Friday, July 17, 2009

Yukon Trip 2009 - Day 13 Part 2 - Dempster Highway

The previous evening, while peering through our spotting scope trying to decide what sort of bird I had seen on the hillside (an Owl - still undecided as to whether a Snowy or a Short-eared), a couple that had pulled into the campsite about an hour after us, came over and introduced themselves. Turns out, they too, were 'birders', in fact belonged to the Yukon Bird Club which was having a birding event at this campground, that weekend. This couple, originally from Toronto, had retired to Whitehorse and said they came up to this campground 3 or 4 times every year. They advised that the next, approximately 35 km, were the most scenic and best for birding, of the entire route and suggested taking a 'day trip' - even loaned us a book, specific to just this area, to use. So following their advice, we set out.......

Immediately after leaving the campground you climb up to North Fork Pass (we'll spend more time there in part 3). As you continue on, very shortly you come to the Blackstone River culvert. This is the view looking towards the west.

You now head into the East Fork Blackstone River Valley....the mountains on either side are the Ogilvie Mountains.....this might be a good time to explain about the Dempster Highway and the way it is constructed. In order to keep the road bed from melting the under laying permafrost, an insulating layer of stone was first laid down, and the road then built on top of that layer of large stone. The result is that it is more like driving along the top of a many areas it isn't that noticeable - after all lots of roads are built up from the surrounding level, at least in some other areas on the Dempster, the road elevation is very noticeable - especially if you happen to be meeting something large coming from the other direction!

This area of the Dempster is above tree line and consists of Tundra, virtually identical to the tundra in the high arctic.

This interesting looking little flower is called 'Blackish Crazy Weed' - a tundra plant that grows in rocky areas and was growing near where we took the following photo.......

That is a 'Toonie' - imagine the size of the foot that made this track!!! It had to be a wolf.....wolves were one of the animals we didn't see on this trip - judging from the size of this print, that is probably just as well!

The above shot exemplifies the awesome beauty of this area!

A view of the highway and the surrounding can see that the road may be gravel, but it isn't 'rough', in fact the posted speed limit is 80 km an hour. We kept our speed down but I can tell you the 'locals' sure didn't!
Our destination, this day, was Two Moose Lake, located at the 103 km mark on the highway...

The lake was still partially frozen but there were a number of duck species on it, including Long-tail Ducks....I've included this picture, only because it is the best I have of a Long-tail Duck.

Two Moose Lake looking towards the north east - that is the highway running along there. Apparently Moose are often seen at this lake, in fact in talking to the people we met, they said it is amazing how you can be here and Moose, which are large animals, can suddenly appear. This is, after all, tundra and any shrubs growing are no more than waist high and only grow around the edges of the lake or where there is excess moisture.

This is Two Moose Lake looking back towards the south......

Ernie and Shantz enjoying the beautiful big viewing platform that was situated here. We had made a cup of coffee so took our time at this spot before heading back to the campground.

Some American Widgeons....they, and Lesser Scaup, were the most predominant duck species at the lake. There were Wilson's Warblers in the bushes and also American Tree Sparrows - another 'lifer' for us. I didn't manage any decent photos of them right then but will have some later.

The whole time we were there we were listening to the wind-chime tinkle of the might think that lake ice gets thinner and thinner and then finally disappears....that isn't the case at melts 'vertically' rather than 'horizontally' with deep slivers breaking off.....we will return to this lake tomorrow - you'll be amazed - we were!

On the way back, we drove up a side road that led to a micro-wave tower. There are micro-wave towers all along this highway. We'd been told that there is often good bird viewing of grassland type birds, along the edges of this side road. Didn't see anything this trip, but the view was worth the short drive!

View from the micro-wave tower road looking back in the direction of where the campsite lay.

This mountain side, located behind the micro-wave tower is a nesting site for Surf birds!!! The only place I've ever seen Surf birds is on the west coast of Vancouver Island. You have to hike up there to find them and we didn't do that this of the many reasons we have for a return visit.
on to part 3

No comments:

Post a Comment