Birding the Americas Trip Report and Planning Repository
Return to the Main Index

Return to the Canada Index
Return to the Yukon Index
Return to the British Columbia Index
Return to the Northwest Territories Index


09 - 24 June 2001

by Paul Jones

The following is an account of a two week trip to the Yukon, north-eastern British Columbia and the Northwest Territories.

During the first week (June 9 to June 14) I intensively birded the southern Yukon, north-eastern British Columbia and south-western Northwest Territories.  At the beginning of the second week I met family members in Whitehorse.  From June 15 to June 24 we traveled at a slower pace north to Inuvik and back to Whitehorse.

SATURDAY, JUNE 9 - Whitehorse - Sunny, scattered clouds, low 20's.

I arrived mid afternoon in Whitehorse via Air Canada and picked up a mid-size rental car at the airport.  From Whitehorse I crossed the Yukon River to check the town’s sewage lagoons (see for detailed directions).  There were no shorebirds at the lagoons, but there were a fair number of ducks, including Mallard, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Barrow’s Goldeneye and Blue-winged Teal. 

From the lagoons I headed south on the Alaska Highway approximately eleven kilometres to Wolf Creek Territorial Campground.  The campground has basic services (pit toilets and cook shelters, but no showers) and is clean and well maintained.  Camping permits, available at Yukon Visitor Information Centres and retail stores (but not on site) cost eight dollars per night.  A walking trail runs from the campground along Wolf Creek and provides an easy birding loop.  At the point where an extension of the trail meets the Yukon River there were two Northern Rough-winged Swallow (a rare bird in the Yukon).  Golden-crowned Kinglet, Swainson Thrush, Pine Siskin and Purple Finch were in the immediate vicinity of my campsite.

SUNDAY, JUNE 10  - Whitehorse to Carcross (Montana Mountain) to Watson Lake - Sunny, scattered clouds, 5-7 overnight, low 20's daytime - rain showers in Watson Lake.

I awoke at 5:30 a.m. Ottawa time (2:30 a.m. Yukon time) to partial twilight, broke camp and headed south on the Alaska Highway.  For the first week of the trip I stayed on Ottawa time to take advantage of the northern latitude’s very early sunrise/dawn chorus.  

At its junction with Route 2, I left the Alaska Highway and headed to Carcross.  At Carcross I followed Cameron Eckert’s directions from  “A Bird-finding Guide To Canada, Revised Edition” (J.C. Finlay ed., McClelland & Stewart, 2000) to Montana Mountain.  As promised in the guide, it was possible “with care to drive to the treeline with an ordinary car”.  Approximately 1/3 the way up I came across three singing male Townsend’s Warbler in an area of mature Spruce.  At the point where a wash-out decisively makes further driving impossible, I parked and continued upwards on foot. 

There was still a fair degree of snow on the ground.  A Say’s Phoebe sang from the water tower/temple.  Another Say’s Phoebe and a Brewer’s “Timberline” Sparrow  were in the vicinity of the abandoned miner’s dwellings farther up the valley.  I continued upwards to the right of these buildings, attempting to reach higher areas of alpine tundra.  Rushing meltwater blocked my access and, after an hour or so of wandering about, I left the area and returned to the car.  I saw Horned Lark, but no White-tailed Ptarmigan (snow tracks only) or Rosy-Finch.  If I had continued on the old road to the left of the dwellings I might have had more success in exploring the alpine habitat.

After leaving the mountain I briefly explored Nares Lake at Carcross.  The area is scenic and features an impressive grass/mudflat delta that was holding Canada Geese, American Wigeon, Mallard, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Herring Gull, Mew Gull and Bonaparte’s Gull.

From Carcross I headed east on Highway 8 through Tagish to Jake’s Corners, where I picked up the Alaska Highway for the 350 K drive to Watson Lake.  I arrived in Watson Lake in the late afternoon and set camp at the Watson Lake Territorial Campground (comfortable, quiet, empty).  From the campground I doubled back east to the area around the community of Upper Liard.

In comparison to the rest of the Territory, the south-eastern Yukon is rich in passerine diversity.  One of the most accessible locations to sample this relative abundance is the “Rancheria Loop Road”.  The road runs north from the Alaska Highway near the community of Upper Liard.  It commences a kilometre or so west of the point where the Alaska Highway crosses the Liard River (more specifically, just west of the point where it crosses Albert Creek). The base of the loop actually starts at the back of a housing development.  In my late afternoon exploration of the road I saw Tennessee Warbler, American Redstart, Least Flycatcher and two Western Tanager. The Tanagers were males, singing from the exposed tops of mature spruce.  Both birds were incorporating their distinctive “pity-tuck” call note into their songs.

MONDAY, JUNE 11 -  Watson Lake to Tetsa Provincial Park, B.C. - Sunny, scattered clouds, 5-7 overnight, low 20's daytime - brief, but heavy, rain showers in B.C.

I awoke at 3 a.m. Yukon time and headed back to the “Rancheria Loop Road” for a more thorough survey.

At the Alaska Highway bridge over Liard River there was a beautiful Short-eared Owl perched on a road sign a few metres away.  The loop road itself was alive with birds.  I saw, among other things, Spruce Grouse, Three-toed Woodpecker, Alder, Least and Olive-sided Flycatcher, Blue-headed Vireo (two singing males tracked down to maturish mixed spruce/aspen woods), Redstart, Tennessee, Yellow-rumped and Magnolia Warbler, White-throated Sparrow and White-winged Crossbill.

Complete exploration of the area was impossible because heavy rain during the previous week had washed out a culvert, blocking the road.  The portion of the road that was still open was deeply rutted and filled with large puddles.  However, it  was drivable in an ordinary car.

I returned to the campground, took down my tent and drove into the town of Watson Lake.  At the park at Wye Lake there was a singing male Clay-coloured Sparrow (another rare bird in the Yukon).  Along the portion of the Alaska Highway that runs through town there were four Brown-headed Cowbird.

At 8 a.m. I began the 525K drive east to Fort Nelson, British Columbia.  Just inside the B.C. border I noticed a car on the shoulder with its occupant staring down the steep roadside.  I pulled a very quick u-turn, just in time to see a brown/grey shape moving away through the trees.  The driver indicated that a Lynx had been sitting by the roadside.  Having never seen a Lynx, I was disappointed at missing the opportunity.  Better quality mammal sightings for the day included two Black Bear, one Moose, one Elk and seven Dall Sheep, all in the Muncho Lake Provincial Park area.

Mid afternoon I pulled into Tetsa Provincial Park, set camp and crashed out early in the evening.

TUESDAY, JUNE 12 - Tetsa Provincial Park, B.C. - Parker Lake, B.C. - Fort Nelson, B.C. - Fort Liard, N.W.T., Blackstone Territorial Park, N.W.T. - Sunny, scattered clouds, 5-7 overnight, mid 20's daytime.

I awoke at 2:45 a.m., quickly broke camp and was on the road at a little after 3 a.m.

There are a variety of bird species, that while widely distributed further to the east in Canada, are restricted in British Columbia to the northeastern portion of the province.  The stretch of the Alaska Highway from Tetsa Provincial Park to Fort Nelson is an good place to view this outlying population. 

Jack Bowling and Wayne Campbell’s commentary in “A Bird-finding Guide to Canada” provides excellent information on birding in this area.   As I headed east from Tetsa Park on the Alaska Highway I stopped every few kilometres to listen to bird song and track down anything of interest.  Tennessee Warbler was abundant everywhere.  Three singing male Yellow-bellied Flycatcher were at margins of the second bog west of Steamboat Creek along the  Alaska Highway.  One  Palm Warbler was singing from the open portion of the first bog west of Steamboat Creek.  An Eastern Phoebe was at the bridge over Steamboat Creek.  In the Kledo Creek area there were Philadelphia and Red-eyed Vireo as well as Ovenbird,  Black and White Warbler, Mourning Warbler and Rose-breasted Grosbeak.  The Vireos were more easily sorted by habitat than by voice - Philadelphias in scrubby young aspen/poplar stands, Red-eyeds in mature forest.  The Mourning Warbler sang only a partial song  (or maybe a complete “western” song) - “Churri, Churri, Churri” and was confirmed only after a long, wet, buggy tracking exercise through a young aspen/poplar tangle.

Continuing east along the Alaska Highway I was able to pick up most of the northeast B.C. specialities by simply pulling off the road and briefly exploring the myriad of trails that wind out from the highway.   In the area of the intersection of the Alaska Highway and the Fort Liard Road there was a large expanse of cleared land abutting the highway to the south that held two Sandhill Crane and three singing LeConte’s Sparrow.  A number of Cape May Warbler were in the mature spruce at the back of the clearing.  They sang concealed in the tree tops and were very difficult to see.

Just outside Fort Nelson a small sign for the “Old Alaska Highway” signaled the road to Parker Lake, a recommended birding location.  I drove down the road, parked the car and walked to the end of a small dock where I quickly picked up Solitary Sandpiper and Common Grackle.  As I turned back to the car I looked up to see, less than 10 m away, an animal slowly walking away from me.  At first I thought it was a large dog, but when I saw its stubby black-tipped tail it dawned on me that it was a Lynx!  It turned around and stared at me for about 10 seconds before moving slowly off into the woods.  Two days later I saw another Lynx on the Fort Liard Highway. Later in the trip a Canadian Wildlife Service employee mentioned to me that the Snowshoe Hare population had just crashed and that Lynx were being seen on the move everywhere.

After the Lynx sighting I picked up Blue-headed Vireo and another Cape-May Warbler at Parker Lake and then headed into the town of Fort Nelson to tank gas and stock up on supplies.  Checking the Fort Nelson Airport, two Upland Sandpiper appeared on cue (as per the bird-finding guide) in the short, mowed grass in the terminal area.  The last stop in town was the sewage lagoons (prominent by the roadside to the south along the highway) which held no birds at all.

From Fort Nelson I swung back westwards on the Alaska Highway to its junction with Highway 77, the road to Fort Liard, N.W.T. and other points north.  The highway is gravel and very dusty, although it is well maintained, especially on the N.W.T. side.

Just outside Fort Liard (which is approximately 170 kilometres north of junction from the Alaska Highway) I pulled into the Hay Lake Municipal Campground, a scenic water-side site in amongst  immense (by northern standards) poplar and spruce.  In the campground were Hairy Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Magnolia Warbler, Western Tanager and Red-winged Blackbird.  On the lake were Red-necked Grebe, American Coot, Mallard, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Bufflehead and Ring-necked Duck.

For Liard is a pleasant and relatively prosperous looking community.  There was a Northern Hawk Owl in the town site itself.  After a quick visit I returned to the highway and continued north to the Blackstone Territorial Park, a fabled campground located another 120 kilometres up the road.

70 K out of Fort Liard a slight squeaking noise started from the left rear wheel of my vehicle.  It soon turned into a piercing metal on metal screech.  Suddenly there was a loud pop and I looked back to see a large object bouncing down the road.  Anticipating a long and costly towing (if I could locate a tow truck) I backed up to inspect what had come loose.  It proved to be a large rock, which presumably had become lodged in the brake mechanism.  The car was fine.  I continued on my way.

Eventually I came to the Blackstone Territorial Park.  The office is in a beautiful log building that also houses a comprehensive interpretive display of the area.  The showers and cook shelters were fantastic log and stainless steel structures.   I picked a tenting site in the near empty campground with a view of Liard River and the Nahanni mountains rising in the distance.

The area teemed with bird life.  Pairs of Western Tanager and Rose-breasted Grosbeak flitted about the cook shelter.  An Eastern Phoebe sat on the nest it had constructed above the shower building door.  Least Flycatcher, Hermit Thrush, Swainson’s Thrush and White-throated Sparrow sang from the surrounding brush.  From above my tent a Philadelphia Vireo serenaded late into the “night”.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 13 - Blackstone Territorial Park to Watson Lake - Sunny, 7-10 overnight, mid 20's daytime.

I broke camp at 4 a.m. and began the drive back south to the Alaska Highway.  Bird highlights along the stretch to Fort Liard included a Great Gray Owl sitting by the roadside in a mature aspen/poplar stand and a Connecticut Warbler.

The Connecticut Warbler was at N60.48.599  W123.14.522. 

My understanding was that this bird could be found in northeast B.C. and southwest N.W.T. in mature aspen/poplar stands.  I had searched the previous two days in such areas but had had no luck.  In order to sample a broader section of this habitat, I decided to cruise the road at 60 KPH with the windows down.  As I zipped through an area of suitable forest I heard one singing and I slammed on the brakes.

The bird was singing at the road’s edge from the canopy of a mature aspen/poplar monoculture.  The song was a loud, ringing, two syllabled “Beecher!  Beecher!  Beecher!  Beecha!”.  The forest had a thick deciduous understory approximately 20% of the height of the mature trees.  After a frustrating search with binoculars I was finally able to locate the bird as it sat motionless near the tree top.  Setting the scope on it, I was able to watch it as it sang.  Other birds in the area included Mourning Warbler, Ovenbird and Black-capped Chickadee. 

At Fort Liard I birded the perimeter road that circles the airport and found an American Crow, three LeConte’s Sparrow, one Clay-coloured Sparrow and a pair of Purple Finch.

With new found confidence in the search pattern for Connecticut Warbler, I was able to locate two more singing males on the B.C. portion of the Liard Highway (4.4 K north of its junction with Alaska Highway at gravel turnoff on west side of road).  Both these birds were also singing high in the canopy at the edge of a mature aspen/poplar monoculture.   Late in the afternoon I pulled into the Watson Lake Territorial Campground.  Mammals seen during the + 700 K drive included one Lynx, six Black Bear, three Moose, five Caribou, seventeen Dall Sheep (including four newborn lambs right at the roadside in Muncho Lakes Provincial Park) a Least Chipmunk and a Groundhog.

THURSDAY, JUNE 14 - Watson Lake to Teslin - Cloudy, hard rain during night, 6-8 overnight, low 20's daytime.

I awoke late and birded the Watson Lake area.  The Clay-coloured Sparrow was still singing from same location but I saw nothing else of great interest.  I then drove the 275 K to Teslin Lake Territorial Campground in the Yukon.  There were Purple Finch and Black-capped Chickadee at my tent site.

FRIDAY, JUNE 15 - Teslin Lake to Whitehorse - Rain during night, daytime sunny, scattered cloud, 6-8 overnight, mid 20's daytime.

I awoke 4:45 a.m. and was on the road by 5:00 a.m.  My first stop was the loop road that runs off the Alaska Highway north of Jake’s Corner and overlooks Marsh Lake at the Judas Creek delta.  Two female Wilson’s Phalarope were visible on the delta’s mudflats.  The view from the road of this superb looking habitat is very distant.  I was not able to locate an easy access route down to the water’s edge.

Continuing towards Whitehorse on the Alaska Highway my next stop was also at Marsh Lake, just south of the North M’Clintock Bay Road, and below a hill-side land fill site.  Scanning over the water I noticed a Franklin’s Gull flying up the lake.  It landed in a flock of Herring Gull along the shore.  The bird appeared to be in second summer plumage, with a full black hood, but very restricted white in the wing tips.  The bird quickly left the area, but approximately half an hour later I was able to relocate it along grassy margins of the M’Clintock River near the  “Swan Haven” area.  There are very few records for Franklin’s Gull in the Yukon.

At my last stop before Whitehorse (Lewes Marsh) I found a drake Gadwall.  Cameron Eckert provides an excellent discussion of the birding locations in this area in “A Bird Finding Guide to Canada”.

SATURDAY, JUNE 16 - Whitehorse to the base of the Dempster Highway - Cloudy, low 20's daytime.

Mid-morning I meet my wife and her two sisters at the Whitehorse airport.  With the arrival of family, the birding component of the trip diminished considerably.

I returned the mid-size car and, when the booked Chevrolet Suburban was not available, our chief negotiator managed to secure us a Ford F-350, Diesel V-8, 4X4, Supercrew with cap.  It had its own backup warning signal.   We then drove the 550K from Whitehorse to Tombstone Territorial Park at the base of the Dempster Highway.

SUNDAY, JUNE 17  - Tombstone Mountain to Rock River - Sunny, 6-8 overnight, low 20's daytime.

We awoke late and departed leisurely from the Park.  Two Moose Lake at K 105 of the Dempster Highway was filled with ducks including Greater and Lesser Scaup, Surf Scoter, Bufflehead, Long-tailed Duck and more unusually 2 Redhead (males), 1 Gadwall (male) and 1 Eurasian Wigeon (male).

We stopped for lunch and showers at Eagle Plains (K 368) and ended the day at the Rock River Territorial Campground (K 433).

We saw six Dall Sheep on the slopes to the east of the highway at North Fork Pass and one Black Bear near Eagle Plains.

MONDAY, JUNE 18 - Rock River to Inuvik - Sunny, 6-8 overnight, low 20's daytime.

Drove from Rock River Campground to Inuvik.  Settled in at the Chuk Campground.

TUESDAY, JUNE 19 - Stokes Point, Ivvavik National Park (Yukon Coastal Plain)

After surviving an “over night” storm (the sun does not set in Inuvik in mid June), we awoke to a clear, cool morning and made our way to the Arctic Wings office at the Inuvik Airport.  During the proceeding winter I had arranged with Arctic Wings and Parks Canada for a charter flight from Inuvik to Ivvavik National Park on the Yukon coastal plain.

Our destination was Stokes Point, an abandoned Defense Early Warning radar site located approximately 230K northwest of Inuvik on the Yukon coast of the Beaufort Sea.  The purpose of the trip was sightseeing (for the non-birders) and birding (for me).  Yellow Wagtail, a species that occurs on Yukon’s arctic coast and no where else (regularly) in Canada was one of the birds I hoped to see.  Shingle Point, some 40K to the east of Stokes was considered as an alternate destination but was rejected in light of concerns expressed by the residents of that location over the interference caused by tourist flights.  In retrospect, the concerns about Shingle Point were probably mis-communicated to me.  The air strip there is far removed from the seasonal Inuvialuit whaling camp, and the problems with tourists apparently arise from planes buzzing the camp, not from flights landing at the air strip.

Accessing Stokes Point presented a number of logistical hurdles.  The first was to secure a landing permit/day use permit from Parks Canada.  Because of the importance of the coastal plain to many animal species, caribou and waterfowl in particular, Parks Canada carefully regulates access to Ivvavik.  In order to secure permission for a visit I submitted a proposal to the Parks office in Inuvik explaining the purpose of the visit and precisely what our activity would be.  Park staff were extremely helpful throughout the permit application process, graciously explaining their concerns and procedures.  The necessary documents were granted expeditiously.

With permits in hand, the next step was to secure transportation to Stokes.  I began discussion with Arctic Wings, a charter company based in Inuvik, and was quickly able to arrange for a flight.

So, at 8:30 on the morning of June 19, bundled in our warm clothes, we climbed aboard a single engine Cessna 207 and set out for Stokes.  The plan was to land at the gravel airstrip at Stokes and spend three hours on the ground.  The plane and pilot would stay with us - two hours of free holding time, the additional hour at $200.  The cost of the flight itself was approximately $1,200.

The first part of the flight took us north-west over the MacKenzie Delta.  Flying at approximately 700 feet, we saw one Moose and thousands of ducks, geese and swan.  All the larger waterfowl (Tundra Swan, Canada Goose, White-fronted Goose, Brant) were identifiable from the air.  After half an hour or so, we left the green and blue maze of the delta and proceeded west along the arctic coast, past the open muddy water of Shallow Bay.  Beyond the N.W.T./Yukon border, the Beaufort Sea was frozen to the horizon.  Small groups of Caribou were visible on the high bluffs above the coast.  The pilot banked tightly and circled back over them, staying high enough to avoid causing any disturbance.

We continued past Shingle Point and, about an hour and a half out of Inuvik, the huge white “golf balls” of the radar towers at Stokes came into view.  The pilot circled the area, buzzing low first to find the airstrip, and then to make a visible inspection of it, before attempting a landing.  Swinging around again, he set the plane down smoothly and we all piled out onto the gravel airstrip.  The air was cool, 8-9 degrees, but absolutely still.  The sky was partially overcast.  We set off to explore.
Our first challenge was to leave the landing strip.  The strip is built right on the coast, less than a metre above sea level, and is surrounded by a maze of ponds and channels.  We carefully clambered over a natural driftwood dam that had formed across one deep channel and constructed a temporary driftwood bridge over another one.   Slowly we made our way up to the radar installation, located on a low bluff overlooking a large lagoon to the west of the landing strip.

There were deep snow drifts in the vicinity of the radar site.  Ice covered the larger lakes and most of the lagoon at the Point, although the smaller ponds were open.  The ground cover (wet grassy tundra with virtually no willow) was still brown after a late spring.  We did not see a single mosquito during our stay.

Lapland Longspur was the signature bird of Stokes Point.  At the airstrip and back up on the tundra breeding plumage males performed their jumbled flight song oblivious to our presence.  All open water was filled with birdlife - Pacific Loon, Tundra Swan, White-fronted Goose, Common Eider.  I circled around in back of the radar site in an initially desperate search for Yellow Wagtail, trying to clue in on its distinctive call note.  Not finding any, I returned to bird the richer coastal wetlands.  I never did find a Wagtail.  Shingle Point, where they are seen regularly, seems from the air to have much denser willow scrub, and maybe that is the key to finding them there (although there are reports from Stokes as well).

Our three hours passed in what seemed like fifteen minutes.   My advice for anyone else planning a trip along the coastal plain is to arrange to stay over at least one night.  After resolving minor difficulties involving soft gravel and the nose wheel of our plane, we flew out.  On the return trip we ranged out over the pack ice, and saw hundreds of seals (presumably Ribbon Seal).  Despite the failure on the Wagtail front, the trip was still an amazing birding adventure.  The flight portion alone was a great experience.

Complete Bird Sightings  - Stokes Point, Yukon Coastal Plain - June 19, 2001

Red Throated Loon - two - a pair on a pond behind the radar site
Pacific Loon - eight - pairs and individuals in the coastal lagoon/ponds near the airstrip
Common Loon - one - coastal lagoon
Tundra Swan - two - ponds near the airstrip
White-fronted Goose - twenty - coastal lagoon/ponds near the airstrip
Canada Goose - fourteen - coastal lagoon/ponds near the airstrip
Northern Pintail - four - ponds near the airstrip
American Wigeon - ten - ponds near the airstrip
Gadwall - two - a pair on a pond near the airstrip
Common Eider - twelve - all drakes - coastal lagoon/ponds near the airstrip
Long-tailed Duck - twelve - coastal lagoon/ponds near the airstrip
Red-breasted Merganser - three - coastal lagoon
Northern Harrier - one - flypast
Peregrine Falcon - one - perched on radar installation - chasing Raven - possibly nesting
Sandhill Crane - one - flypast
Semipalmated Plover - four - coastal lagoon/ponds near the airstrip - in flight song
Semipalmated Sandpiper - three - coastal lagoon/ponds near the airstrip - in flight song
Common Snipe - one - winnowing near the radar installation
Red-necked Phalarope - four females - ponds near the airstrip
Parasitic Jaeger - one - flypast
Glaucous Gull - six - acting territorial at the ponds near the airstrip
Arctic Tern - two - ponds near the airstrip
Common Raven - one - flypast
Savannah Sparrow - four - tundra and coastal areas
Lapland Longspur - eight - tundra and coastal areas
Snow Bunting - one - singing male in driftwood alongside airstrip
Redpoll sp. - twenty - tundra and coastal areas

Brant - 3 - from plane in N.W.T./Yukon border area

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20 - Inuvik to Rock River - Sunny, scattered clouds, 8 -10 overnight, mid 20's daytime.

We awoke late and leisurely drove from Inuvik to Rock River.  Bird sightings in the N.W.T. included a pair of Gadwall at the Inuvik sewage lagoons,  Northern Wheatear at K 20 and Short-eared Owl at K 4.  We probably saw a dozen Long-tailed Jaeger by the roadside from the Richardson Mountains to Rock River.

THURSDAY, JUNE 21 - Rock River to Tombstone Mountains - Overcast,  7- 8 overnight, low 20's daytime.

We drove leisurely down the Dempster, stopping to catch some Grayling on the Olgilvie River, and arriving at Tombstone mid-afternoon.  There was a Northern Shrike family at K 84.

FRIDAY, JUNE 22 - Tombstone to Ethel Lake - Overcast, rain,  6-7 overnight, low 20's daytime.

We awoke early in Tombstone to a cold, gray dawn, took down our tents and drove to Dawson and then back on the Klondike Highway to Ethel Lake.   The territorial campground at Ethel Lake is actually set 27 K back from the highway, at the end of a narrow, twisty road.  Heavy rain made travel rather difficult, but the campground itself was very beautiful.  Bird sightings at Ethel Lake included:

Common Loon
White-winged Scoter
American Wigeon
Northern Shoveler
Greater Scaup
Red-breasted Merganser
Mew Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Yellowlegs
Spotted Sandpiper
Belted Kingfisher
Alder Flycatcher
Gray Jay
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Varied Thrush
Swainson’s Thrush
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Rusty Blackbird
Pine Grosbeak
Pine Siskin

SATURDAY, JUNE 23 - Ethel Lake to Whitehorse - Sunny, 6 overnight, mid 20's daytime.

SUNDAY, JUNE 24 - Whitehorse and home.


The trip was timed for mid June in part to avoid the clouds of mosquitos that come later in the season.  For the most part this strategy was successful, although bugs were starting to get bad at a number of locations (notably Rock River and Ethel Lake).  The long hours of daylight in June made for easy driving and camping and provided lots of time to birdwatch.  The trip’s itinerary was ambitious, especially for the first week which involved almost 3300 K of driving.  A more reasonable schedule would be to set aside two weeks for the southern Yukon or two weeks for the Dempster Highway (although the Dempster can easily be driven in a week from Whitehorse).  Road conditions were generally good.  We drove very cautiously on the Dempster, keeping speeds low and pulling off and almost stopping for all oncoming traffic.  In this way we avoided windshield chips and, perhaps, flat tires (the Dempster, particularly around Rock River where it is built of shale, can be hard on tires - there is a running debate about whether driving slowly reduces punctures).  The Dempster, which was not a focus of birding on this trip, is recommended, both for the beauty of the land and the birding.

The trip added 39 species to my Yukon list (to 153), 25 to my B.C. list (to 282) and 37 to my N.W.T. list (to 141).


Thanks to the Yukon birders whose writings or direct correspondence provided important information  - Cameron Eckhart, Helmut Grunberg, Pam Sinclair and the late Robert Frisch.  Thanks to Linda Cameron and the staff at the Tombstone Mountain Nature Centre for updates on the Dempster.  Thanks to the Parks Canada staff in Inuvik, in particular Ron Larsen and Angus for their assistance with the Stokes trip.  Special thanks to Renee van Dieen for the F-350 and the charter flight.

Paul Jones
306-159 Murray Street,
Ottawa, Ontario
K1N 5M7 
Birding Top 500 Counter