Birding the Americas
Trip Report and Planning Repository
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- Yukon --
including Dempster Hwy, Top of
the World Hwy, Kluane NP, Whitehorse
Territories -- including
Dempster Hwy and Tuktoyaktuk
-- eastern Alaska,
including Taylor Hwy, Alaska Hwy, Tetlin N.W.R.
24 June - 13 July 2007
by Blake Maybank
"It's the great, big, broad
land 'way up yonder,
forests where silence has lease;
beauty that thrills me with wonder,
It's the stillness that fills me with peace."
From "The Spell of the Yukon" by
Robert W. Service
Since there are very few birding trip reports from the Yukon and area,
decided to offer this fairly thorough account.
In the summer of 2007 my wife and I undertook a three-week
exploration of northwest North America, primarily within the Yukon, but
visiting the Northwest Territories (hereafter NWT), and a small piece
of eastern Alaska. We timed our trip to maximize the
opportunities of viewing both birds and wildflowers, and the three-week
period we chose was a good compromise between the two passions -- there
was a good amount of bird song during the first two weeks, with adult
also actively attending young, and we were surrounded by a fine array
of wildflowers everywhere we went throughout, at all elevations.
I did not anticipate encountering any life birds during our adventure
(though there was a very
remote possibility of Siberian Tit), but I did hope to add some species
to my modest personal lists for the Yukon, NWT, and Alaska.
Such species, when mentioned within this narrative, will be bold-faced.
We chose to begin our trip in Whitehorse, the capital of the
encourage those with sufficient time to drive to Whitehorse from
Alberta on the Alaska Highway, but this wasn't an option for us, so we
flew from Vancouver on Air Canada, which offers a variety of daily
flights. Because we were using air miles to book our tickets we
booked our flight almost a year in advance, as airline seats to
Whitehorse are at a premium between June and August.
[Note - in addition to the web site links mentioned in this report,
others useful sites are linked on the Yukon
Territories index pages of the Birding
The Americas web site.]
There is a pleasing variety of web resources available, but because
hard-copy tourism information is also handy, I contacted the respective
tourism sites of both the Yukon and Northwest Territories, and
requested various travel information, including highway maps.
NWT Tourism Site
Yukon Tourism Site
I also consulted the web pages of the major communities we'd be
Other resources I consulted, all linked to the two index pages
mentioned above, included road reports, the Dempster Highway, Kluane
National Park, the Yukon Territorial Parks, NWT Territorial Parks,
maps, Important Bird Areas, and Ramsar sites. A visit to the web
site of the Yukon
Bird Club is essential, as it offers a variety of useful
resources, including downloadable PDF bird checklists for the Yukon,
Territorial Park, and Herschel Island. They also
PDF pamphlet describing Ten Great Places to Go Birding in Whitehorse.
I also read the few Yukon and NWT birding trip
reports available on the net.
Any sensible exploration of the Yukon requires a vehicle, as the
population is too small and the distances too vast to permit any kind
of public transport. We arranged a rental car through Whitehorse Subaru, which is also
the local franchisee for Rent-a-Wreck.
17 Chilkoot Way
Tel: (867) 393-6550
We arranged for a Subaru Forester, with
two full-size spare tires, as flats are not unknown on the
Dempster Highway. Our rate for 3 weeks was $960, including taxes,
with 150 km/day free, $0.20/km above that. We eventually
drove more than 4000 km, so ended up paying about $200 for the
extra kilometres. The Forester had all-wheel drive, and handled
throughout our trip, despite being a vehicle that had seen many roads
in its day. This is typical of Rent-a-Wrecks, of
course. The Forester held all our camping gear, food, and
other supplies, and the two spare tires, but it was a tight fit with
just the two of us. One could argue that we had too much gear.
I recommend always asking for two full spare tires, and you should also
purchase a 20-litre plastic fuel can, as there can be long drives
between service stations.
If you prefer the option of renting motor homes or other recreational
vehicles, there are several alternatives in Whitehorse, but all are
DISTANCE MARKERS ON HIGHWAYS: Most roads have distance
markers along their length. It pays to keep note of km markers as
them. The Dempster Highway, historically, started at km 0
at the southern terminus (on the Klondike Hwy) and continued northeast
town of Inuvik, in the NWT, a distance of 726 km. Many
guide-books describe sites and attractions according to this
system, but just
to make life even more confusing, several years ago the NWT decided to
renumber the Dempster highway "0" at the Yukon/NWT border, just to
assert its sovereignty. This means that the first 467 km are
still marked as in the past, but for example, a site at km 475 in the
old system is
now at NWT km 8. Better take a calculator.
There are km marker signs every two kilometres throughout each
highway's length. However, the signs are not always visible if
vegetation is thick, and
they are frequently destroyed during winter snow removal. The
signs are replaced and repaired only every second summer, so if you
travel in alternate summers (as in 2007 on the Dempster), many signs
missing. Further confusion: the Yukon, the NWT, and Alaska each
use a different style sign. And in
Alaska the distances are in archaic miles.
We intended to camp for much of our trip, in order to keep costs within
reason, and to be able to be based in areas lacking other
accommodations. Roofed accommodations are available, and
understandably pricey, but we did use them occasionally. Those
that we used are described further in this report -- we made
our choices from information on web sites and in the travel guides.
Camping is a good option. There is a fine system of territorial
parks in the Yukon, as well as in the NWT. In 2007 the Yukon
were $12.00 / night, while in the NWT they were $10.00 /
night. Most campgrounds offer limited facilities, usually
no more than campsites (with tent pads), pit privies, water, and a
screened kitchen shelter. Bear safes for food are sometimes
though we used our vehicle. Firewood is often
campgrounds are not staffed, so campers are expected to pre-purchase
their campground permits and self-register their site (instructions
regarding how this is done is given in each campground). Permits
can be purchased in Whitehorse, though no longer through the Yukon
Tourist Information Bureau, despite what some web sites will tell
you. We purchased ours in the
Whitehorse which, due
to the various hardware and camping
supplies it offers, will likely be an inevitable stop. This store
is not hard to find. Every single resident of the city can
direct you there.
In the NWT the only campground we used was staffed, but they otherwise
have self-registration on-site. The Alaska state parks
were staffed with volunteer campground hosts, who collected the camping
fee. And in Kluane National Park you may obtain the camping
particulars at the Visitor Centre in Haines Junction. (We didn't
camp in Kluane, but stayed with friends.)
We brought most of our camping equipment with us, but if that is not a
practical option for you, yet you still wish to camp, there are local
outfitters from whom most of the necessaries may be rented.
We required a propane camping stove, as our white gas camping stove is
awkward to transport by air -- the gas cannister gives the airlines
concern, and the clearance hassle is more trouble than it is
worth. We arranged to rent a propane camping stove from Up
103 Strickland Street in Whitehorse, phone: (867) 667-7035. A
three-week rental was only $30, and the necessary propane cylinders are
available in many locations, including, of course, Canadian Tire.
We also rented two self-inflating sleeping pads as a back-up for our
air mattress; this cost only $10 for the three weeks. You can
also purchase Yukon Territorial Park camping permits.
We took along our own camping kit and exploration supplies, but we
found the following items particularly useful, and sometimes
- Bug Jackets. Yes,
there are biting insects, legions of biting insects beyond measure,
particularly (though not usually simultaneously) mosquitos and black
flies. As a principle we try to limit the use of insect
repellent, and I have no difficulty using binoculars or cameras while
looking through the insect mesh of a bug jacket. Bug Jackets are
widely available in Canada through the various hardware store chains,
and can be easily purchased on-line through the Mountain
Equipment Co-op, for about $15. Our bug jackets
were always close to hand when not being worn. Do not explore the
one. If you still insist on repellent, use a formulation that
contains 30% DEET, the maximum now allowable in Canada. We carried some
as a back-up. Northern
bugs are indifferent to any non-DEET repellent (NOTE: Permithrin is not
permitted for sale in Canada).
- Propane Camping Stove.
We bought a six-pack of small propane canisters, and used about an
average of one a week. We decided that the propane stove was much
superior than our white-gas stove -- easier to light, maintain, and
clean, and cooking was fast and efficient.
- GPS. A good GPS
unit with the necessary topographic maps was a plus, and much more
convenient than carrying around paper topographic maps. We never
had a problem obtaining good satellite reception.
- Trekking poles.
With my knees (of a certain age) I find trekking poles of great utility
for ascending and descending hills and mountains -- and there are a lot
of these in the Yukon. Highly recommended. Available,
of course, through the Mountain Equipment Co-op.
- Car charging adaptor.
This was a great little device that we bought in Canadian Tire.
It fitted snugly into the vehicle's cigarette lighter element, and we
could then plug our various electronic devices into it, most frequently
our battery charger for the digital cameras. Since we drove
nearly every day we never lacked for battery power.
- Insulated Coffee Mug /
French Press combo. I like (need) to start my day with
coffee, and this specialty mug was my favourite
piece of travel equipment. It was a thermos travel mug with a
built-in French press, so preparing the morning cuppa was
simplicity. I found it at Mountain Equipment Co-op -- they
carried more than one model.
- Thermos (vacuum flask).
We had many early starts and found it very convenient to boil water the
previous evening and store it overnight in a good-quality thermos, so
that the morning coffee and muesli preparation was effortless.
- Eye Mask. Given the
latitude and the time of year we were in 24-hour daylight, and an
opaque eye-mask let us have a good night's sleep.
- Digital Photo back-up. I
didn't wish to carry a lap-top computer, so I used a small portable
hard-drive upon which I could daily download my digital photos.
- 20 litre gasoline can.
It can be a long drive between service stations, though never further
than a tank of gas. Having the emergency supply, however, does
allow a certain amount of back-and-forth exploration en route, within
- Small waterproof pad.
This did double-duty, both as a seat cushion during driving, and to
facilitate my comfort during macro photography of the numerous
arctic/alpine "belly plants".
- Queen-sized Inflatable Air
Mattress, with battery-powered pump. Hardy campers
will sneer at this addition to our equipment list, but we had purchased
a new four-person tent for this trip (retiring my two-person tent after
30 noble years of service), and I wished to be able to enjoy my
new-found luxury of room inside the tent. The mattress was
- Cell Phone (not) and Walkie
Talkies (yes). We didn't bother with a cell phone, as
coverage rarely extends far from settled areas. If you must have
a communications link you'll need a satellite phone. We did carry
two walkie-talkies, but as the photographer was never able to wander
far from the botanist, we didn't need them.
the Dempster Highway (revised 1987), by Robert Frisch.
Though this book has not been revised or re-printed since 1987, it is
still remarkable useful. It is not carried by your typical
on-line sellers, though copies appear on Ebay for substantial prices,
but it is still available in the Yukon. It is sold at the park
office in Tombstone Territorial Park for $10 Cdn, but if you wish to
have a copy in hand before you leave home you may purchase it by
Dawson City, phone (867) 993-5486 or e-mail. Obviously
there have been some changes in bird life along the Dempster in the
past 20 years, especially in light of global warming, but there is
still great utility in this publication. NOTE:
the book describes habitats and sites according to the old highway
marker system. See the note above regarding distance
indicators on the region's highways, including the Dempster.
- A Bird-Finding Guide to Canada edited by Cam Finlay, revised 2000. This book is
worth seeking out. It helped with some updated information for
the Dempster, and also included some site info for Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk,
Dawson City, and Kluane National Park.
- Birds of the Yukon Territory by
Pamela H. Sinclair, Wendy A. Nixon, Nancy L. Hughes,
Cameron D. Eckert, published by UBC press, 2003. I consulted this
hefty, authoritative volume before I left, but didn't bring it
along. A very useful resource for trip-planning.
of the Yukon Territory, by William J. Cody, published by the
National Research Council, 1997. Martine brought along a number
of botanical field guides and references, but this is the one that was
a constant companion.
Arctic, including the Dempster Highway, by the Western Arctic
Handbook Committee, 2002. ISBN 0-9687910-0-X. I found this
guide book very useful. I purchased a second-hand copy through
on-line book re-sellers. It is worth seeking out. It describes
the Dempster Hwy using the old distance marking system.
- Yukon & NWT Government Publications
-- The territorial governments offer a number of useful free publications,
available at their Visitor Centres, such as the ones in Whitehorse and
Inuvik, and at staffed campgrounds. You should also be able to
request them on-line via the territorial tourism web sites. We
found the following publications of interest:
- Yukon Butterflies -- not a thorough
field guide, but does illustrate more than 30 commoner species.
- Yukon Wildlife Viewing Guide
(Along Major Highways) -- a very useful publication, referencing many
productive sites along all the Yukon's popular highways. Anyone
with a particular passion for butterflies should bring along The Butterflies of Canada,
reference. There is also a web site
- Driving the
Fire Belt - North Klondike Highway -- a balanced description of
the forest fire regime in the Yukon.
- NWT Road and Campground Guide
-- a necessary guide, that also provides ferry schedules for the
- NWT Artwork Brochures -- native
arts and crafts are a special feature of a trip to this part of the
world, and this series of brochures introduces you to the various
specialites -- Quillwork, Tufting,
Tanned Hides, Beadwork, Carving, Birchbark Baskets. Note:
some of the artwork and crafts does include (non-endangered) animal
products (hides, hair, quills, bone), so make sure you are permitted to
return home with these items.
- The Last Great Road Trip Travel Guide
(Alaska & Yukon) -- a useful adjunct to the government
publications, and includes coupons for gasoline (petrol) discounts at
some service stations.
flew from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Whitehorse, via Montreal and
Vancouver. Overnight in Whitehorse.
Whitehorse area, overnight in Whitehorse.
Drove north from Whitehorse on the North Klondike
Overnight at Moose Creek Campground.
We had an early-morning departure from Halifax for our cross-continent
journey. Given the length of the trip we chose to cash in
sufficient air miles to fly business class, which had the advantage of
not just begin wined and dined (with sufficient leg room), but we also
benefitted from an increase in our luggage allowance, which meant we
could bring along all our various camping gear, including the essential
queen-sized air mattress -- no more camping "rough".
We landed first in Montreal, and changed planes. Birds noted there from
the terminal included Cliff and Barn Swallow, and Great Blue
Heron. The next leg was the long flight to Vancouver, and we had
a longer sojourn in the Vancouver airport, during which time I saw
California Gull and Northwestern Crow, the only ones of the trip, of
course. However, the most interesting sighting was of a Little
Brown Bat flying forlornly about inside
the waiting area
opposite the departure gate. The reactions of my fellow
passengers stretched across the emotional spectrum, including a few
that were noticeably concerned. Not as concerned as the
bat, however. It finally flopped to the floor, exhausted,
and Martine threw her jacket over it, and gently picked it up.
She then attempted to convince the airline staff that they should let
her release it outside and, remarkably, they agreed. Maintenance
staff opened the necessary door to the exterior, and the bat was
released, apparently in good health.
The last leg of the trip was the flight to Whitehorse, where we arrived
at 1900 local time. All our luggage arrived (hurrah!), and
despite the hour the car rental agency was open, and they dispatched a
driver with our rental car to pick us up. We were delivered to
the rental agency from where, upon completion of the necessary
paperwork, we drove to our accommodation.
Because we arrived in the early evening after a cross-continent flight,
and we also needed to purchase food and other supplies, we chose to
stay at a Bed-and-Breakfast the first two nights. We chose the Midnight Sun Inn Bed and Breakfast,
reservation Toll Free:
hosts, Farshid & Del Amirtabar, could not have been nicer, and
their hospitality was matched by the quality of the
We were exhausted, and crashed.
So much light, so little time. I arose at five and decided to do
some birding before breakfast. There are ten sites described in
the Yukon Bird Club's on-line brochure, and I chose
the McIntyre Creek Wetlands, as this was a habitat otherwise scarce in
the Yukon, and I could expect species there I might not encounter
elsewhere during our trip.
McIntyre Creek Wetlands, Yukon
photo © 2007 by Blake Maybank
Locating the wetlands presented no difficulty. Here are the
instructions from the brochure:
"Directions: Take the Alaska Highway north from Two
Mile Hill for 3 km and turn left onto Fish Lake Road. Follow Fish Lake
Road, stopping at Pumphouse Pond at km 2.9, and then on to the wetlands
at km 3.5 at the junction of Fish Lake Road and Copper Haul Road. Turn
left onto Copper Haul Road to the overlook just off Fish Lake Road.
Park here and explore the area by foot."
The creek flows beside the road for part of the drive, and you also
pass Pumphouse Pond, which warrants an investigation (I saw Bald Eagle
and Barrow's Goldeneye there). The wetlands themselves
lived up to their promise, and in addition to the birds there was a
fine display of Sparrow's-egg Lady's Slipper orchids.
photo © 2007 by Blake Maybank
I heard two Yukon life birds, Ruffed
Grouse and Swamp Sparrow,
and saw other species that I would not record later in the trip, such
as Red-winged Blackbird. I spent an hour at the wetlands, then
drove a bit further west on Fish Creek Road, looking for forest birds,
and was pleased to see Townsend's Solitaire and Hammond's
Flycatcher. I returned to the B&B for breakfast at
0800. Here is the bird list for the McIntyre Creek Wetlands:
American Herring Gull
The rest of the morning and much of the afternoon was spent obtaining
food and other supplies. Our food bill was sufficiently high that
we became eligible for an in-store promotion, a free folding camp
seat. This would have been a comfortable addition to our
equipment, but there would have been no room for it in the vehicle once
we were underway, so we happily donated the chair to our B&B hosts.
By mid-afternoon our shopping was complete, and we'd arranged our gear
in our vehicle to our satisfaction. Since we had some free time I
suggested that we take a trial-run drive up McIntyre Mountain, as I had
hoped to explore this site the following morning, and I wanted to be
sure that I knew the route. The promise of alpine
wildflowers was enough to convince Martine to join me. McIntyre
Mountain is not one of the sites listed in the Whitehorse birding sites
brochure, but local birder Cameron Eckert had kindly provided me a map
and directions to the mountain in response to my query regarding where
I might most easily locate the Timberline race of Brewer's Sparrow near
Whitehorse. I had missed this (sub)species on earlier trips
to the Yukon and Alberta, and I was eager to see it. There is
certainly the potential for a split from the prairie subspecies of
Brewer's Sparrow, but my eagerness was based more on personal
reasons. We left at 1600, late in the day for bird song and
activity, but fine for a scouting trip. The weather had turned
cloudy, however, and showers threatened.
Directions to Mcintyre Mountain:
[Note: road name signs might be missing] Drive south on
the Alaska Highway to Lobird Road, an unpaved road leading west, the
junction of which is about 300 metres south of the junction of the
Alaska Hwy and Robert Service Way. From downtown Whitehorse
drive south on Robert Service Way to its junction with the Alaska
Highway, and turn left (south), and in 300 metres turn right (west) on
GPS junction coordinates = N60.68092 W135.05738
Continue west for 3.4 km, taking care as you drive through a gravel pit
operation at about the 2.5 km mark. At 3.4 km you will reach
Copper Haul Road (GPS junction coordinates N60.66539 W135.10677).
Turn left (south) and drive only 150 metres, then turn right (west) on
Mount McIntyre Road (GPS junction coordinates N60.66423
Once on McIntyre Mountain Road it is a steady climb of almost 500
metres for 6.2 km until you reach the first area where, according to
Cameron, Timberline Sparrow can be found [GPS site coordinates
N60.64336 W135.18689]. The road continues further south, gaining
more elevation. We went another two km or so, for a total
distance of 12 km from the Alaska Highway, and a final elevation gain
of about 600 metres.
The road leads to communications towers, so is intermittently
maintained, but we experienced no particular difficulty en route,
though I did drive quite cautiously. A two-wheel drive vehicle
should be able to make the trip with care.
Profile of our drive up McIntyre
There was more birdsong than I expected,
particularly above treeline, and I was surprised and delighted to both
hear and see a number of alpine specialists, including a sustained
intimate look at a Timberline Sparrow
(Spizella breweri taverneri).
Other alpine goodies included American (Buff-bellied) Pipit, American Tree Sparrow, and Golden-crowned Sparrow.
There were also many flowers to investigate and photograph, and
wonderful scenery, compelling despite the scruffy weather.
Looking west from McIntyre
photo © 2007 by Blake Maybank
We spent three hours on the mountain, not returning to
Whitehorse until 2000, and since I had unexpectedly seen my target
bird, we decided to make alternate plans for the following
morning. A morning visit would undoubtedly produce more species,
including the possibility of Dusky Flycatcher, which breeds in some of
the ravines below treeline on the mountain's flanks. But
here is our McIntyre Mountain
afternoon species list, short on quantity, long on quality.
American Tree Sparrow
Brewer’s (Timberline) Sparrow
Northern Lights have seen queer sights, but the queerest they ever did
Was that night on the marge of Lake
Laberge, I cremated Sam McGee."
from "The Cremation of Sam McGee", by Robert W.
We left after our second successive wonderful breakfast at the Midnight Sun Inn Bed and Breakfast,
and headed north on the North Klondike Highway (at this point also the
Alaska Hwy), which runs between Whitehorse and Dawson City, a distance
of 536 km. The Klondike Hwy (#2) splits off from the Alaska Hwy
12 km north of Whitehorse.
Once on the Klondike Hwy proper, I used A Bird-Finding Guide to Canada for
suggestions regarding where to stop and bird. On my earlier trip to the Yukon I had
explored Shallow Bay on Lake Laberge (the GPS coordinates for the
junction with Shallow Bay Rd are N60 57.126 W135 09.231), so I decided
to investigate sites new to me, and started with searching for Upland
Sandpipers in fields about 12 kilometres from the Alaska Hwy. I
had no success, though it was perhaps a bit late for any birds present
to be making territorial displays.
We continued north, heading for the Lake Laberge Territorial
Campground. We passed the turnoff for Shallow Bay Road, then
Horse Creek Road, before finally reaching Deep Creek Road, at about KM
224 (GPS coordinates = N61 04.843 W135 14.463, 32 km north of the
Alaska Hwy). We turned east on Deep Creek Road, and continued for
3 km to the campground, on the shore (marge) of Lake Laberge. The
gravel road runs along the north side of Deep Creek. Refer to the
following satellite image for orientation -- the level of detail shifts
between high and low resolution. (Note
- most web-accessible satellite imagery for the Yukon is low
Lake Laberge Campground has just 16 sites, but also offers a boat
launch and a kitchen shelter. We spent about 1.5 hours
here, birding and taking plant photos. I scanned the lake
frequently, looking especially for Double-crested Cormorants, which
have their only (and very tiny) Yukon breeding colony on Richtohofen
Island, but I had to settle for Common Loons, Surf Scoters, and
Red-breasted Mergansers. The woods around the campground
were active, Pine Siskins buzzing from every treetop. Lovely
And we found many flowering plants, as expected. Here are a
couple. . .
- - - - - - -
[left photo] -- Cut-leaved
Anemone (Anemone multifida)
[right photo] -- Prickly Saxifrage (Saxifraga
photos © 2007 by Blake Maybank
While the forest around the campground was primarily coniferous, there
was a good stand of deciduous (Trembling Aspens and White Birch) along
Deep Creek Road, and though the woods were fairly quiet by then (being
late morning) I did hear a Yellow-bellied
, a new Yukon bird for me.
On the drive into the campground we had noted a sign announcing "Mom's Bakery"
on the south side of
the road, and we stopped on our way back out. A wise
choice. The owner has a delightful small garden with numerous
bird feeders, where I saw the only Pine Grosbeaks of the trip.
Her garden overlooks the steep bank of Deep Creek, and she has
regular sightings of Belted Kingfisher, but not while I was
present. And the bakery itself must not be overlooked, as
she sells cinnamon buns, remarkable for their girth and taste -- she
lays claim to making the second-largest cinnamon buns in the
Yukon. I misplaced my notes that mentioned where the largest are
made, so you'll have to ask "Mom" yourself. She welcomes
birders, feeder watchers, and cinnamon bun aficionados. Neither
her birds nor her buns will disappoint.
Pine Grosbeak at Mom's Bakery's
photo © 2007 by Blake Maybank
Once back on the Klondike Hwy, just a few kilometres north of Deep
Creek Road, I had a most unexpected but welcome sighting of a Swainson's Hawk
perched on a
roadside power pole. This enigmatic species is encountered
intermittently in the Yukon, with breeding as yet unproven, and it was
a welcome addition to my list.
Here is my Lake Laberge bird list
American Herring Gull
We stopped for lunch at the Kit Kat Cafe in the village of Carmacks
. The meal was
quite good, and there was the added bonus of a Red Fox outside, coming
for handouts provided by a nearby work crew.
Further north on Hwy 2 we stopped at the overlook for Five Finger
Rapids, at KM 320. We chose to not climb down the long staircase
to the overlook above the rapids, but instead enjoyed the view from the
highway. These rapids posed considerable danger for the Klondike
gold rush prospectors.
These rapids mark the southern extent of Beringia
the ice-free corridor that persisted throughout the last ice-age,
linking Siberia with North America. Click on the above link for
more information. From our perspective it meant that we could now
look forward to a more diverse flora.
Five Finger Rapids on the Yukon
photo © 2007 by Blake Maybank
Our next stop was at Meadow Lake (sometimes called Shallow Lake), at KM
458, just 8 km south of Pelly Crossing [GPS coordinates = N62 45.824
W136 37.289]. This is a salty inland lake (an "athalassic" lake),
that is particularly rich for breeding waterfowl.
Meadow Lake, on the North
photo © 2007 by Blake Maybank
While there were many plants to photograph, I had the time to enjoy a
diversity of water birds, some new for my Yukon list, including Pied-billed Grebe, Horned Grebe,
American Wigeon, Gadwall,
Northern Shoveler, Ring-necked Duck,
Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck, and American Coot. Many are scarce
breeders in the Yukon, and Meadow Lake is one of the best spots to seek
them out. Other species were present as well. . .
Northern Blue (Lycaeides idas
Mew Gull foraging along the
shore of Meadow Lake
photo © 2007 by Blake Maybank
Here is the Meadow Lake bird list
American Herring Gull
We arrived finally at the Moose Creek Territorial Campground, at KM
559. It offers 36 sites, with a kitchen shelter,
playground, and hiking trails. On our drive that day Martine had
proposed a division of labour -- if I
did all the driving, she would handle all campground related chores;
setting up camp, breaking it down, cooking meals, cleaning up.
a very fine driver in her own right, and I thought this was a deal too
good to pass up. (By the end of the trip I had occasion to regret
speed with which I agreed to this proposal - details to follow.)
So she started
setting up camp, and I hit the trails.
The trails lead to the Yukon River, or rather, they would if not for
some deadfalls along them. I hiked a couple of the trails anyway,
making very good time despite the odd deadfall, as I left both my bug
jacket and bug spray back at the car, and the innumerable mosquitos
encouraged a vigorous pace. Consequently I took very few photos,
and did not linger to ferret out all the available birds, but I still
managed an Osprey
Red Crossbills, and a lovely singing Varied Thrush.
Once back at the campsite I retrieved my bug jacket, and now safely
enclosed I did more photography, including photos of some blue
were active along the gravel roads. I managed some
reasonable shots, and thanks to Barb Beck and Norbert Kondla they have
been identified as Northern Blues. But stay tuned -- butterfly
taxonomy is in flux.
photo © 2007 by Blake Maybank
At this point we discovered our first snafu -- we had purchased the
wrong sized batteries for the mattress pump. So, for one
night at least, we had to use the sleeping pads, which we had rented
just such an eventuality.
The camper at the neighbouring site came over and introduced himself,
and asked if we were heading north. As we were, he asked if we
would return a key to the Klondike River Lodge, at the junction with
the Dempster Highway. He'd paid for a shower there, and cycled
off with the key. Cycled, indeed. He was from the
Netherlands, in his mid-70s, disturbingly fit, and in the early stages
cycling journey from Inuvik to the tip of South America. We
gave him a beer, agreed to drop off the key, and wished him a safe
journey. Oddly, I felt no envy, save just a bit with respect to
In my brief foray around the campground I found an active
sapsucker nest, and noted a few other species,
including Gray Jay (ubiquitous at all campgrounds), Bohemian Waxwing,
and Cliff Swallow. Here is our Moose Creek Campground bird list:
White's Lake, Nova Scotia, Canada