Young rams at play… and practice
On one of our morning drives, Kian and I came across a few Bighorn rams on the Akamina Parkway near Cameron Lake in the Waterton National Park. These were adolescents, not the adult males which will battle for the attention of the ewes in the fall. Nonetheless, a couple of them were practicing their rutting between grazing on the roadside vegetation.
When the big boys crash their horns together it can echo across a valley. These battles didn’t carry that kind of power but it was great action with no lack of enthusiasm. We were able to watch three battles and my son and I both loved watching, and hearing, the collisions.
I do wonder if concussions are a problem as they are with human contact sports.
A snowy Bighorn ram at rest
The wildlife photography workshop in Jasper is drawing to a close and it has been a great opportunity to put in some great time with the camera. This ram was a subject of our collective attention early in the workshop and on one of the mornings he had led his herd up to one of the hills along the Maligne Lake Road. The snow caked along his face and down his back was a nice detail to work with.
Now back along the Icefields Parkway back home to my family. And across the town with the kids for Hallowe’en treating and trickery – I can’t wait.
Bighorn sheep along the Highwood Pass
(please click on any image to open a higher resolution version)
The Bighorn sheep were in a few small groups scattered on either side of the Highwood Pass at the end of the week. These were a few of the photographs from when I saw them throughout the day. At the lower elevations, fall is still in control and I had some warm, colourful backgrounds to work with.
Higher up, around the summit of the pass, the snow that fell earlier in the week was still on the ground and presented an alternate landscape to photograph the sheep in.
There were a good number of lambs within the larger groups. I hope they can put on a few more pounds before winter settles in but they looked to be in good health.
For the most part, the sheep were not very interested in me. The young one below gave me a heavy sidelong glance that made for a good image.
The salts are attracting the sheep, same as always, to the middle of the road. Most people give them a wide berth. This sheep was suggestive of the location they often take along the highway.
The rut is starting now so I hope I can see some good horn collisions the next time I’m up there. The last ram I saw was scrambling up the Rock Glacier and provided a good photographic opportunity in one of the more interesting geographic locations along Highway 40.
Rocky Mountain Wildlife: Bow Valley Bighorn Mountain Sheep
Near the town of Exshaw, on the Bow Valley Trail, Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis) can often be seen on the cliffs and hillsides on either side. This morning my friend Jeff and I were out for a photo drive and we found a herd of about 25 ewes, lambs and adolescent rams.
They were moving across a rocky cliff face when we stopped and started photographing them. We watched them disappear over the ridgeline and then walked up and found them grazing in a wild grass meadow. As we hiked up, we could see a large group of adult rams higher up on the mountain but we didn’t continue up to them. Although it is the season for the rut so I may head back again before the end of the weekend to see if I can photograph some of the head butting that sorts out the mating season.
They kept moving across the mountain slopes but we had a lot of time to watch and shoot them before the cold wind got the better of us and we headed into Canmore for breakfast.
The lamb below was the last to leave the meadow and poked its head up over the grass for a quick look before running back to the herd.
Bow Valley Trail Mountain Sheep
A large group of ewes were walking along this ridge with a gang of frisky youngsters in tow. A bit further down the road were 12-15 rams that looked to have separated from this group as they were grazing on the south side of the highway. Maybe they were sneaking away for some guy time. This is around the time lambs are born but I didn’t see any really small ones here. Not sure if they will be born soon or if they have been already and their mothers are keeping them in more remote spots for now.
These two younger lambs did not have the sure-feet and confidence of their more mature brethren which made their traverse of this steep, jagged part of the rock below the ridge an interesting walk to follow.
There are a number of great locations to see Bighorn Sheep when heading into the Rocky Mountains from Calgary. The place where I made these pictures is one of the most accessible: it is a long stretch of the Bow Valley Trail between Exshaw and Canmore. The sheep can be frequently seen right beside the road, up the mountain slopes on the scree or, more dramatically, on the cliffs that loom 60′ above the road just north of Lac des Arcs.
This ram came up a few minutes after the herd of ewes and lambs had gone. He was a beautiful animal and we loved watching him stride across the rocks. This ended an incredible day on a fine note after having seen a herd of elk, a moose, a Barrow’s Goldeneye, a grebe, a mating pair of osprey, several hawks and a bald eagle between sunrise and sunset.