Feels Like Spring

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Last week I spoke about how January often feels like the longest month... that is NOT the case this year!  We're enjoying spring like weather (following some crazy cold -30 days) it's been up hovering around 0 degrees.  In the sunshine this feels like spring, certainly not the depths of winter!  It's great, it really helps to combat some of the seasonal depression that is common throughout the globe at this time of year.  Along with all the people, the birds and small creatures are all coming out to enjoy the sunshine and (comparatively) warm air.

Having the sounds of birdsong and squirrels chatter fill the air again really makes the place feel alive, and the abundant life that this place brings is one of the many things I love about Banff and the Bow Valley.  I mean this both in a very literal sense in terms of all the flora and fauna we are surrounded with, but also in the joie de vivre that residents and visitors have.  It's the kind of place that inspires you to #getoutside breathe in the fresh air and feel alive!  We're heading to the end of my #150for150 countdown, only 3 weeks left! Here are the 6 top critters that make the count...

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133. PIKA

These are my ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE little critters, and I’ve almost perfected my pika call 😀 These cuties don’t hibernate, they spend all summer frantically gathering grasses to sustain them through the winter.  Their typical habitat is huge rock piles or talus fields, lots of nooks and crannies for them to scurry around in.  Their fur is the same colour as the rocks they reside in, providing perfect camouflage  to protect them from their predators.  These are usually airborne; eagles and other predatory birds, however the pika are vulnerable to many different ground based predators too.

Thanks Dan for this awesome photo!

Pika - photo by Dan SK
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134 – DEER

There are a number of resident Banff deer, they wander the streets and make multiple temporary homes in the various houses that flank Banff’s iconic Banff Avenue.  They are curious creatures, and they have mastered the art of crossing the street at the crosswalk!  There’s something about them, with their bright and pointy ears and curious gaze, that brightens the day whenever you see them.

135. WOLVES

These majestic animals roam the valley bottoms in packs, and have a more troubled relationship with the humans their share their territory with than bears.  Banff’s wolfpack has been tumultuous in recent years, growing to a thriving size until a couple of years ago when the young got into food at one of the campsites.  Therein followed a series of tragic deaths, from being hit by the train to having to be destroyed for repeatedly getting into human food.  The pack dwindled to just two, but it seems now is beginning to grow once more.  I’m looking forward to seeing how the pack develops and hope that the humans that use this valley can learn to exist in a way that protects the wildlife.

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136. GREY JAYS

These mischievous creatures also love human food, and, like seagulls, will divebomb you to snatch that fry out of your hand.  They are sprightly and charismatic, to the point that they were recently voted Canada’s national bird.  It’s also known as the Whiskey Jack or the Canadian Jay.

137 – RAVENS

Another supremely intelligent creature, these birds are the kings of down town Banff.  If the grey jays are taking food from your hands, the ravens are taking apart entire garbage trucks to get into the goods inside them.  The bins around town are all colloquially referred to as “bear bins” due to the mechanism you need to work to open them, but I think they are designed to keep the ravens out too.

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138  – BALD EAGLES

Although these are the national bird of the USA, the bald eagle are found quite commonly in the mountains around Banff.  Lake Minnewanka has 2 resident eagles who come back every year to nest on the North shore of the lake (affectionately named Eddie and Edwina by the Lake Cruise staff) who fish on the lake.  I love this video from Discover Banff Tours of an eagle  swimming in the lake after catching a fish!

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