These Days of Summer

Miles Canyon

Miles Canyon

I apologize that Beakingoff has been so slow these past two months – with a lot going on, I haven’t really had a chance to sit and write!

The summer so far has been very busy, and probably the best I’ve ever had. I was lucky enough to be hired as a Trail Guide at Miles Canyon through the Yukon Conservation Society. They are a non-government organization that was established in 1968, and whose mandate it is to create sustainable ecosystems through advocacy, research, and education. The society has amazing staff/team members; I’m really enjoying getting to know them and learn about what they do!

Photo By Ben Derochie

Photo By Ben Derochie

Being a trail guide has been a huge learning curve, and a lot of fun. Our training period lasted for two weeks, during which we got to talk/learn from people from many different fields and visit organizations/museums around town. By the end of the training period, our heads were over-stuffed with information we could use on our hikes. My coworker, Markie-May, is such a sweetie and very genuine. Her specialty is plants – in fact, her Mom is Bev Gray, the owner of Aroma Borealis, so she knows a lot. There is no person I’d rather spend the summer with; we have a lot of good times 🙂

Markie-May and I Enjoying Lunch Break

Markie-May and I Enjoying Lunch Break

Sam Skinner Leading the Mushroom Hike

Sam Skinner Leading the Mushroom Hike

The hikes themselves are different every time, even though we usually present the same information over and over. People show up at Miles Canyon every morning and afternoon for the guided hikes – their interest and enthusiasm is contagious. We are asked a wide range of questions, some of which have been pretty funny, while others have inspired after-work research. Our supervisor/coworker Ben Derochie, organizes guest hikes occasionally, where we will have someone like a geologist come in and do a special-focus hike with us. My favorite of these was definitely the mushroom hike we had with Sam Skinner last week. The hike turned into a bit of a treasure hunt, with everyone digging up mushrooms for Sam to identify and talk about. We learned much, and saw some really cool fungi – my highlight was the Fairy Rings mushrooms, which literally form a ring of mushrooms on the forest floor when conditions to blossom are ripe.

Fairy Circle Mushrooms

Fairy Circle Mushrooms

If you are looking for something to do in Whitehorse between now and August 23rd, come join us for a free guided hike at Miles Canyon! Markie and I do them at 10:00am and 2:00pm from Tuesday to Saturday. You can contact the YCS office for more info: 1-867-668-5678.

Outside work, I’ve been enjoying town life. I greatly miss Tagish – my family, the community, and the birding – but Whitehorse is pretty great too. It’s been allowing me to spend time with people I don’t normally see very often, participate in various public events, and experience a different kind of birding: urban birding.

Instead of waking up to Swainson’s Thrush, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and Mountain Chickadees in the mornings as I do in Tagish, I’ve been waking up to House Sparrows, Mew Gulls, and Pine Siskens. I haven’t actually been getting out birding too much, but that’s not unusual for this time of year. When spring migration finishes, everything drops off until the fall when the waves of birds begin passing through again. Hard to believe that in only a couple of weeks, fall migration will begin!

Mallard Family

Mallard Family

A few weeks ago I went birding at McIntyre Marsh and the Crestview Sewage Lagoons with Nick Guenette. McIntyre Marsh was full of Mallard ducklings, and a Wilson’s Snipe called incessantly. A new bird to the area for me was a rooster, which could be heard crowing from a distant property. So hilarious! The Crestview Lagoons were way more productive – American Wigeon, Mallard, Green and Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, and Horned Grebe spotted the water, Sora were singing competitively from in the reeds, while Red-winged Blackbirds, Tree Swallows, and Black-capped and Boreal Chickadees busily tended nests along the fence line. A busy site, even through the summer.

American Wigeon

American Wigeon

It’s hard to believe that summer is nearing its end already, when it seems it only had just begun. Soon the leaves will begin to turn, snow will powder the mountain tops, and birds will begin to move again en masse. The past year has been so amazing, I know that it will continue through the fall and winter… I look forward to seeing what autumn brings!

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