Visiting the Canadian Rockies

Last week we took a short vacation, our first family skiing trip to the Rocky Mountains — known for some of the best downhill skiing in the world. We stayed at Hidden Ridge Resort just outside Banff. It was a real treat because skiing is such great fun and the setting is so incredibly beautiful.

I was also excited about the photography opportunities and birding. There were a few species I was hoping to see and add to my Life List: Mountain Chickadee, Boreal Chickadee, Clark’s Nutcracker, American Dipper, Stellar’s Jay, Northern Pygmy Owl (a slim chance for this species, but worth a try), and American Three-toed Woodpecker.

The first two days in the mountains, my brothers and I skied all day at Sunshine Village, a 20 minute drive from Banff. As we drove to Sunshine on the first morning, I was looking at the scenery and as we turned onto the Sunshine EXIT, there was a Northern Pygmy Owl sitting at the top of a tree! I saw it for only a few seconds but long enough to ID it. It was one of the first birds of the trip and certainly a special one.

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Taken with my iPhone 6

I had only my iPhone when we were skiing and to the chagrin of my brothers would stop and get a few shots of the mountains on the way down the runs,

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Taken with my iPhone 6

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Taken with my iPhone 6

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Taken with my iPhone 6

The mountains are breathtaking and the skiing was terrific. From one of the chairlifts, I saw my second lifer of the trip — Clark’s Nutcrackers below us in the spruce trees.

The second day of skiing I saw Mountain Chickadees and White-winged Crossbills on the mountains,

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Taken with my iPhone 6

The final two days I went birding instead of skiing. My parents and I dropped my brothers off at Lake Louise and then drove to the Chateau Lake Louise. The last time we were in the mountains and visited the lake, I was 18 months old, so I don’t remember anything.

We pulled into the parking lot at the hotel and immediately saw Clark’s Nutcrackers at very close range,

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 1000, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

They sit on parked vehicles hoping to get a meal from the visitors,

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/800, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

It was an overcast day, but the snow and vistas were lovely. It’s truly a winter wonderland,

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Taken with my iPhone 6

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Taken with my iPhone 6

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Taken with my iPhone 6

My parents and I walked quite a ways down the lake, this is a view of the Chateau from the sleigh ride path,

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Taken with my iPhone 6

The heavy snow blankets everything,

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Taken with my iPhone 6

I believe this is black tree lichen growing on the branches,

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

Back near the Chateau, Clark’s Nutcrackers were everywhere,

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

I had to back up to get the whole Nutcracker in the frame, because they get so close,

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

There were also Grey Jays which weren’t as curious as the Nutcrackers and stayed at the top of the spruce trees,

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/800, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

An inukshuk made of snow outside the Chateau,

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Taken with my iPhone 6

We took a swing through the Chateau were we stayed 17 years ago. My dad remembered that I called the mounted Caribou on the wall “bearabou” at the time.

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Taken with my iPhone 6

Stay tuned for more posts and photos about my adventures in the Rockies! 

12 thoughts on “Visiting the Canadian Rockies

  1. Absolutely amazing photos, especially of that Nutcracker! Do you have the Tamron 200 – 500 mm? This would be interesting to know for me so that I can compare it with my Tamron 150 – 600 mm, which I bought last year (almost all pictures on my website are taken with it).

  2. It looks like you had some amazing snow to ski on and good birding too. I used to see a lot of Nutcrackers at Rocky Mtn National Park in Colorado when we lived out there. They are like the Gulls of the mountains. They are extremely pushy and looking for a hand out.

  3. Wow Prairie Birder – those are fabulous photos of the Rockies and the birds… so well done… Love when you go travelling and you record what you see and experience for your many readers… good for you….

  4. Wow! Beautiful photos! I am heading out to that area this month for the very first time – very excited about it! I once saw a Clark’s Nutcracker in the Colorado Rockies, but I’m hoping to see more (among others) this month. Thanks for sharing.

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