The Unexpected Evening

I set out for Tagish right after work finished for the day. The trip was not one I wanted to make; it was a go, pick up some papers, and leave again, journey. The weather was miserable – pouring rain and blowing – and I was tired and cranky. Every cloud has a silver lining though, and there were a lot of clouds out that evening. My silver lining didn’t appear until I reached Tagish, and began the drive back to town.

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The clouds lifted on my way back to Whitehorse just enough to give the landscape a beautifully gloomy mood, perfect for photography. Caribou Mountain looked threatening; on impulse I screeched to a stop to take advantage of my camera which was sitting conveniently in the passengers seat. A Northern Harrier, the only one I’d seen all summer, flew by the car, and not too far down the road a brown-mottled Black Bear sat in the ditch munching on the undergrowth.

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Nearing Carcross, I could almost hear Nares Lake whispering my name. It was like a mirror, and at the bottom was a carpet of red leaves. American Pipits flew over, and I could hear ducks whistling in the distance, but only small fish disturbed the water surface as far as I could see.

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The communities I passed were all tucked in for the night, and many woodstoves were burning. In the cool, damp air, with the overcast sky and the smell of wood smoke lingering in the air it seemed as though time had been put on fast-forward to September. The bright orange tail of an American Kestrel flashed over the guard rail as I passed by Kookatsoon Lake – another summer first. It was 8:30pm when I finally got back into Whitehorse, and despite the deepening dusk I decided to drive through Porter Creek and check out the Crestview Sewage Lagoons, which I had not visited since June.

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It was definitely worth the trip, as there were large numbers of ducklings on the ponds (American Wigeon, Lesser Scaup, Mallard, and Ruddy Duck mainly) and a small flock of Red-necked Phalaropes. They were sitting in the center of the pond, swimming in tight little circles and snagging the food their whirlpools sucked up. A Solitary Sandpiper did not like my presence, sounding an alarm and flushing from a nearby tussock. Shorebirds migrate about now, so this one was likely just resting there for the evening on its way south. One of the many Sora inhabiting the area called, and Common Yellowthroats flitted through the willows.

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It was such a beautiful and peaceful evening there. As I walked down the fence line to my usual entry point I talked aloud to avoid surprising any bears in the area. Moose tracks were fairly plentiful, and I could easily imagine a bear slipping out from behind one of the many clumps of trees.  I was surprised to find the fence repaired, after the many years of one section laying where it fell on the ground. The whole length as far as I could see was tight, with no way to slip through. However, where there is a will, there is a way, and I did find one part that was raised enough above the ground to crawl under.

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There were young Wood Frogs leaping everywhere underfoot – I had to be careful not to step on any hidden in the grass. A couple were slower and I managed to catch them both; other frogs started calling out from all around me.

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I always seem to forget exactly how much I enjoy birding and photography when I don’t do it for a while. It’s a constant need I feel like hunger, but it’s also something that is way too easy to delay. Summer is nearly over; in a couple of weeks the first songbirds will begin to migrate through here on their way south to the warmer wintering grounds. Autumn is one of my favorite seasons because everything puts on a final spectacular show for the year before winding down to winter. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy summer while it lasts 🙂

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