Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Dry Island Buffalo Jump

I will have to come back to this historical site when it has dried up. Today, we are in a short lull between rainstorms bordering on snow. I shouldn't complain because we do need this valuable moisture. We have driven past the sign post on Highway 21 southeast of Red Deer many times without turning in to investigate. Today, it is our destination on the way to my brother's place.
Large Broods of Goslings

     As always, the journey is as enjoyable as our destination. As usual, we turn on old time country music and drive along observing whatever we see. The farmer's crops are already perking up with this first rain after planting. The grass seems greener and the trees fresher. A pleasant, fresh cleanliness wafts over the landscape as we pause to watch several families of Canada Geese munching away on bugs and freshly sprouted wheat. These are very large families that are about a month ahead of a normal year. Alberta has enjoyed a very mild winter and very early spring so many bird crops are taking advantage of their time.

American Avocet
     A little further down the road we pause to look at some American Avocets wading and probing the shallows of a small pot-hole lake. They are one of the easiest shorebirds for me to identify because of their colorful, rustic plumage and long blue legs and curved bill.
Male Ruddy Duck

     In a small pond across the highway are several Ruddy Ducks, Blue-winged Teal and Greater Scaup. Out in the middle, on a pair of islands, are scores of Herring Gulls, several nesting. We watch as One of them flies into the field next to us and gathers a beak full of dried stubble and mud with which to build a nest.
Blue-winged Teal

       Dry Island Buffalo Jump is a provincial park that commemorates and remembers the history of the days that the local natives used the cliffs above the Red Deer River as a buffalo killing area. Herds of bison were stampeded over the cliffs to their death providing valuable food, shelter and clothing for the coming season. The cliffs here are higher than many other buffalo jumps in the west. Embedded into the cliffs is also the history of the landscape as far back as the dinosaurs and evidence of the big asteroid that may have created enough dust and debris to kill the dinosaurs off, some sixty million years ago. Numerous fossils of many kinds have also been found in this ancient sea bed.
Can you imagine the sounds, the rumble, the cries and grunts as bison rush to their death off this cliff? Can you envision the thrill of the hunt and the people's joy with the bounty? Hear the thankful drums.

     Dry island itself is actually, just that, a dry island. It is a plateau that was surrounded and isolated from the rest of the surrounding prairie that has never been grazed by domestic animals or cultivated.It contains a very pure example of the grasslands that existed here before the European farmers plowed any accessible prairie lands under.
Dry Island in the Distance.

Mountain Bluebird Roost as he watches over his nearby nest
Scarlett Mallow

      We finally made it to brother Jim's for supper and called it a day.In the morning we awoke to a typical spring snow storm with huge flakes that weigh down fresh spring foliage and branches. His new little puppy, Grizz, wandered around curious about the flakes.

As we left a little later I noticed a small herd of cows taking shelter from the north-west wind-driven snow underneath an old windbreak. In some areas, there was a few inches of snow.
Cows Seeking Shelter During Spring Snowstorm
     Even if the weather is not ideal, it is possible to have a great time and see some amazing things. Pause for a look once in a while, enjoy the company you are with and do not take risks with bad roads in bad weather. Enjoy the little things,the details that we don't always pause long enough to look at.

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