Alberta - Canadian Rockies 1st - 14th August 2004

Published by Surfbirds Admin (surfbirds AT

Participants: Dave and Karen Horton


This report is intended to give birders an insight into a frequently visited tourist area, but for which few detailed reports appear to exist. This was by no means a birding trip, it was actually our honeymoon, and taken during school summer holidays. Sites visited were often highlighted in 'A Bird Finding Guide to Canada'. J.C. Finlay The following were visited during the first week of our stay in the Banff area.

Johnson Canyon

We stayed in a log cabin at this site from 1st-6th August and found birds hard to find. Grey Jays would often try and cadge scraps and family parties of Dark eyed Juncos were frequent around the cabins. The canyon did hold American Dipper and three birds were seen including a still dependant juvenile. Most frequently observed in a wider flat area just before the lower falls during mid to late morning with plenty of walkers on the boardwalk. Many Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels frequent the boardwalk, but these are late risers, and will not be seen early morning. Columbian Ground Squirrels frequented the road verge by the main access to Johnson Canyon Resort.

An evening walk up the canyon to the lower falls, failed to produce Black Swift, but one was seen leaving the canyon early morning, and others were observed in the general area. Early morning walks around the woods produced Hermit Thrush, American Robin, Winter Wren, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Boreal Chickadee and the inevitable Yellow-rumped Warblers. Barn Swallows nest in the main buildings.

Bow Valley Parkway

This was by far the best area for mammals and early evening between 18.00 and 19.30 appeared to be the best time. The following were all observed between the Banff turnoff and Johnson Canyon. Numerous Elk mostly males with fine antlers. Mule Deer which allow close approach and White-tailed Deer which do not, and spook very easily. One small Black Bear, probably last years young, one Coyote and one Black Fox which is just a colour phase of Red Fox. The burnt area near Muleshoe picnic area turned up Townsend's Solitaire.

Vermillion Lakes

What appeared to be a lone Bald Eagle was seen regularly during a number of visits to this site, often sitting in dead pines fairly close to the road. Wildfowl numbers were increasing with Hooded Merganser, Bufflehead, Barrow's Goldeneye, Mallard, and Canada Goose observed in good numbers. An American Kestrel was often present in the evening along with Cedar Waxwings.

Lake Minnewanka

Very disappointing with little of note apart from a lone Black Tern and many Big Horn Sheep.

Bow River

A walk along the river from the bridge towards the falls was quite rewarding and produced the only Townsend's Warbler of the trip and numerous Yellow-rumped Warblers, Red-breasted Nuthatches and Black-capped Chickadees. Ring-billed Gulls, a Spotted Sandpiper and American Crows around the falls and numerous Barn Swallows.

Cave and Basin Swamp

The area looks good, but was surprisingly quiet with only Great Blue Heron, Spotted Sandpiper, Green-winged Teal, Mallard and Western Wood Pewee observed over two visits.

Sunshine Alpine Meadows

Accessed by bus from the parking lot which held Big Horn Sheep, the meadows were good for flowers and held numerous Columbian Ground Squirrels. Birding was quiet and despite the earliest start only, Hammond's Flycatcher, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Red-tailed Hawk, Peregrine, and a noisy family party of Pine Grosbeak were seen.

Moraine Lake

This is a really beautiful spot, but our exploring was curtailed by the presence of a Grizzly and her two young, which meant we were not allowed to walk anywhere apart from along the lakeshore. A Golden Eagle was seen soaring over the approach road. Clarke's Nutcrackers will scavenge food from your plate at the café and Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels beg you to break the law and feed them. The logs which accumulate at the near edge of the lake are excellent insect haunts, and Chipping Sparrows, Brown Cowbirds, American Robins, Yellow-rumped Warblers and Clarke's Nutcrackers were all observed feasting on the logs.

The viewpoint on the rock walk is worth it not only for the views but also for Pika which was seen easily. We also saw Pika below the Spiral Tunnels viewpoint on the main highway west.

Lake Louise

Very busy, so you must get here early, but the numerous Clarke's Nutcrackers are ever present. Cliff Swallows nest on the hotel but had left when we visited the lake again on the 14th August. Barn Swallows are also numerous, but we failed to see Violet Green Swallows at any location and presumably these had left before 1st August. Ravens and Yellow-rumped Warblers were the only other birds observed.

We then relocated up the Ice Park Highway to Jasper where we stayed at Patricia Lake Bungalows from 7th - 10th August and visited the following sites.

Patricia Lakes

Early morning walks around the Bungalows were quite productive and produced Wilson's Warbler, Purple Finch, Brown Creeper, the pink sided form of Dark-eyed Junco, American Robin, Yellow-rumped warbler, Western Tanager, Swainson's Thrush, numerous Red-breasted Nuthatches and Common Loon on the Lake.

Cottonwood Slough

Was disappointing and despite early morning visits only Lincoln's Sparrow, Common Yellowthroat, Ring-necked Duck and Pied-billed Grebe were observed.

Whistler Alpine Meadows

A trip up the Cable car is a must and produced excellent views of ten White-tailed Ptarmigan accompanied by a single Baird's Sandpiper. A flightly flock of Fox Sparrows were frustrating and good views of Hoary Marmot and Pika were obtained.

Pocohontas Ponds

A few kilometres before the ponds there is a Goat lick by a layby which is best in spring but we did see a Mountain Goat sitting high on an outcrop about half a km east of the lick on the south side of the road. The ponds themselves held numerous Mallard but little else.

Mount Robson

A truly impressive Mountain, but the summit is often shrouded in cloud. The Café has Hummingbird feeders hanging from trees near the picnic benches. In mid afternoon on 9th August, 2 Calliope and 1 Rufous Hummingbird were frequenting the feeders. The Calliope would sit on the feeder and drink whilst the Rufous would chase the Calliope away and would hover when it fed. All were female types.

Maligne Lake

We did not check the Canyon for Black Swift, having seen them further South, but we did try an evening drive for Moose which was unsuccessful, we only saw Mule Deer Elk, and Big Horn Sheep. The lake held numerous Tree Swallows and Common Loon.

Our final relocation took us to Revelstoke in B.C. where we stayed in a motel in the town. Sites visited were:

Mount Revelstoke

Despite being out early again only Hermit Thrush, Mountain Chickadee and the usual Dark-eyed Juncos were seen along with a Snow-shoe Hare.

Skunk Cabbage Picnic Site

An excellent boardwalk trail which was alive with birds and produced Yellow Warbler, Dusky Flycatcher, Vaux's Swift, Cedar Waxwing, Lincoln' Sparrow, Solitary and Red-eyed Vireos. We did not see Mc Gillivray's Warbler or Steller's Jay but they have been seen one at this time of year at this site.

Giant Cedars Trail

The car park held Steller's Jay but little else of note was seen.

Revelstoke Town

The parks around the town were good sites for the Red-shafted form of Northern Flicker but apart from Mountain Chickadees the only other birds noted were Starlings.


Common Loon (Great Northern Diver)
Pied-billed Grebe
Great Blue Heron
Canada Goose
Green-winged Teal
Blue-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Barrow's Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser (Goosander)
Bald Eagle
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Northern Goshawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Golden Eagle
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
White-tailed Ptarmigan
Spotted Sandpiper
Baird's Sandpiper
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Black Tern
Rock Dove
Black Swift
Vaux's Swift
Calliope Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted)
Western Wood Pewee
Hammond's Flycatcher
Dusky Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Tree Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
Gray Jay
Steller's Jay
Clark's Nutcracker
Black-billed Magpie
American Crow
Common Raven
Black-capped Chickadee
Mountain Chickadee
Boreal Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Winter Wren
American Dipper
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Townsend's Solitaire
Swainson's Thrush
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Cedar Waxwing
European Starling
Solitary Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's Warbler)
Townsend's Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Wilson's Warbler
Western Tanager
Chipping Sparrow
Clay-coloured Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco (Pink-sided form)
Brown-headed Cowbird
Pine Grosbeak
Purple Finch
Common Crossbill
White-winged Crossbill (Two-barred Crossbill)
Pine Siskin
House Sparrow


Black Bear
Red Fox (Black colour phase)
Hoary Marmot
Richardson's Ground Squirrel
Columbian Ground Squirrel
Chestnut mantled-Ground Squirrel
Least Chipmunk
Red Squirrel
Snowshoe Hare
Mule Deer
White-tailed Deer
Mountain Goat
Big Horn Sheep


Orange Sulphur
Queen Alexandria's Sulphur
Cabbage Butterfly (Small white)
Western Meadow Fritillary
Field Crescent
Mourning Cloak (Camberwell Beauty)
Orange-bordered Blue
Little Wood Satyr
Skipper Sp.