2022-06-20 Whitehorse Exodus

Horned Grebe - Podiceps auritus
I left Whitehorse, intent on retracing my steps getting there. My first stop was the pond I found five miles south of Jakes Corner. I’d hoped the Horned Grebes might have babies to show off, but I believe they were still incubating.
Red-Winged Blackbird - Agelaius phoeniceus
A pair of short-Billed Gulls flew into the area during this visit, and I enjoyed watching a Red-Winged Blackbird giving them the business.

I left Whitehorse Sunday morning with a plan on returning to the pond on the Tagish Road south of Jakes Corner. Two weeks ago, while on my way to Whitehorse, I met Horned Grebes there, as well as Lesser Yellowlegs, snipe, and blackbirds. I hoped the grebes might have babies by now. (They did not.)

I parked at a nearby pull-out and dug out my Kevlar ditch boots, then waded into the edges of the pond where the Water Sedges grew. I’d hoped to get a little different angle to the waterfowl on the pond from my previous visit. I ended up stepping into a little deeper water than my boots were built for and got a wet sock on my left foot <sigh>. I was glad to see the same birds as my last visit (grebes, yellowlegs, and blackbirds), but the Green-Winged Teal were more cooperative than on my earlier visit here. While I was working on a Red-Winged Blackbird, two Short-Billed Gulls flew into the area, and my blackbird would not have it. He took up the chase, and I got some fun shots of the drama.

When I finished up with the birds at the pond, I continued toward Teslin and returned to a rest stop I’d visited on my way north, about 10 minutes from Teslin. I settled in to work on the newest version of my digital-backlog. The rest area was at the entrance to the Teslin Lake Campground. I wandered through the camp on my way north and saw (but did not photograph) Orange-Crowned Warblers. This morning, before hitting the road, I took some time to carry my gear and look for the birds again.

Two things notably changed from my last visit. One was the water level in the lake. Teslin Lake is enormous, and it seemed that the water depth increased by 15-20 feet from what I saw on my earlier visit, when the water surface was below the trails that line the shore. Now, the trails were all inundated under a substantial depth of new water. The campsites, once well above the lake, now had water lapping only a few feet away. I’ve read reports that the water in the lake is at record high. When I got to the town of Teslin, I looked at the place where I parked overnight at the boat launch during my drive north. Now the spot was below the lake’s surface. And the signs that informed us about the attractions in the area were completely submerged. Reports predict more rain in the next few days, which is something this area could do without. The record high water has flooded some of the properties around the lake.

The other change I noticed was the mosquitos. These were barely noticeable on my first visit, but today they were thick and hungry. Fortunately, I had sufficient chemical defenses for them. I’m glad I don’t have to resort to ‘Deet’, the old and trusted product that stinks like an old oil-field, and dissolves plastics on contact. I’ve found that if I apply this spray liberally (20% Picaridin), and rub it in well, the mosquitos fly in, but don’t land on me. I’ve received only one bite while thus protected, and I think I wasn’t careful enough in how I applied the spray (I must have missed a spot).

With the approaching storms, a deep cloud layer made conditions for photography very poor. I exposed some ones and zeros on the Orange-Crowned Warblers at Teslin Lake, but the results were not ideal. I had breakfast in Teslin, just ten minutes away, and then continued my trip back to Watson Lake, 162 miles away. I’ll share the story about my second stay in Watson Lake in my next post.

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