Awakening to the spirit and beauty of the northern Great Plains
Friday, August 5, 2011
Photo journal of Grasslands NP trip
yellow coneflower, by Sage Herriot
Last week I made a quick trip down to the West Block of Grasslands National Park and back to work on an assignment for Canadian Geographic. My second oldest daughter, Sage, a photography student at Ontario's Sheridan College, came along for the drive to take some photos. She had to use my camera, which is a bottom of the line Canon Rebel with a stock lens and a 100-400mm zoom (5.6), but even so many of the shots Sage took came out very nicely--mostly because she knows how to use a camera.
Here are the results--all of these shots were taken by Sage--except the fuzzy ones of the weasel and the prairie falcon.
Half way to the park, just as we were coming off the Missouri Coteau, we came across this abandoned farmyard swarming with hundreds of tree, bank, cliff, and barn swallows.
On the road into the West Block ecotour we found a number of Chestnut-collared Longspurs still in song and perching on rocks and fenceposts.
This shot Sage took of the Frenchman River shows how extensive the Yellow Sweet Clover is this year. Let's hope this introduced species does not become a permanent problem in the park.
This fledgling meadowlark sat still for a photo--mostly because it wasn't that confident flying yet.
Lark Buntings were easy to find outside the park on the return portion of the Ecotour road.
We spotted this fellow, a fairly large Western Painted turtle, along a road south of the West Block.
The park's buffalo were off in a remote coulee during our visit, but this small herd of longhorns was just west of the western edge of the West Block.
Here is my weasel photo. Again on a road outside the park, we found this Long-tailed Weasel trotting into the ditch carrying a Richardson's Ground Squirrel ("gopher") in its jaws.
This Prairie Falcon sat atop a prairie dog mound in the grey light of dawn. Here it is in flight:
Another view of the West Block. Sage took some landscape shots but, like most photographers, found the park's wide open landscapes challenging to shoot.
I think this is a young Krider's Red-tailed Hawk.
Then there is the one that got away. On the drive home we skirted the northern edge of Old Wive's Lake, which is a vast inland sea this summer, and I am pretty sure we had a glimpse of a Swift Fox. It trotted along the trail in front of us but when I stopped to try and get a photo it vanished into the cropland as I held the camera and watched the wheat sway to its hidden passage. If it was a Swift Fox--and I am not sure what else has a small fox body with a black-tipped tail--it was pretty far north. The recovery of the Swift Fox in Canada has been one of a few success stories in our grassland species at risk--thanks to the vision of Miles, Beryl, and Clio Smeeton early on, and the more recent efforts of the Environment Canada and the Calgary Zoo.