Review: Wildflowers of the Mixed-Grass Prairie by Johane Janelle.

Wildflowers of the Mixed-Grass Prairie – Johane Janelle (2017)

Here’s a fantastic resource for anyone interested in identifying the wildflowers growing on the western Canadian Prairies! Alberta-based photographer Johane Janelle has created and published a beautiful and useful brochure listing more than 70 wildflowers found on explorations on the mixed grass prairie.  The detailed photographs (arranged by bloom colour) assist with easy, quick ID, and Johane also lists the flowering period for each plant, as an additional aid.  The brochure is folded and laminated so it won’t crush or dampen during hikes.  It’s now a staple in my backpack!

Click here for a photo of the brochure, from the photographer’s gallery (don’t forget to check out her other work while you’re there!).  You can order the brochure directly from Johane by using the Contact Form on her website.

Alberta snapshot: American dipper.

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“Come on in, the water’s fine!”

It always amazes me to see American dippers hunt in freezing water – and it’s even more amazing to think that during our crazy cold winters, there are tasty tidbits in there to feed on!

(Photo taken by R. Normandeau in January 2018, Beaver Flats, Kananaskis Country).

What birds are currently making their appearance in your area?  (Feel free to link to photos/posts on your blog or social media if you wish!).

Alberta snapshot: Ice falls at Fish Creek Provincial Park, Calgary.

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No need to leave the city to find ice falls! A quick wintery stroll in Fish Creek Provincial Park in early March yielded this frosty view.  (If you live in or are visiting Calgary next winter and you’re looking to check these out, head to the ranch house off of Bow Bottom Trail SE and hike across the first bridge you see from the parking lot.  Follow the river to see the falls, or climb above them to reach some cool caves).

It seems that the big spring melt may finally (!) be on its way, so this area will be taking on a more liquid form very soon….

Alberta snapshot: Sawmill snowshoe.

Although it is *technically* spring in this part of the world, we’re still pretty much in full-on winter mode, so to show you some photos from a snowshoeing trip we took a few weeks ago seems sort of appropriate.  Nothing “flowery” here, not at the moment.

But we have mountains! This is Sawmill, just off the Smith-Dorrien Trail close to where it intersects with Highway 40. It was a new snowshoe jaunt for us, a 5.3 kilometre loop with very little elevation. The most recent snowfall had occurred the day before, and the wind had blown hard, crusty dunes over much of the broken trail.

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And in other parts, there were tracks. We think these were from a bobcat:

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We figured we could rule out a cougar because the tracks were too small, and we decided a lynx could also be slotted into the too-large side of the scale. (I know, we ought to have placed an object for size comparison, but we didn’t think of it at the time). The tracks were slightly larger than those of a domestic housecat, which also lends credence to the bobcat ID. I’ve never seen one, but they are small!

We later found even smaller tracks running (but only in very brief intervals) in front of the larger ones and we believe the mother bobcat was likely carrying a kitten and set it down into the snow at certain spots.  I did some research and it seems possible that bobcats could have young at the time of year we were out, while lynx will supposedly birth closer to April or May.  Here are what we think may be bobcat kitten tracks:

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I would definitely welcome any input on the ID of the cat tracks – maybe someone reading this can offer more insight? Does our imagined mother-kitten scenario seem plausible, or could there be another explanation?

At least, this next set of tracks could be identified with absolute certainty.  My hubby offered the correct nomenclature: Polus pokysnowus.  😉

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And on that note…have a wonderful weekend! Hope there is a little less snow where you are….

Alberta snapshot: Death Valley, Sandy McNabb.

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The afternoon of the very same Tuesday I shot that frosty photo of Twin Valley Reservoir (see here), my hubby and I intended to do some snowshoeing at Sandy McNabb, in Sheep River Provincial Park.  The snowshoeing part of that was thwarted by temperatures that had risen to nearly plus 10 degrees Celsius and the accompanying heavy slush on the trail, so we hiked instead (and were grateful for waterproof boots!). The trails at Sandy McNabb were previously unfamiliar to us, but we’ll be back in the summer, for sure! During the winter, most of the trails are designated for cross-country skiing, so snowshoers, hikers, equestrians, and fat-bikers have to be aware of which ones are multi-use.  We chose Death Valley/Death Valley Loop, and despite the ominous moniker, it was an enjoyable, fairly easy 6 kilometre trek through primarily forested area.  We were even fortunate enough to make the distant acquaintance of one of the local residents. So fun!

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Photo credit: R. Normandeau.

Alberta snapshot: Fullerton Loop (part 2).

 

FL2FPNormandeauAnother photo from our snowshoeing trip to Fullerton Loop, near Bragg Creek, Alberta, a couple of Sundays ago.  The snow and cloudy skies turned the whole world black and white…with just a hint of blue. The silence was magical.

Alberta snapshot: Fullerton loop.

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I don’t recall such a snowy February here in Calgary…we’ve definitely got good snowshoeing weather at the moment.  The thing is, the risk of avalanches in the mountains is massive right now and sticking to safe terrain is crucial.  Fullerton Loop, outside of Bragg Creek, fits the bill perfectly: it’s a no-risk snowshoe trek, fast and easy and short (just over 6 kilometres). It’s fairly heavily trafficked right now, so if you don’t have snowshoes, you can simply hike it (and at this very moment, you probably don’t need microspikes).

We headed out there last Sunday morning and it snowed the whole time; in fact, Highway 66 wasn’t even ploughed when we arrived at the trailhead, beating the crowds that arrived later in the day.  For us, it was snow…trees…quiet.  Blissful.