Saturday, June 21, 2014

Birdland

Hello everybody,

After a lovely spring in the big city of Whitehorse I am back at Frances Lake. Because the boats were on this side I came in by canoe up the West Arm and hiking in on the winter trail. A beautiful short paddle and a tough walk! This chain of ponds and swamps is a natural route when everything is frozen and in the summer is still an ideal trail -- for a moose.

The exciting season of thaw and return is past: all creatures have settled to the serious tasks of life and growth in the long hours of daylight. Rare fairy slipper orchids are just finishing their blossoming next to the outhouse and the sweet scent of lupins is in the air. Small bog plants are showing bright flashes of color in the muskeg. The poplars and birches have their full summer green and when the lake is calm you can see the skiff of yellow spruce pollen everywhere. Insects are represented, as always, by legions of mosquitoes, but there are also handsome butterflies -- shining whites and blues, checkered fritillaries, dark floppy alpines and big bright swallowtails.

But birds seem to be everywhere, making their presence known not in the showy manner as during migration and mating, but in the quieter modes of nesting and rearing. Coming in I camped under an eagle in her nest and saw swans, geese and every kind of duck. Here there are grouse and tern, loon, swallow and sparrow and all their kind. The whiskey jacks, as winter residents, have had a head start. The shabby and harried-looking parents and aunties have already brought around their young of the year -- he is bigger than they are, fuzzy and dark, awkward and demanding.

My best find is a plover nest on the beach across the creek and every time I pass I am treated to the full broken wing charade to distract me. I am hoping to see the young ones before they are up and away. Here is my version of 'Lullaby of Birdland' -- joining in at the end is a Swainson's Thrush.

Wishing us all a sun-filled Solstice,

Eric