It is always a thrill to see pronghorn, which we start scanning the horizon for once we get close to Hanna. No super shots this trip (like my header pic!) but the weather was amenable and the roads were good (well, except for an errant cotter pin that was waiting for us on a newly graded road, just so it could embed itself in my brand-new tire. Who knew that new Dodge Caravans don’t even come equipped with a spare tire(!) But that is another story…)
The highlights of the trip included a beautiful walk with our friend Cathy on her amazing ranch property. She tried her hand a rattling for deer and was successful at bringing in a young buck. There wasn’t much other wildlife stirring around, but it was wonderful to be out strolling among the cottonwoods. We happened upon some interesting orange fungi on a downed water birch that my good friend Dr. Charley Bird identified as Smelly Oyster fungus (Phyllotopsis nidulans). We didn’t think to take whiff, but Cathy promises to sniff it next time she walks past the tree.
We were heartened to see lots of Sharp-tailed Grouse, with one bunch sitting atop a lone old poplar tree looking ever so much like Christmas lights!
The highlight of the trip was to encounter a warren of Mountain Cottontails near the Estuary Ferry. Alberta’s only true rabbit species (Snowshoe Hares and Jack Rabbits are both hares), these diminutive bunnies are unique because of their small size and the fact that they do not turn white in the winter. Apparently conditions have been favourable for them this season, because there were cottontails everywhere.
We also saw a few rough-legged hawks, a couple of coyotes, a nice rugged young mule buck and a few pheasants on our hurried trip out and back. The dearth of sightings was not surprising given how late it is in the season.
I look forward to returning to the prairies in the spring, when the song of the meadowlark fills the air and the rattlers begin to stir. If you would like to explore the prairies, I highly recommend a stay at Mammy’s Place, located right near the Estuary Ferry (http://www.mammysplace.ca). A delightful place to stay while you explore the many natural wonders of the area.