A Saturday in the Yukon Wilderness

Yesterday (Saturday) my family and I all went for a ski. It was -3C, sunny, and clear. We took advantage of the beautiful warm weather and skied to a few of our neighbours houses to deliver the last of the Tagish Christmas Bird Count summaries I had written. Along the way we found what we are pretty sure were juvenille Lynx tracks (we refered to my Animal Tracks book) crossing over the tracks of a squirrel. The Lynx tracks were very fresh; it had passed through not long before we had. The tracks had not yet had a chance to harden.

Lynx Tracks (left) and Squirrel Tracks (right)

Lynx Tracks

When we turned around to head back for home we decided to take a trail through the forest. There were a few small hills that were a lot of fun for we beginners to ski down, and every once in a while the trail would leave the open pine forest and disappear into dense old growth Black Spruce. It felt almost ‘Entish’ in those areas. People who have watched or read the Lord of the Rings will know what I refer to. One thing we saw a lot of was Caribou tracks. They had milled around and across the trail leaving deep tracks in the snow. There were many places where the Caribou had been digging up Caribou Moss from underneath the snow. Deep holes in the snow would reveal the ravaged dirt and small bits of moss that been dropped or missed. On this warm day the revealed dirt smelled fresh and damp.

Caribou

Squirrels had worn paths running from tree to tree and had dug many tunnels under the snow. Bits of pinecone littered the ground underneath the squirrel’s favoured trees, and sometimes we would spot an old, blackened mushroom speared on a branch or tucked against a tree trunk. As we skied by, the squirrels would chatter madly at us until we had left.

After our ski trip we came inside to have supper and watch one of our favourite TV series. I was planning on going out once it was dark to play some Boreal Owl recordings. I had not done it yet this winter and this night was crystal clear and still. It had cooled by 15 degrees, so I had to dress warm. After supper I set up my speakers on top of a wooden ladder standing up against a tree and hooked up my MP3 player. I set the play mode to ‘repeat’, then stood back to listen and enjoy the evening. Then suddenly the speakers (On full volume no less!) switched from the song of a Boreal Owl to the scream of a Barn Owl! Very unexpected. I had forgotten to set it to repeat ONE SONG, and instead had set it to repeat all songs. The problem fixed momentarily, I resumed my watch in the night hoping the scream had not scared off everything within a kilometre of our house. My Mom came out to join me, and we sat against the skidoo trailer fourteen feet away from the speakers. We had just barely sat down when Mom saw something fly by the woodshed in front of us and I heard a quiet ‘snap’ of a branch. I already had my flashlight in hand, so I turned it on immediately. There in the tree beside the woodshed was a Boreal Owl, looking highly interested.

Boreal Owl

As we watched, it flew across the driveway to perch on a branch only a couple of feet away from the speakers. It examined the speakers from all angles, swiveling its head in all directions. No matter how hard it looked, it could not find the owl that was singing right in front of it.

It took flight again and landed right on top of the speakers, looking down at them as if checking to see if the Boreal Owl singing was hiding behind the speakers. It gave up and flew back across the driveway to examine the speakers from a distant tree. Again and again it flew to the speakers to examine them. We followed its flight with the flashlight, and the glowing red eyes flew straight for us only to turn sharply aside and land on a branch instead. Once I felt sure that it was going to try perching on me.

 When it left again, Mom went inside to see who wanted to come see the owl. When everyone came out the sudden activity scared the little owl off and it didn’t return for the rest of that evening. A while after it left I mimicked the hoot of a Great Horned Owl to see if I might be lucky enough to get two owl species in one night. I was lucky; a Great Horned Owl responded to me right away by hooting back.

I hope that you enjoy the photos, and I hope that your Saturday went as well as mine did!

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3 responses to “A Saturday in the Yukon Wilderness

  1. Hi Shyloh,

    Thanks for the interesting blog about your Saturday. What a hoot! (sorry, couldn’t resist)
    Photos were great, especially knowing from your blog how the owl was behaving after hearing the recordings.

    Jenny Trapnell

  2. You have some great photos Shyloh, enjoyed reading about your trek on Sat.
    I came across your blog via my Flickr contact Rachel Dawson.
    You both live in a beautiful part of the world.

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