June 18, 2013

Osprey Webcam Now Broadcasting Live!

Of all the birds here in the Rockies, ospreys are the most willing to put their private lives on display: they hunt for fish over rivers and lakes, and they nest on top of dead trees or power poles, so they're really easy to observe.

Osprey nest on the Bow River Bridge at Castle Junction, Banff Park.
But now you can have an intimate view at the family life of ospreys, courtesy of a webcam near Exshaw, just outside of Banff National Park.  The webcam was installed by the power company Fortis, and went live in early May when a pair of ospreys returned from migration.  Since then, they've spruced up the nest, laid three eggs (between May 8 and May 14),  and taken turns incubating. The real excitement started a few days ago, with the birth of the first chick. Currently, it looks like there's one egg left to hatch, the two newborn chicks are enjoying a post-natal diet of pure sushi!

If you are in Banff or Lake Louise, and want to see osprey in a live setting, our most celebrated pair of  “fish eagles” have a nest on the Bow River Bridge at Castle Junction.  Just take the connector road between Highway #1 and #1A and look at the bridge's western iron girder.

June 9, 2013

Changing of the Bear Guard

Retired human / wildlife conflict specialist Hal Morrison.

We've been living in Lake Louise long enough to see lots of people come and go. Two weeks ago, the town of Field, just west of Lake Louise, hosted a big sendoff for Hal Morrison and his wife Janice.  Hal had been the head of the human / wildlife conflict team in Lake Louise and Yoho for many years, and did a great job of keeping animals – mostly bears – and people safe.  He was a great storyteller too, sharing stories with many of us locals about how bears behave, and how we should behave around them.

Taking over for Hal is Brianna Burley.  She's been working with Hal for the last six or seven years, and therefore has lots of experience with wildlife.  She's also an academic, and is currently working on her Master's degree from the University of Alberta.  Using cameras mounted on locomotives, she's studying how bears get hit by trains, and what can be done to prevent these collisions.

Brianna Burley takes over as head of human / wildlife conflict team.
Keeping people and bears safe is serious work, but every once in a while, the staff get to have some fun.  A few years ago, Hal and Brianna headed up Panorama Ridge to find a radio collar that had come off grizzly bear #72 during hibernation.  Collars are valuable, so they retrieved it by tracking the signal.  They also got a first hand look at a recently vacated grizzly bar den, which is a rare experience in these parts.

Happy retirement, Hal and Janice, and welcome to your new job, Brianna!