April 2002

Upper Kananaskis Lake - Click to Learn More

 

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April turns March's promise of spring to reality. While we still see some heavy snowfalls, the sound of melting snow running down the eves trough becomes a constant background noise in most households. In April, the mountains awake from their long winter slumber. The bears emerge from their dens, and later some of the low elevation ground squirrels. Many avian residents return for another season of nesting. Insects (including some mosquitoes), spiders and wood ticks re-emerge into the sunlight. It is a time of change and anticipation with hikers and mountain bikers keen to hit the trail and birders scouring the bushes for new arrivals.

Awakening of the Bear

After a long winter sleep, black and grizzly bears will be waking once again to emerge upon the world. Some females will have new cubs in tow. Bear cubs weigh approximately 500 grams when they are first born, but gain weight quickly until they weigh 3 to 4 kg by the time they emerge from the den. When bears wake with the early spring weather, their first priority is food. Grizzlies head to the nearest avalanche slope to scavenge on slide-killed sheep and goats. Before long, the drive to mate impresses itself upon boars, as well as sows that are no longer caring for cubs. With the bears becoming active and searching for easily available food sources, it's critical to take down your bird feeders. In Canmore, it is illegal to have feeders between April 1 and November 30. In the mountain parks, feeding birds has been very controversial. We must all play a role in keeping our wildlife wild, so please take down your feeders. Click to read more

All Eyes On The Skies

In April, the golden eagle migration will come to a close as the last eagles pass through on their way north. The end of this migration marks the beginning of many less celebrated migrations to the north country. Suddenly, the sound of honking geese is intermixed with the songs of birds that have been long absent from the mountains. Keep your eyes and ears open. While geese announce their presence, many of the smaller birds reappear in a more subtle way. They gradually move north until you spot the first robin of the season, or the song of the olive-sided flycatcher. Click to read more

Tick Talk

April marks the re-appearance of some insects and spiders, and it also marks the return of the dreaded Rocky Mountain wood tick. These voracious relatives to the spider have eight legs and a triangular body. Females can be identified by the presence of a white spot behind the head. Ticks don't jump onto you from trees, in fact they don't jump at all. They usually hang onto low lying vegetation with two legs, while holding the other six out like tiny grappling hooks. As you walk by, they hitch a ride and begin to search for a nice spot to attach themselves. Since they usually don't crawl too far, you can discourage them by tucking your pant legs into your socks. If they don't find a suitable site they simply drop off and wait for the next sucker to come along. They're very patient--they can wait up to three years (without feeding) for you to come back, so don't forget to do a tick check after your hike.  Click here to learn more

Comet Ikeya-Zhang

Comets in the sky are a rare joy. This year, comet Ikeya-Zhang offers the best opportunity for comet spotting since Comet Hale-Bopp passed the Earth five years ago. The comet was independently discovered on February 1, 2002 by amateur astronomers Kaoru Ikeya, in Japan and (just over an hour later) Daqing Zhang in China. The last time this comet was seen was in 1659. This gives it an orbit of 343 years. No other returning comet has ever been recorded with a longer orbit. The first week in April offers the best viewing opportunity. The comet's brightness will diminish throughout the remainder of the month as it begins to leave our solar system. You will need binoculars, but Ikeya-Zhang will be clearly visible in both the evening (western sky) and morning (eastern sky) skies this week. Check low in the western horizon early in the evening. Later, as the moon rises, the comet will be reduced in visibility. Click here to learn more

All material copyright Ward Cameron 2002