2022-06-15 Whitehorse After A Long Rain

Short-Billed Gull - Larus brachyrhynchus
After three days of rain, I took the opportunity to walk the river trails on each side of the Yukon River in Whitehorse looking for Arctic Terns. Short-Billed Gulls foraged on small fish and midges in the river.
Yellow-Rumped Warbler - Setophaga coronata coronata
During my search, I met a Yellow-Rumped (Myrtle) Warbler.

After arriving in Whitehorse last Friday (June-10), I took several days off from the rigors of the road and capturing new images. I used the time to rest, recuperate, and catch up with blogs from my earlier adventures. When I finished with my blogs, a three-day rainstorm blew in, and all I could do was RV chores and a few resupply errands, including washing the van and doing laundry. When the rain finally let up on Wednesday, I was itching to get out and chase birds.

I walked two miles of trail through the Riverdale Woods in a neighborhood at the south end of Whitehorse. These woods bordered the Yukon Rapids, below the Whitehorse Dam. I carried my camera gear and stopped occasionally to capture the birds I met along the way. My goal was to get pictures of Arctic Terns, and though all I got were distant views, I was marginally successful. There were heavy clouds, and it was chilly when my walk began, but later the skies cleared, and things warmed up nicely.

The most prevalent birds by far were the birds formerly known as Mew Gulls, now called Short-Billed Gulls. I watched as they picked small prey from the surface of the fast moving Yukon River. With my eyes alone, and even with my binoculars, I couldn’t determine what they were eating, so I took an exorbitant number of images, hoping to learn the secret menu items. In review, I saw they were mostly catching the tiniest of fish, but I noticed one bird reaching for a winged midge of some kind. With such tiny prey, it’s no wonder they were spending all day foraging. Many of these gulls were nesting on nearby islands on the river.

While I walked, I tried to get images of some of the passerines I encountered along the trails. I heard three flycatcher species singing from the trees that the trails weaved through. Only the Western Wood-Pewee revealed itself to me. I could hear Least Flycatchers and Alder Flycatchers singing, but they were not willing to have their pictures taken. Somewhat more cooperative were Slaty Dark-Eyed Juncos and a bold Black-Billed Magpie.

I flushed an immature Bald Eagle from its low perch at the riverside after I walked over the Riverdale Bridge to explore the trails on the opposite side of the mighty Yukon from where I parked. I was stepping out to the river’s edge to peer out to the rushing water in hopes I’d meet Arctic Terns, when I heard the ‘whoosh’ of wings only a few feet over my head, and then I watched as the great bird sailed away. I wasn’t able to capture an image until the bird was too far away to qualify for a ‘keeper’ image, but the image I captured in my mind will stay with me for a while.

When I sat peacefully and waited at the river’s edges, in hopes my subjects would present themselves, sometimes Common Mergansers would swim by. I saw a lone Red-Breasted Merganser at the far side of the river, but the distance was too great for any reasonable image, and I made no attempt to do so.

Rather than chase the same birds as I did Wednesday, I believe that I’d like to try for birds in an unexplored area. Lake Labarge, the subject of Robert Service’s epic poem “The Cremation of Sam McGee”, is but a few miles north of Whitehorse. I believe after I finish my breakfast at Legends, I’ll drive up and investigate the area. It could be fun!

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