Helmcken Falls is certainly one of the most spectacular, accessible waterfalls in British Columbia. Located in Wells Gray Provincial Park, you can access the waterfall by paved road. Of course road accessibility in winter is impacted by snow- the region receives a great deal of snow! We were fortunate in that when we traveled to the park this past week the road into the falls viewing area had just been plowed, and when we arrived we were the only people there. (Subsequently we saw two other vehicles on the road- certainly not crowded!) It is also the location of one of the most dangerous and difficult ice climbs on the continent, and the 141 metre climb was made in February by a renowned climber from Alberta. (I don’t think I would want to watch such a climb!) The waterfall is about two and a half times the height of Niagara Falls, but in winter, a significant part of the falls is concealed by a gigantic ice cone that forms around the base. The drive into the falls is beautiful, and we were fortunate to see crossbills, a black-backed woodpecker, a Cassin’s finch, a ruffed grouse, eagles and numerous other birds. In the summer, we have seen black bears and a moose on this same road.
Author: Richard Lee
February in SW British Columbia
I very much enjoy the winter, outdoors in South Western BC, particularly when I think of winters in other places I have lived. Most weeks, I am able to get out two to four times a week for walks, hikes, cycling or birding. Although there are many rainy days, there are still numerous opportunities within the rainy weeks for good outings. The fact that there are so many northern birds wintering in the area makes this region one of the best winter “birding” locations in Canada. So far this year (mid-month), I have managed to see more than 100 species of birds in the area. (Serious birders are able to find many more species than I am able to find!) I know this is not a large number compared to what could be found in such places as Florida and other warmer locations, but it is certainly much more than I was able to identify when living in Ontario and Quebec, and we have mountains and ocean to enjoy as well. Here are some of my favourite photos from the month (so far).
More from January: in SW British Columbia
This has been a good month for photography in southern BC, particularly compared to much colder places I have lived. While there has been a lot of rain, it has been warm and the non-rainy times have been excellent for being outdoors. When I have been tempted to complain, I think back to being stuck in a snow-filled ditch at -25 Celsius in SW Ontario while trying to find snowy owls! So far I have taken more than 3000 photos this month – a great number by my standards. Here are a few of my favourites. I don’t think I have posted more than one or two of these on Facebook.
Duck Mug Shots
Winter is the best time to photograph ducks in this region of the country. These are a few “mug shots” taken recently.
More Eagles from November and December
Earlier this week, we were fortunate to have good views of short-hard owls at Brunswick Point, Delta. We had timed our visit to coincide with high tide, in the belief that rodents would be forced to the surface and inland by the rising water. Whether this rationale was correct or not, it worked and we were able to watch northern harriers and short-eared owls actively hunting. This is quite different from our experience with short-eared owls in Southern Indiana, where it was exceptional to see them at any time other than dawn or dusk, as they would hunt there nocturnally – except in cold or snowy weather.
More from the Nature Reserves of the Lower Fraser Valley in November
The lower Fraser is an incredibly rich area for biodiversity. The river, the valley and the delta combined with a mild climate all contribute to this richness. For birding, November is one of the best months; quite a contrast from the rest of Canada. Many birds from further north are able to winter in the region, while other birds remain year round. The following photos were all taken in the last week.
Autumn in the Fraser Valley
After a warm and dry September and October, Autumn has come to the Fraser Valley, with rain, cooler temperatures and some snow. The following photos were taken this past week.
Drama with the Elk in Banff
We had the opportunity to watch a herd of elk, in Banff. Within a herd of more than 80 elk, it would appear that there were two dominant bulls, some lesser bulls, some juvenile bulls with the remainder being cows and juveniles. Above the road we were on, was the dominant bull elk, with a large number of cows. Below the road, there was another large bull elk, with a lesser number of cows. This bull elk, and the cows were clearly agitated and restless. Meanwhile we heard bugling, from the dominant bull in the upper herd. Slowly but surely the cows from the smaller, lower heard started to migrate to the upper herd and the dominant bull. This caused great distress for the other bull and he made moves on several occasions to cross toward the upper herd, presumably to challenge the other bull, Each time he proceeded, he backed off, eventually settling down in the lower field. Meanwhile two lesser bulls started sparring. The following photos illustrate the drama that played out.
Mount Saint Helens
Last week we traveled to Mount Saint Helens. It was our third attempt to view the mountain. On our first attempt, we had a good visit to the Visitor Centre, but the mountain was obscured by cloud. On our second attempt, we had to turn back because of dense fog! On this trip, the mountain was in clear view, although as the day wore on, nearby mountains (Mount Rainier and Mount Adams) became obscured by rapidly building clouds, which came with the mid 30’s temperatures (90 degrees Fahrenheit). The National Monument dedicated to the 1980 eruption is awesome, in the truest sense of the word. It is difficult to imagine the slide that took more than 2000 feet off the mountain. It is just as difficult to imagine the blast that scorched and knocked down large trees more than twenty miles away. Similarly it is difficult to imagine an 800 foot tsunami in Spirit Lake, caused when it was hit by the immense slide. The film we saw in the Visitor Center is exceptional. After our visit to the Visitor Centre, we decided to take the back roads that approach Spirit Lake from the east. Despite a long drive over very slow roads, it was well worth the effort.
At the Osprey Nest
In Abbotsford, near the Fraser River, there is an osprey nest I like to visit from time to time. Last year, I was able to watch a pair of ospreys raise one chick. On various visits, I saw the adults on the nest, and later when the egg had hatched, bringing fish to the chick. This year, this same pair has had two chicks that are now close to fledging. I was lucky enough to see the ospreys mating in late April, shortly after their return to the nest. More recently I have watched as the parents return with fish and the juveniles practice flapping their wings, soon ready to take flight. One is clearly more advanced than the other- I believe it hatched earlier than the other. But earlier this week I was able to watch the mother selectively feed the less developed of the two chicks. It has been interesting to watch how the one parent on the nest is well aware of the approach of the other with food, well before I can hear or see the approaching parent. It is also interesting to see how defensive the ospreys become when an eagle or vulture passes nearby. On my last visit to the nest, I was also able to observe a raccoon and two black bears that were foraging nearby (too far for good photos). I expect one of the juveniles will fledge this week. I look forward to more visits.
Summer Birds: Western Canada
A selection of bird photos taken in Western Canada in late May, June and July.