Sunday, June 10, 2007

My Range Land Home

I had decided that I should put in a appearance at coffee in High River with my fellow members of F.A.R.S., a repeater linking system across Southwestern Alberta. But first I would take the long way around getting there. I picked up a coffee with a bagel to go at Tim Horton's drive thru on Barlow Trail and was on Deerfoot Trail south by 6:00 am.

I love the drive west from Nanton that takes you through some beautiful rangeland with postcard pretty ranches such as the one in my lead photo. I would connect with Highway 22 at Chain Lakes and head north to the Bar U Historical Ranch and make the turn east to High River. But I first had to shoot some photos. My first stop would be a series of beaver ponds just off of Highway 533 that I had visited earlier in the spring. I had barely got out of my truck after parking off the road near the first of this series of beaver ponds when I got this shot of this Mountain Bluebird going in and out of a nesting box mounted on the fence near the beaver ponds.

As I shot a number of shots of the Mountain Bluebird, another visitor to the brush surrounding the beaver ponds put in a appearance. I noticed that there were what appeared to be a pair of these birds that were some sort of flycatchers as they were putting on a aerial display for me as they caught insects in mid air then landed on a perch or sometimes on this fence to eat the captured insect. The problem was that I had no clue as to what species he was. No problem as my favorite on line site "Wildlife Talk" (links) of which I am a member would have the answer for me after I put up a photo on the Wildlife Life public forum. I now know thanks to Lee that he is a Eastern Kingbird.

I noticed that there were various flowers that were growing around this series of ponds. This Heart-Leaved Arnica seemed somewhat out of place to me as I tend to see them growing in forested areas. Well I did find them in the foothills so I guess I will go with that explanation as to this location that I found them in. There actually were only a few growing in a shaded area beneath the few trees in this valley.

The sad part of this post is that I have the photos of a terrific series of beaver ponds with lots of sign of the beavers handy work but no photos of the actual beaver or beavers themselves. As you can see they have their lodge situated out near the center of this pond with the entrance cut well below the water surface. The surface of the lodge is plastered with mud except for a small vent area allowing for the entry of fresh air.

I came upon this tree that one of the resident beavers had cut down with his front teeth (incisors). Beavers teeth grow at a tremendous rate and they have to chew to keep them from growing to long. When left alone beavers actually prefer to work in the daylight. I guess my thrashing around did not impress them as they were not around on this morning.

Beavers will normally build their dams on the narrowest and shallowest section of a stream. Beavers may choose to build their dam near the sound of running water . This dam constructed of fallen timber, branches, and other vegetation is well constructed as you can see in my photo of this dam that I shot the photos of.

They seem to know that to successfully resist the pressure of running water, the dam must be a shallow U-shape, with the bottom of the U up-stream. Many species benefit from this dam as on my various visits I have seen all kinds of plants and animals including waterfowl that make this beaver dam their home . Well enough for now if I am going to make it to High River in time for coffee.

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