Fallout in the Mountain Pass

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Instead of coming straight home from Skagway this weekend, Mom and I decided to get take-out and camp in a pullout in the White Pass for the night. We disembarked the Fjord Express at 8:20pm, so it was getting pretty late. With the mouth-watering aroma of Halibut fish and chips in the truck, we pulled over in a spot about 9km away from Fraser Canadian Customs in a sheltered spot surrounded by small ponds and creeks. No matter where you go in the White Pass, the view is always stunning and rugged.

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When we stepped out of the truck, the fresh wind hit our faces and the tinkling song of a Hermit Thrush echoed faintly from the low-growing trees nearby. A male Willow Ptarmigan glided past and landed in the hills doing his display calls.

All night the camper shook from the wind and rain beat against the windows. The storm raged the entire night, ending at last at around 9:00am. When I got up and looked out the window, the first thing I saw was a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers in the pond beside us. Thinking I had spotted a dove perched in a very distant tree, I hurried outside for photos and it took off. I never did get to confirm its identity, but a Greater Yellowlegs gliding by shortly thereafter in much the same way the ‘dove’ had been indicated that my dove was actually a shorebird. The flight and shape of my ‘dove’ had seemed very dove-like, and in the lighting it looked completely pale gray, like a Euro-collared. Though I now assume it was the yellowlegs, I’m still not completely convinced…

Whimbrel and male Willow Ptarmigan

Whimbrel and male Willow Ptarmigan

The excitement didn’t end there. The storm had caused a bird fallout, bringing an abundance I had never expected in this landscape. Golden-crowned, White-crowned, Fox, and Savanna Sparrows were singing, along with Juncos, Hermit Thrush, and American Robins. A Wilson’s Snipe was doing his display flight up above, Herring Gulls and Greater White Fronted Geese were calling from the open water of a distant lake, and an interesting company of a pair of Willow Ptarmigan and a Whimbrel roamed the nearby stone rises. A second Whimbrel answered back from further away when this one starting ‘singing’.



The Male Willow Ptarmigan was fun to watch as he did his display flight, strutting his stuff for his lovely female companion. They did not seem to mind the Whimbrel being there at all, but after a while, the Whimbrel stopped feeding to utter a few call notes, and then took off. It kept on flying until it disappeared around the mountain, back in the direction of Skagway.

Male Willow Ptarmigan

Male Willow Ptarmigan

I’m glad Mom suggested we spend the night there, as we saw birds I would never have expected. Plus, spending time with the Willow Ptarmigan and Whimbrel was pretty cool. Thanks for a lovely weekend Mom!



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