Home, home on the range, where the Rocky Mountain Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus hemionus)...
...and the Pronghorn Antelope (Antilocapra americana) play. The deer became a regular site pretty quick. The pronghorn were an unexpected treat just outside of Cypress Hills.
Coyotes are somewhat common and scanning the open rolling terrain yielded a half dozen or so sightings throughout the 2 days at Cypress Hills.
|Lupine getting an ambitious start on 2017.|
|Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta) is one of the dominant conifers.|
|If you dig hard you can find goodies like Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum)!|
|American Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides dorsalis), score!|
|...and it's preferred habitat 'round these parts.|
The next two photos give an appreciation of how Cypress Hills became an island untouched by glaciation which created the stark contrast with the bare shortgrass prairie that extends for thousands of miles around at lower elevations.
The Sweetgrass Hills of Montana are visible in the distance. I didn't venture too far off the trail here as a truck with an Elk hunting permit was parked at the cul-de-sac. Apparently this location is the highest elevation in Canada between the Rockies and Newfoundland.
We took a (more) scenic route back to Medicine Hat via Eagle Butte on the west side of the park. I was curious about checking out historic Margaret's Church so we stopped in. The "Beware of Dog" sign gave way to a pooch that would lick your face to death. The stained glass in the church was well-tied to the surroundings showcasing Meadowlark and Sunflower among other flora and fauna.
Spending a day in Medicine Hat I decided to check out Police Point; a City park with an extensive trail system but comprising a large swath of grassland and Cottonwood floodplain.
|A favourite grass, Blue Grama (Bouteloua gracilis)|
|Wild Licorice (Glycyrrhiza lepidota)|
|Sand Reedgrass (Calamovilfa longifolia)|
|Colourful lichens on the concretions.|
The rocky peak had a nice patch of Starvation Prickly-pear (Opuntia polycantha), other cactus species occur in Alberta but this is the species of Opuntia common to this area.
On our way to Calgary for the weekend we stopped by the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller. I had never been and it was a fun way to spend the afternoon after a 2.5 hour drive up from Medicine Hat. A few shots below...
|Gumweed (Grindellia squarrosa) hanging on to the last few petals.|