2022-06-07 Two Nights at Watson Lake

Alder Flycatcher - Empidonax alnorum
Alder Flycatchers haunted the willows at the edge of Wye Lake. Of all the places I visited on my 2005 expedition to Alaska, Watson Lake was one of my favorite stops. It was where I first met Red-Necked Grebes and Mew Gulls.
Red-Necked Grebe - Podiceps grisegena
I was quite pleased to find Red-Necked Grebes nesting at Wye Lake again.

If I would have had any cell reception after leaving the Fort Nelson area, I’d have parked at a wide spot along my route to Watson Lake. Since the work I do to prepare and submit my blogs requires the internet, I pushed onward, all the way to Watson Lake, the so-called “Gateway To The Yukon”. When I finally arrived in town, it was mid-afternoon, and I had two things on my mind. I needed to find a place to park for the night, and I wanted to check in at Wye Lake. When I passed this way in 2005, I met a pair of Red-Necked Grebes at this several acre lake at the edge of town. Happily, when I reached the lake that afternoon, I found a nesting pair stationed near the city park where I met them all those years ago. I didn’t have the energy required to work on getting more bird pictures, but the meeting raised my spirits and I planned to return the next morning.

I camped for the night near the famous “Signpost Forest” near the Visitor’s Center in the middle of the town. I rose early and returned to Wye Lake. Besides the grebes, I found Alder Flycatchers, Lincoln’s Sparrows, and Short-Billed Gulls, which were formerly called Mew Gulls. After I worked the morning shift of birds at Wye Lake Park, I headed to the best breakfast in town at Andrea’s Restaurant for a bite. During my meal, I thought about how I’d like my day here at Watson Lake to unfold. I had some business with my Canadian Cell phone to sort out, but there are places in town worth exploring before I start out on the road again. I could try for an afternoon photo-session at Wye Lake, and I should try to get caught up with my yarn-spinning chores. (Decisions, decisions!)

I did it again! I collected another series of images, and now I have three days’ worth of adventures to share. Yesterday, I spent time exploring the surrounding areas of Watson Lake. I found another, much larger water body, that is called “Second Wye Lake”, and spent some time with Bonaparte’s Gulls and Common Goldeneyes there. I followed this session with a drive to the northern shore of the first Wye Lake and enjoyed spending time with the birds on a different part of the lake.

The original settlement of Watson Lake was not at its present-day location. It was at a larger lake several miles to the north and is still the site of their airport, though I doubt large commercial airliners use it much. When the Alaska Highway was finished, it made more sense to establish a new settlement at the “Wye” shaped intersection where the two roads met. I drove the eight miles from Wye Lake to investigate it, but the birds were scarce there. Still, the most interesting birds for me were concentrated at Wye Lake. I settled in for a second night’s stay at the Signpost Forest, and I did my best to groom my images, but even with that chore there remained much work to be done.

Watson Lake was a lovely oasis for me, but it was time to put some miles down and get headed north again, or rather west. It’s a five-hour drive to Whitehorse (274 miles), but I stopped to visit birds along the way where I could. I spent the night in Teslin at the roadside boat launch next to the bridge leading into town. I worked the rest of the afternoon playing catch up with my blogs, and Thursday morning I found breakfast just over the bridge before finishing my journey to Whitehorse. But that will be where I begin my next story.

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