Everyone has their favorite National Park, but the one most near and dear to my heart is not in the U.S. It’s in Canada and it’s Jasper National Park where I just adore the valleys that expand from mountain to mountain in the Canadian Rockies. Yeah, Banff is beautiful, but Jasper stretches its arms wide open to receive you.

Lake Maligne at Jasper National Park

Lake Maligne at Jasper National Park

My nemesis

As we took the Columbia Icefields Highway north to Jasper we stopped by Athabasca Falls where Steve heard a warbler. Now, you know how warblers are my nemesis. They never seem to let me take their photo as they are always flitting around, hiding from me. I’m neither patient, nor a good photographer, which makes it especially aggravating. What was worse, we didn’t even have binoculars with us as we only stopped to look at the Falls and stretch our legs from the long drive. (Doh!)

But I wasn’t about to give up even if the light was in the wrong position, and the little fella was chirping, but making it clear that he was not about to make an appearance. What a tease. I just kept clicking and clicking, hoping that I would catch him when he’d pop out, and then finally—FINALLY—he jumped out and I got him.

And he was kind enough to show me his cute yellow rump.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Also got me a lifer

In Jasper we hiked to Mona Lake, which is near the Maligne Lake area. The skies were  a bright blue with a few puffy clouds, and the hike was exactly what I  needed to gain back my confidence  (see my post on Pressures of Ecuador.) The trail wasn’t very busy, but a few birds were. And guess what, we didn’t have our binoculars. (Oh for Pete’s sake.) It really didn’t matter, though. The birds were shy and not cooperating. That was okay, though. It was a beautiful day for a hike, birds or no birds.

When we reached Mona Lake we were the only ones there. It was peaceful. There was the silence of nature with no motor boats, no voices, no freeway sounds. Just a few Gray Jays.

The peaceful Mona Lake

The peaceful Mona Lake

Wait. Gray Jays? That’s a new species for me. I tried to get a shot, but couldn’t get anything decent with my 300 mm lens. But that was okay. Our day’s goal wasn’t for birding, but just hiking.

Yet….

As we were hiking back to the trail head I was walking about six feet in front of Steve when I heard Steve sort of whisper-holler at me: “Hey, Lisa. Look.”

I turned around and there was the Gray Jay staring right at me.

Gray Jay--a cute little fellow just sitting there waiting for me to take his picture

Gray Jay–a cute little fellow just sitting there waiting for me to take his picture

When we stopped for food at Maligne Lake it seemed as though the Gray Jays there were much more social than the ones we encountered on our hike. They were more like scavengers, but it didn’t deter them from being so darn cute. They still take my breath away and I’m always excited to see birds, whether the shy ones in the woods or their more extroverted buddies looking for handouts at a food stand.

A friendlier Gray Jay

A friendlier Gray Jay

Make that two lifers

Later that day we had dinner at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. The princess in me just loves the Fairmont properties, especially this one. It’s not to say that I don’t have fun or appreciate our adventures in the Amazon, jungles, or mountains with limited services, but I do love to be pampered a bit too. After dinner we sat on their Adirondack chairs overlooking Lake Beauvert and watched a male Common Loon–a new species for me–bring little fishes to a juvenile.

Awww, so stinking cute.

Not a fantastic photo of Common Loons, but cute nonetheless.

Not a fantastic photo of Common Loons, but cute nonetheless.

So, there you go. Birding without binoculars. We still had bird encounters even without the gear. Certainly we didn’t have a big list, but that’s not what birding is about. It’s about having my breath taken away.

And that’s why I love Jasper so much.

Maligne Lake

Maligne Lake