It’s time for my fave animal photos from last year. I always love going through my pictures (all taken on my teensy Panasonic Lumix camera), but it’s always tough to pick the final shortlist. Let me know if you’ve got a favourite from the bunch.
1. Snowshoe Hare
I think this one will be hard to beat. I got home from snowshoe guiding on a snowy day last January, and while I was shovelling, I noticed a roosting snowshoe hare beside the woodshed. They often rest in the daytime, and this little cutie decided that this was the perfect spot. The next day, I was doing the dishes and looking out the kitchen window when I realized that a clump of snow underneath my car was… the same little snowshoe hare!
2. Yellow-Fronted Bumblebee (Bombus flavifrons)
This early bird (er, bee) was out gathering nectar and pollen at the end of May in Yoho National Park. Given the early date, this is a queen bee, born in the late summer of the previous year. She and her sisters are the only bumble bees from a colony that survive the winter, and after hibernating, each of them will try to start a new colony in the spring. Talk about resilience! Plus, if you need proof that bees are important pollinators, this picture is worth a thousand words.
3. Hoary Marmot
These photogenic and jumbo-sized squirrels could make my list every year. There’s something endearing about marmots and their big buck-toothed grin. Right now, they are in the middle of almost 8 months of hibernation, making them the deep sleep champions here in the Rocky Mountains (take that, grizzly bears!).
4. Grizzly Bears
Speaking of grizzly bears, sometimes the Lake Louise Ski Area lives up to its billing as a good place to spot bears. I was on the “Grizzly Express” summer sightseeing lift in July when I spotted this mama griz and her cub.
Fall is my favourite time to watch chipmunks, because they get really focussed on collecting seeds for the winter. It’s super charming: they harvest and husk grass seeds, then stuff them in their cheeks until they can’t squeeze in any more. These seeds are carried to the hibernation den and piled up until there are a couple of litres (!!) squirrelled (er, chipmunked) away for the winter. They wake up and snack frequently during their hibernation period.
6. White-tailed Ptarmigan
Okay, I have to start with the only ptarmigan joke I know…
Q: Why can’t you hear a ptarmigan going to the bathroom?
A: Because the “p” is silent.
At the end of September, you know that winter is just around the corner, and for proof, I like to watch the white-tailed ptarmigan moult from summer brown to winter white. It takes a few weeks, but once it starts, it’s time to break out the long-johns and the extra puffydown jacket.