No Rest When Spring Arrives!

I’ve received some emails recently wondering if I’m okay. I appreciate the concern, and it has been over a month since I’ve posted here, but it’s not because I’ve been sick or any such bad thing. Spring is just such a busy time in the North, and this Spring has been particularly so for me. We’re still digging out both homes from record-breaking snowfalls, and my Web site business is going full tilt, but it’s not all work that’s kept me away from the blog.

On Sunday Cathy and I went on a swan hunt. Viewing has been really good at the cabin, with up to 65 swans within 200 yards, but the Tagish Bridge and Swan Haven are always worth a look. As it turned out, there were 900 swans on the Tagish River (according to Environment Yukon). This first shot (click to enlarge each of them) shows the view from the bridge, looking downstream towards Marsh Lake. Visible are perhaps 100 swans and 50 ducks of several species. They’re along the ice edge feeding on bottom vegetation in the shallowest water available. There are only a handful of lakes/rivers that have open water yet, which is why we get these huge gatherings of swans as they migrate to Alaska and the Arctic to nest.

One of the toughest swan shots to get, requiring luck at least as much as good equipment and quick reactions, is birds in flight. The bridge was the perfect location to get them this day – I added about 30 flight images to my collection, including several of the best I’ve ever gotten.

This Trumpeter was so close that it was tough to keep him framed without cutting off his head or a wing. Just after I got this shot, another group took off, and 2 of the birds had to make a sudden adjustment to avoid hitting the bridge – they took off with the idea of going over the bridge, then realized they couldn’t make it and ducked under. Unfortunately I missed the crucial part of that manouever.

The voices of Tundra and Trumpeter swans are distinctively different, and although I heard the Tundra I couldn’t find him. Luckily, swan expert Jim Hawking was on the bridge a few feet away, and pointed this bird out. The key identifier of a Tundra is that tiny yellow spot at the base of the bill – I’d seen much larger yellow spots on other birds, and I probably wouldn’t have spotted this one at all without Jim’s help.

Although the swans are the stars of the show, the various “puddle-ducks” that take advantage of the swans’ feeding efforts are always fun to watch. This lttle widgeon was particularly focussed on the water behind the juvenile Trumpeter, to see what might come up for lunch.

After a couple of hours on the bridge we headed over to Marsh Lake to see what was going on at the Swan Haven interpretive centre, since the Celebration of Swans was going on. Although there were 803 swans officially, they were almost a kilometer away, and there were so many people making noise that we couldn’t even hear the swans like we used to be able to there. After a half-hour stop, most of that taken up by getting a smokey from the Girl Guides, we started back to Carcross.

Mother Nature wasn’t finished with her gifts – these moose, with unusually white back legs, were standing alongside the Tagish Road. This was one of the “insurance shots” I took before trying to get closer. It was a good thing I got 4 of them, because the moose spooked as soon as I moved from this spot.

Beyond a great deal of Nature viewing, I’m buried in Council meetings and associated projects, and Cathy and/or I are working on planning several trips:
– driving to Dawson City May 10-13 for the Association of Yukon Communities AGM
– flying to Kelowna BC to see my parents and other family members May 16-22, thanks to a great seat sale
– guiding a 10-day Yukon-Alaska tour for Maher Tours July 3-14 (yes, I know I said I wasn’t doing that anymore, but…)

– an Alaska cruise with HAL and some side-trips July 20-August 2
– a month-long caravan tour of New Zealand February 15 – March 14, 2008 (air is now reserved)
– a Caribbean cruise with Celebrity February 7-16, 2009 (a fabulous deal was offered and a hefty deposit has already been made)

And in my spare time…

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