Sunday, October 14, 2012

Elk Island National Park

Within 1/2 hour drive east of Edmonton lies a small National Park, cut in half by the Trans Canada Highway 16. Thousands of vehicles pass through this completely fenced park daily, their drivers scarcely noticing anything other than the odd Bison inside the fence. I finally took the plunge yesterday and stopped in to see what might be in the fence. I paid a small entrance fee and drove inside the north half. Bison roamed freely along the roadside, grazing on the mature grasses. I was watching one small herd a few hundred meters off and failed to see a large herd that crossed behind my vehicle. Missed that shot. Beaver have been busy cutting a few short Aspen trees across the road from their dam and lodge, storing food for the coming freeze up. It was a beautiful fall day, clear skies, warm wind and still a few golden leaves hanging tenaciously onto the tops of white paper birch and trembling aspen trees. A clear, dark blue sky, made even deeper by the polarizing filter in front of my Nikon lens, helped highlight the brilliance of the pure white birch trees. A little further on I came to a typical prairie land pothole lake, surrounded by reeds and cattails. The lake is dotted with small, white spruce covered islands. These spruce have been protected from frequent wildfires that keep the rest of the park covered with stunted aspen, birch, poplar and willow. The fires help control the trees from overtaking the grassy meadows needed to feed the wild ungulates such as bison, elk, deer and moose.
I sat quietly with a fellow photographer on a hillside overlooking one of the many small lakes as the sunset in front of us. Geese, cranes and trumpeter swans were calling to their cousins as they arrived from the surrounding fields of grain to the safety of the lake before darkness fell. Coyotes yelped in the forest behind us as the speed birds, blue winged teal, whirred in overhead as if late for a family meal. Several muskrats veeed the watery mirror beneath the darkening clouds, highlighted by the last sun rays peeking through the brushy island cover. All colors tried their best to add to the beauty of the evening. What better surroundings could one sit in to become rejuvenated for the coming week trials of the human kind. A small glimpse of lightning far to the west, following the darkening skyline foretold the late season thunderstorm soon to arrive. Time to head for distant cover and the rainy drive

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