Another gorgeous spring day with sun and clear blue skies inspired me to walk down California Beach to check out the new swans today. It was also a great opportunity to fiddle around with my Dad’s old GPS, familiarizing myself with it’s basic operations as I travelled.
Stopping at the usual ‘halfway lookout point’, I noticed that the lake ice had receded enough to expose the beginnings of the great sand flats that dominate the area in spring. Out in the open stretch of lake several Common Goldeneye and Common Mergansers were snoozing and diving along the ice edges. To my delight, a few of the male goldeneye were involved in their enthusiastic courtship display, which consists of throwing their heads backwards and singing zipper-sounding calls to the sky.
At the end of the gravel road I took my usual route along the river to an area where the river curves and forms a small bay. A large group of Trumpeter Swans honked to each other from each side, craning their necks as I came into view.
On impulse I continued walking up the river, further than usual. Along the way I saw my first spring Pussywillows, many Caribou tracks, and a patch of snow that had bits of white fur mixed with brown stains – I guessed it had once been a Snowshoe Hare.
Along this stretch of the river, a tall sand/clay cliff lines the water. It is peppered with old Bank Swallow nesting cavities, and layers of dirt are imprinted in the surface in the form of twists and rows of darker lines.
At my turn around point, I noticed an ice-shelf that had icicles lining the edge like teeth. The cavity beneath the shelf stretched far back, and with the sun glowing through the clear mottled ice it provided a fun photography subject.
My path home was different – instead of travelling the same path back I followed a packed skidoo trail into the forest on the right. It lead to a trail I had been on once before; the previous summer my friend Katie and I had come horseback riding down here, after encountering a Grizzly Bear at the trail head. The bear had taken off running from the bushes, spooking my horse who bolted towards the trail with me holding on for dear life. A harmless encounter, but one that got the adrenaline running and added an extra bit of adventure to our peaceful ride! Thankfully my walk was undisturbed, the only creatures I encountered being squirrels and a colourful, beat-up old van.
All in all, I was out for just over three hours, and had walked about 6.5km. What a wonderful way to enjoy the day! My list of birds is as follows:
27 Trumpeter Swans, 30 Common Goldeneye, 23 Common Mergansers, 1 Bald Eagle, 1 Gray Jay, 4 Common Ravens, 5ish Black-capped Chickadees, 6 Common Redpolls, 1 Pine Grosbeak, and unidentified Crossbill species.
Jukka Jantunen is back in the Yukon for the rest of the year, and started his first day of swan counts this morning. At Tagish Bridge he counted about 29 Trumpeter Swans, 37 Common Goldeneye, and 2 Mallards. So sounds like the total waterfowl count in Tagish Narrows for today is 56 Trumpeter Swans, 67 Common Goldeneye, 23 Common Mergansers, and 2 Mallards. It’s only going to get better as spring goes on 🙂