A couple of weekends ago was the Tagish Birding Tour led by Clive Osborn. It was a fairly long bike ride to the bridge from my house, and because I was so out of shape I was pretty tired at the end of it! On the way there I heard many Robins, Yellow-rumped Warblers and Juncos, sweetly warbling in the trees. Listening to those beautiful songs, it’s hard to believe that they translate to something like “This is my territory! Get out of my territory!!” I arrived at the bridge before the birding group that Clive was leading, so I set up my scope to have a look around. It was beautifully warm and sunny. The billowing black clouds and screaming wind had disappeared temporarily in Tagish, so I was comfortable wearing a t-shirt on the bridge while the sun was out. Herring Gulls, Common Loons, Canada Geese, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and American Wigeons were scattered down the river. I also spotted a flock of Snow Geese resting on the shore down the river, soaking up the warm rays. It was very peaceful and relaxing. Then a party of vehicles came into the parking lot and a bunch of people with spotting scopes got out, so I went down to meet them. There were a few people there that I knew: Helmut Grunberg, the president of the Yukon Bird Club, and Dan and Nancy Kemble, who lead the Carcross walk for Dusky Grouse every spring. Helmut introduced me to Clive Osborn and the other group members before we set out on the walk I look forward to each year.
A pair of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers quickly captured our attention banging away on a ladder with a sound that resembled a machine gun. We decided to check out the mudflats along the creek that runs out of 6-mile river, where ducks and shorebirds love to hang out. There were wigeons everywhere, the dominant bird life present. A pair of Gadwall, and some scaup were mixed in, along with some of the other common ducks. Helmut pointed out a Fox sparrow serenading us nearby, and across the creek there was a White-crowned Sparrow singing. Lesser Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Plovers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, Spotted Sandpipers, a Pectoral Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpipers, and a couple of Baird’s Sandpipers were scouting the mudflats. Two shorebirds really stood out for me: a flock of Dowitchers (one was a Long-billed, and the rest were undetermined.), and a species of godwit. Both were birds that I had been really wanting to see. Scoping the shoreline also discovered a bunch of Horned Larks hopping around with a couple of Rusty Blackbirds.
Around the bridge there was a big flock of swallows of three different species swooping around and chattering. The Cliff Swallows had just arrived, but the Violet-green and Tree Swallows had already been there for a while. As we passed a swallow house that I had hung on a tree by the river, we noticed two Tree Swallows had claimed the box and were chasing away any other swallows who came near it. I was very glad to see them. Last fall I had discovered a nest in that box just as I was starting to take it down so I could hang it up in a different place. I decided to leave it up, and see if the owners would come back the next year. These are my first swallows in one of my birdhouses! Before the walk ended, someone pointed out a bright yellow warbler up in a Poplar. It started singing, and was identified as an Orange-crowned Warbler, another new year bird for me. That was an awesome bird walk. It was nice that it was actually warm enough for t-shirts this year too. Thank you Clive Osborn for taking us out on the Tagish Birding Tour this year!