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Friday, October 8, 2010

Fort Whyte

Who in their right mind gets up at 4:30am on a day off?  A photographer!

I took some time from work to visit Fort Whyte Alive this week.  It was a beautiful crisp autumn morning, and I was up doing some experimental photos at the Winnipeg International Airport (I arrived too late and didn't get set up before first light, so the photos didn't turn out.  UP EARLIER next time.)  So I headed over to Fort Whyte to check out the 2010 fall migration.

The star of the show as usual, is the Canadian Goose.  LOTS OF THEM!  When I first approached, I think I was one of the first visitors of the day, and the geese all scooted over to the other side of the lake.  So I hunkered down in my best stalking form and crept to the waters edge, and promptly sunk up to my ankles in wet sludge.  GREAT START.

When I pulled myself out, I found a nice comfortable spot a little higher up the bank, and settled in for a long wait.  It was still a little chilly, and I noticed my breath was visible in the warm golden sun.  Eventually the flotilla started to relax and fill up the whole width of the lake again.  Birds, as far as the eye can see.


I snapped some shots of smaller groups coming and going.  This was almost a constant thing.  I wonder what makes them decide now is the time.  I also wonder if they left as the same group they were when they came.  They all look the same to me, so I couldn't tell you.  If you know, let me know!

They really are spectacular, and made for some really nice, almost painting like shots.


I finally decided there was much more to see, so I moved up the road and came across these guys skirting around the bison field.  They were totally aware of me, and were making a hasty retreat.

On my way to see the bison, I stopped at the sod house.  No you English pervert, it's a house made out of grass.  Quite cozy.  But it's not winter yet!  What a time to live that must have been.

The bison themselves got a visit from me much later in the morning, and when I caught up with them, they were lazily milling about shooting flies and mosquitoes with their tails.  Most of them were laying in the grass.


As I approached the fence for a closer shot, the herd all got to their feet, and the bigger ones put themselves between me, and the young ones.

I wasn't about to argue with them.  Even though there was a fence between them and I, I was still nervous.


From up in the tree-house, I saw the first group of school children of the day excitedly run up to the bison watching hill to see who could be the first to look through the permanent binoculars at the top.  You could also see the giant replica stockade, representing how the natives used to hunt these giant beasts.



I could not help but admire the strange beauty of the concrete factory looming in the distance.


 I stopped at the prairie-dog town.  I was slightly amused at the nice little enclosure that surrounds the burrows where these little guys live.  But they have numerous "doorways" outside the gates.  I guess the fence is more to keep predators and school children out, than to keep these guys in.

I rounded out the day by watching the wee birdies flit and flutter through the trees looking for food before the snow flies.


All things considered, it was a great day off.  My foot dried off by noon, and I loaded up the car and headed home.

If you have never been out to Fort Whyte, I highly recommend the trip.  It has self guiding trails, very friendly and helpful staff, things to eat and drink, and lots to learn!  I saw a lot of it, but I didn't see it all, and I posted only a fraction of what I saw.  Check it out.