YUKON May 2012 Part 1

Paul Pratt and I headed out west to Edmonton in late May. From here our plan was to drive northwest through BC towards the Yukon. This was the only territory or province that I have not visited, and had long been on my list of must visit places. In the Peace River area of BC we stopped to add some birds to our provincial list. Many eastern songbirds reach their western limits here and its a great place to add many species that are not easily seen elsewhere in BC. We were also hoping to find some good migrant shorebirds and were not disappointed. One productive little pond found our first night produced 12 species of shorebirds including two stunning HUDSONIAN GODWITS, a WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER, two STILT SANDPIPERS and a SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER. All in all I think I added nearly 30 species to my provincial list. The group that really dominated were warblers, where I think I added eleven new ticks! The BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER below was one of our key targets.

After a night in Ft. Nelson, we headed on towards Watson Lake in the southeastern Yukon. The scenery and mammal watching along this route were superb, especially in the latter half. Indeed, we saw no fewer than 18 bears along the roadside today! Unlike the zoo like atmosphere of the mountain parks in Alberta, here we basically had the bears to ourselves. They grazed and foraged along the wide margins of the highway corridor and seemed unaffected by our presence. The highlight was finding a mother and two yearling GRIZZLY BEARS right beside the road. We spent almost an hour photographing them at distances down to ten feet! During the entire time, only two cars stopped briefly to watch with us. It was an outstanding experience. Below is a pic of one of the yearling GRIZZLIES which was distinctly blonde rather than dark brown.

 Okay so I have to admit that when he sits on his haunches like that he is incredibly cute. Both of the young bears stayed close to mom most of the time. Here is a closer shot of mom and the young blondie. The difference in pelage colour in the blonde yearling is due to fill flash (it was getting quite dark).

For most of the time the bears foraged about 40 meters from us, and they never seemed concerned with our presence. At one point though the blonde yearling became really curious and walked right up the embankment and up to the driver side door (mine!!!). He started to rear up and I frantically reached for the window power button so he couldn't come in! He did not seem upset - just curious. Nonetheless it was a bit of an adrenaline rush for both of us! Below is a photo I took when he was right at the gravel road edge by the door.

We finally arrived at Watson Lake late in the evening. Seeing as my Yukon list was at well... ZERO, I managed to add about thirty species between 9 pm and getting to bed. Among these were a GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH and a stunning PACIFIC LOON sitting peacefully on a small lake right beside the highway.We stayed at a basic but comfortable and clean motel called the AIR FORCE LODGE. It has shared bathrooms and showers which I normally dont go for, but I would definitely use this place again (and indeed we did twice more on this trip).

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