding Least Flycatcher, Turkey Vulture and Red-breasted Nuthatch to the site list. We then the first of paid a couple of visits to the rather lovely Cranberry Marsh on the edge of Valemount. The boardwalk area here was very good and it was nice to bird in some different habitat. Pick of the bunch were a couple of showy Northern Waterthrushes, Least Flycatchers, Hammond's Flycatcher, a splendid male Magnolia Warbler, American Redstart, Blue-winged Teal and c6 Bufflehead

In between our 2 visits to the marsh we took a drive up the remote dirt road up to the Mount Trudeau trailhead. The road was a bit iffy in places but well worth the effort as I scored with 2 new birds - a Spruce Grouse on the roadside that had me frantically trying to position the car correctly for a photo and then a Townsend's Solitaire in treetops but alas all too briefly for a pic. Also along the road we had Two-barred Crossbill, MacGillivray's Warbler, Wilson's Warbler and Townsend's Warbler. That evening our host entertained us with a selection of songs on his guitar including a personal favourite Harvest Moon by Neil Young! 



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