Canadian Rockies and Glacier National Park (Montana, USA)

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Canada 7/24/13

All photos are Marshall Faintich

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is an archaeological site in Alberta. Buffalo Jump demonstrates a method of hunting practiced by native people of the North American plains for nearly 6,000 years. With their excellent understanding of the regional topography and bison behavior, native people hunted bison by stampeding them over a precipice. They then carved up the carcasses and dragged the pieces to be butchered and processed in the butchering camp set up on the flats beyond the cliffs. In 1981, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump as a World Heritage Site.

After an interesting short film showing a reenactment of the hunting process, we hiked a short distance to the jump. I quickly noticed a large number of Cliff Swallows and their mud nests built under a cliff ledge. The swallows also frequented a nearby bird nest of an unknown species.


Cliff Swallow


Cliff Swallow


Cliff Swallow


Cliff Swallows - note one bird entering and two poking their heads out


Cliff Swallows


Cliff Swallows

Then I saw a Yellow-bellied Marmot on the top of the cliff.


Yellow-bellied Marmot

Tom Krop called my attention to a bright yellow bird in a bush behind me, but it had flown away by the time I turned around. A moment later, another yellow bird undergoing heavy molt appeared. My best guess is that these two birds were a northwestern subspecies of the Yellow Warbler family.


Yellow Warbler


Yellow Warbler


Yellow Warbler

On the hike back to the visitor center, an adult male "Gray Ghost" Northern Harrier cruised low over the plain looking for a meal.


Northern Harrier


Northern Harrier

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