In mid-August in 2016, we explored parts of the Rockies, visiting two provinces and two countries. It was a marvelous trip and we skipped around one-day-ahead of the rain for almost the entire trip–and one year ahead of the terrible wildfires of the summer of 2017. One of the trails we enjoyed follows Marble Canyon in Kootenay National Park, BC. It’s a bit like the Johnson’s Canyon trail without the crowds and parking problems. We enjoyed the water carving its way down Marble Canyon but the plants and wildlife were also intriguing.
Butterflies at Marble Canyon, Kootenay National Park, BC, in August
Everywhere we went on our trip we saw butterflies and there were three types we noticed along this trail.
This Milbert’s Tortoiseshell was instantly recognizable to anyone with a copy of the ROM Field Guide to the Butterflies of Ontario as it is on the cover.
This Sulphur was much harder to id. I think it may just be a “usual” Orange Sulphur but there are several other kinds in the Rockies so I don’t really know. Unfortunately, I spooked it before I could get a clear look at both sides of the wings, so I will likely never be sure. At least I had a chance to admire it’s bright yellow and orange colouring as it perched on the purple flowers.
This butterfly was more cooperative. I followed it from perch to perch along the trail and ended up with a few clear photos.
At the time, I thought it was a Northern Crescent, a kind that’s common in southern Ontario. When I started looking it up today, though, I realized it has a LOT of white on it, something Northern Crescents don’t normally have. The list of possibilities on e-Butterfly.org suggested I consider a Field Crescent. I’m cautiously hopeful they will agree that’s what this one is: if so, it’s another “first” time butterfly for me!
This is the underside of the wings of the possible Field Crescent. (I’ll update this if I ever get confirmation of the type.) UPDATE: The kind people at BugGuide.net have agreed that it looks like a Field Crescent, a new kind for me!
Luckily We Didn’t See a Grizzly Only a Ground Squirrel or Two
One of my hopes for our trip is that we would only see Grizzlies and Black Bears at the Calgary Zoo. Unfortunately we saw several of each in the wild with no fences between us and them. Fortunately, we only saw them from our car as we drove briskly by, unlike the other tourists pouring out of their vehicles just asking to get smacked down by a frightened Ursine paw. So although we had bear spray on hand while rambling up this trail we didn’t need it.
The only non-human mammals we saw on our walk were Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels. Although at first they look like Chipmunks, their pudgy build and white eye rings (not stripes) give them away. This one posed particularly nicely but still didn’t get any food from us.
A Few Wildflowers Linger On in the Rockies in mid-August
Unfortunately for me, the flower lover of the family, most of the wildflowers had finished before we arrived in Alberta. Still, I saw a few types still in bloom and others in seed.
While I’d like to say the flowers were all exotics, some were the same ones you see throughout Canada, including Ox-eye Daisies.
The purple “Asters” along the paths were some of the nicest-coloured flowers of the trip.
Some of the shrubs were quite interesting too, including this cottony one that may be a Willow.
This might be a Lousewort that has finished.
And this might be an Indian Paintbrush. My Rocky Mountain wildflower id skills are very rusty indeed!
Forest Fire Allows a Different View of the Horizon at Marble Canyon
Years before we visited, in 2003, the Marble Canyon area was burned by a huge wildfire. The main trunks of the burned trees still stand but they don’t block the views of the rocky peaks and chiselled valleys. It made for a very bright, airy walk even though we were below the tree line. Small conifers are steadily growing to replace the trees lost to the flames.
Near the top of the walk, the canyon walls disappear and you can see the rushing roaring water clearly. The rock dust gives it a lovely turquoise colour that varies depending on the angle of the sun.
Tokumm Creek runs several series of rapids on the way down.
You can see the creek from several small bridges that cross over the top.
My children pointed out several fish were in one of the deep pools near the start of the trail. They seemed to like to rest in the slower moving water near one edge of the pool.
Coopers Hawk Draws Unwelcome Attention at Marble Creek
When we were almost back to the car, a raptor flew into view. It seemed interested in perching but was chased repeatedly by some smaller song birds.
I’m pretty sure from the tail points and the band of light colour that this is a Barn Swallow after the raptor. I’m not familiar with western birds, though.
You can see why I think it’s a Coopers hawk in this smudgy photo: the chest appears red and white, the tail is banded, and the dark head covering seems more hood like than cap like. However, I could be totally wrong!
The quick glimpse of the fast moving birds made a nice grand finale to a lovely ramble–or a fitting prelude to our walk at the Paint Pots….
Have you wandered up the creek at Marble Canyon? Did you encounter any interesting flora or fauna? Please share your views with a comment.