Friday, 8 June 2012

Top-of-the-World to Kluane NP

Phil has already covered the wonders of Tombstone Territorial Park and its rich wildlife offerings, but all things must come to an end and on Tuesday morning we were up, “breakfasted” and on our way back down the Dempster Highway by 7:30 in the morning. Not bad for amateur motorhome users! The trip down to the Klondike highway was relatively uneventful aside from a nice view of a large Black Bear and a couple of new trip birds including an Olive-sided Flycatcher. We had hoped  to spot a Lynx reported a day earlier at KM 10 but we did not.
The next three days were more about sight-seeing than birding but they were interesting days and not without their highlights. We devoted Tuesday to a drive out to the Alaska border along the so-called Top of the World Highway.  We first checked into the Gold Rush RV Park in Dawson City and after enjoying a moment  or two of internet and telephone connectivity we set off for that Alaska border. This route begins immediately with a brief ferry crossing of the Yukon River aboard the M/V George Black.

Ferry Across the Yukon River
The scenery along the very aptly named Top-of-the-World Highway was magnificent! Wildlife was scarce but we were delighted to spot a Northern Hawk Owl and Brian succeeded in getting a fine photograph.
Northern Hawk Owl

We reached the border crossing and probably alarmed the officials by walking all around the area with our cameras and telescopes. One of them came out and asked us what we thought we were doing but we didn’t get arrested or anything and after much scanning we had our second highlight of the trip – a Hoary Marmot! This was a new team mammal and one we were very keen to get that day, having failed to find one up the Dempster Highway.
Hoary Marmot

The Yukon/Alaska border coincides with longitude 141 degrees west of Greenwich. This is Canada’s western most point which is one of the reasons we wanted to come here.  Brian pointed out that were we to follow this meridian south we would pass about 1000 km west of Vancouver and if we kept on going we would eventually run into Tahiti! This was tempting from a purely climatic perspective but instead we retraced our steps back to Dawson City. Back at the RV Park we delighted in the availability of real showers. Our first for a few days!

Dawson City is a place full of history of course thanks to the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1890's. We would love to have had more time to explore this place and indeed many other spots we visited on this Yukon trip! Tourism is now an important part of Dawson City's wellbeing and we saw several bus loads of visitors in the area. 

Dawson City
 We began Wednesday on a real high note! The very first bird we heard upon exiting our motorhome was a Boreal Owl! We had all but given up on this elusive owl and yet there it was, calling continuously from the conifer-clad hillside right above our campground!  When we set off south from Dawson City we spent some time driving up Dome Mountain hoping to get a view of this owl but in the end we had to settle for just its song. We did add Townsend’s Warbler to our trip list mind you.
It was a long day’s drive to Whitehorse. Along the route we added some trip birds – Greater Yellowlegs, Common Goldeneye and Boreal Chickadee and then a Least Chipmunk which was a catch-up mammal for Ray.  In Whitehorse we visited M’Clintock Bay and scored another major victory for the trip – a Canada Goose. OK! Not very exciting but still a trip bird! We checked in to Pioneer RV Park and in a very short time we were enjoying another of Phil’s fine meals, this time in concert with a nice bottle of red wine to celebrate five very enjoyable days with the RV, an experiment that worked very well in the end.

Our 25 foot Motorhome
Thursday began with all the chores involved with returning a rented RV – some more pleasant than others! We must have returned it in fine form however because we were on our way again in short order, this time in a rental car we picked up just for a day. Our destination was a must for all Canadians who like the Great Outdoors – Kluane National Park.  None of us had been there before which is why this destination had to be on our Yukon itinerary and despite the rather rainy weather, it was well worth it.
First stop was at Hayne’s Junction where we discovered “The Village Bakery”. What a great spot and right by the Visitor Centre where we were able to get info on where to go next. We drove another 70 km or so along the Alaska Highway to another Visitor Centre at Sheep Mountain picking up Lesser Yellowlegs along the way - a new trip bird. The target however was of course Dall’s sheep quite commonly visible from the centre.  Not today, we were told upon arrival! We persevered however and drove a little further down the road to see what might be on the other side, so to speak. There, up in the low hanging cloud cover, Phil spotted a sheep. And suddenly there were six of them, three ewes and three lambs way up in the swirling mist of the cloud base! We had distant views of Dall’s sheep in Tombstone Territorial Park but this time, despite the cloud, we had more satisfying views.
Dall's Sheep
On the way back to Hayne’s Junction we scanned the various lakes and ponds and picked up a good diversity of waterfowl including White-winged and Surf Scoters.  Our birdiest stop of the day was a trail we walked in Hayne’s Junction called Dezadeash Trail. We picked up several new trip birds here including Blackpoll Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Warbling Vireo, Western Wood-Peewee, Least Flycatcher and Black-capped Chickadee. Along this trail, Ray noticed after a while, some ominous looking bear tracks, leading shortly thereafter to some fresh bear scat. Brian seemed excited at the prospect of running into a very large bear that he could then photograph. Phil and Ray were wise enough to counsel a speedy retreat however– especially since bear-like sounds could be heard just a short distance ahead! Mercifully we returned safely to our vehicle a short time later and will live to bird another day.
Blackpoll Warbler
Tomorrow it’s off to Inuvik, bright and early in the morning. We’ll be well north of the Arctic Circle and well into 24 hours of daylight. We’re looking forward to it!

No comments:

Post a Comment