Broughton Archipelago kayaking 2024

In late June, Andrea and I headed over to Vancouver Island and up to Port McNeill to fulfill a long-held dream of kayaking in the Broughton Archipelago, between Vancouver Island and the mainland, in southern Queen Charlotte Strait.

With hundreds of islands, lovely shorelines, beautiful forests and mountains, and loads of interesting wildlife, the Broughton Archipelago is one of B.C.’s premier kayaking destinations.

Lots of preparation was needed for a week of kayaking with four nights of tenting.

Will it all fit in? Doing a test pack in our yard at home.

In Port McNeill we joined our friends Roy and Heather and met Bruce McMorran, the owner of  Paddlers Inn at the Broughtons. He ran us out to his lodge with his boat, along with other kayakers. Check it out:  https://paddlersinn.ca/

Loading kayaks on to the Paddlers Inn boat in Port McNeill.

Traveling to the Broughton Archipelago – a 2.5 hour boat ride from Port McNeill.

Paddlers Inn, located on Gilford Island in Little Simoon Sound.

Sorting and packing for our camping trip on the Paddlers Inn dock.

We left some of our gear and food at Paddlers Inn but needed lots of stuff for four nights of camping.

Heather, Roy, Andrea and Alan at the start of our adventure.

At last we are on the water and heading off.

Our first night of camping was at Echo Bay Provincial Park – close to float houses and a lodge.

Day 2 began with a 10.4 km paddle to our next campsite on the Fox Islands. Andrea among the many small rocky islets.

Being at sea-level in a kayak and moving silently along gives excellent opportunities to enjoy wildlife.

Short-billed Gulls were our constant companions. These are non-breeding immature birds.

On a couple of occasions we passed a Raccoon foraging at low tide along the shoreline. But they scampered away before I could get a decent photo. We also saw several Mink but they were even more skittish and disappeared as we approached.

A few pairs of Black Oystercatchers appear to be breeding on the islands. Here we see a bit of display between a pair on their territory.

Dozens of Harlequin Ducks were in the Fox Islands. These are all males – the females are back on the breeding grounds far inland, looking after the year’s offspring. Once the eggs are laid the males leave their mates, head back to the coast and spend the rest of the summer hanging out with the boys and moulting. Notice how ragged their plumage looks – they are replacing all their feathers and are flightless for some of this process.

Harbour Seals are plentiful in this area. They are often curious and follow behind a kayak.

A male Columbian Black-tailed Deer on one of the Fox Islands. Deer are good swimmers and we later saw this individual swimming to a small islet to enjoy a feast of lush grass there.

Our tent for three nights at the Fox Islands campsite.

Our campsite in the Fox Islands offered a cooking shelter. This was a very welcome feature as the rain set in. We stayed three nights at this site and luckily no-one else was using the shelter as we spread out our wet gear.

Day 3 was rainy through most of the day. But the sea was calm and we explored some of the more exposed islands – the Coach and Marsden groups, Hudson Island and nearby islets. Here we are transiting the narrow passage between Tracey and Mars islands.

Paddling among the Coach Islets with the open Queen Charlotte Strait beyond.

Throughout the Broughton Archipelago, especially around the outer islands, we saw numerous Marbled Murrelets – over 150 on a 20 km paddle to the outer Coach and Marsden islands on 29 July 2024. [These photos were taken elsewhere – I didn’t have the right camera gear to photograph murrelets on our Broughton trip]. Photos: ©Alan Burger

By the end of the day the rain eased somewhat and we were happy to be back in our campsite shelter making hot dinners.

Day 4 started off foggy but once the mist lifted we had good conditions for the day. We headed north to explore Blunden Passage, Innis Island and around Insect Island.

A lunch break on Eden Island. The beaches are not sand but are ancient clam middens. There are few of them and we were often on the lookout for somewhere to land for a break. Across the channel is the campsite at Insect Island, with a group of kayakers.

Many of the little rocky islets have lovely wildflower patches. The plant on the right is a Yellow Monkey-flower (Mimulus [Erythranthe] guttatus).

High rainfall and frequent mist promote lush lichens on the forest trees. The one on the right is Methuselah’s Beard Lichen (Usnea longissima).

As we paddled into an inlet on Baker Island we spotted a Black Bear on the shoreline.

We drifted quietly closer and watched as she rolled over boulders to get at crabs and other intertidal critters hiding beneath.

And at the forest edge we saw two tiny cubs. We moved away to let the bear family continue their activities in peace.

We were surprised to have several encounters with Red-throated Loons. This is a fairly rare species in southern B.C. but we saw them at four locations. Notice that the loon on the right is carrying a fish. Moments later these two took off and headed inland towards a nearby lake where they likely were feeding one or two chicks.

Day five – we headed back to Paddlers Inn, with many detours to explore inlets and islets.

Part of a big flock of Surf Scoters – all look like immatures. The adults are hundreds of km away, breeding on lakes and rivers as far off as the Yukon.

One of the many Bald Eagles we saw. One nest had two almost full-grown chicks.

We were amazed to find this small Western Toad on a small islet where we stopped for lunch. We saw several toads on the big Gilford Island but this little guy somehow got across 20 m of salt water to reach this islet.

Returning to Paddlers Inn.

Our last two nights were in the comparative luxury of Paddlers Inn. We had a cabin up on a knoll overlooking the ocean. Hot showers, comfy beds, clean clothes, a fridge and stove – wonderful!

Enjoying a cuppa on the deck of our cabin – Alan, Andrea, Heather & Roy.

Dinner with a view! And the sounds of Humpback Whales and Marbled Murrelets in the ocean below.

Relaxing at the covered dockside lounge at Paddlers Inn.

The lupin flowers on our cabin deck attracted many bumblebees – we later identified them as Sitka Bumblebees (Bombus sitkensis). Note the orange pollen sacs on the bee’s hind legs.

There is an interesting hike of about one km through the forest from Paddlers Inn to a beautiful lake.

The lake in the hills above Paddlers Inn.

Lakeside flowers – Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) with Deer Fern (Blechnum spicant) on the left and Salal (Gaultheria shallon) with a few Labrador Tea (Ledum groenlandicum) on the right.

Our final day of kayaking was a leisurely paddle from Paddlers Inn north along the coast of Gilford Island to Evangeline Point, exploring the many little inlets of Scott Cove.

Kayaker’s view of our cabin at Paddlers Inn.

Roy and Heather paddling along the heavily forested shore of Gilford Island.

The Broughton Archipelago has experienced a long history of logging, continuing today. At many places along the shore we came across old equipment, like this winch.

Heather passing one of the colourful oceanside cliffs.

What a thrill to be sitting in a kayak as Humpback Whales pass nearby. We saw this female and her calf on several occasions around Paddlers Inn.

A sunset view from our Paddlers Inn cabin. The impressive high peak in the distance, Mount Spencer, is 3,006 m in elevation, in the Waddington Range.

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Early spring in Utah and adjacent states – 2024

In mid-March Andrea and I loaded up our little truck camper and headed south. We drove towards Utah as quickly as we could, along freeways for much of the way. It still took us three days of driving to get to our planned destination – the canyon areas around Moab. But, along the way some interesting and scenic stops …….

The Bruneau Dunes State Park in Idaho was a lovely place to stop over, and do a little hiking among the extensive sand dunes.

Great Salt Lake from our campsite on Antelope Island, with the mountains behind Salt Lake City in the background (and yes, the water does taste very salty).

We didn’t expect to find a herd of Bison on Antelope Island, within sight of Salt Lake City.

Finally in the canyon country in Utah. Our first few days were at Horsethief Camp, just north of Canyonlands National Park. This is a favourite location for mountain bikers but the trails they had made were also excellent for hiking.

Big mesas of Navajo sandstone on the road to Horsethief Camp, Utah.

Hiking the mountain bike trails at the Horsethief Camp area

One of the little ground squirrels common throughout the canyon area of Utah – a White-tailed Antelope Squirrel

Our next stop was a couple of days in Dead Horse Point State Park. This park is on the high plateau overlooking the immense canyons carved out of layers of sandstone by the Colorado River. We were on top of a mountain without having to climb. We hiked scenic trails along the cliff edges.

The view from Dead Horse Point State Park, looking towards the mountains behind Moab. The blue ponds in the bottom right are evaporation ponds for extracting potash.

Dead Horse Point – look carefully to see the two people on the clifftop, providing scale to these immense cliffs.

The Colorado River has carved these magnificent canyons, on its way to the Grand Canyon further south.

Views from one of the hiking trails at Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah. The Island in the Sky portion of Canyonlands National Park is on the plateau on the horizon.

True to their name, Rock Squirrels live right on the edges of the immense cliffs. We watched them chasing each other within inches of the abyss.

Two of the more exotic (for us) birds in the canyon lands – a Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay (left) and a Grey-headed Junco (right). The junco is a variant of the very common Dark-eyed Junco which we have in our backyard in British Columbia.

Next we moved a few km over to the Islands in the Sky part of Canyonlands National Park. One cannot book the campsites here so we scooted over early in the morning and managed to snag a very nice site where we stayed for three nights.

Andrea and Alan do the selfie thing at Canyonlands National Park.

Wonderful rock formations and canyons far below our vantage point on the upper plateau. The harder white sandstone forms resistant caps on top of the softer reddish sandstone.

We were amazed to see two climbers ascending the Totem spire –  305 feet (93 metres) high.

This huge intrusion, known as the Upheaval Dome, was probably formed by the collision of a large meteorite. The feature is 3 km wide.

A splash of colour in the rocky landscape – Zion Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja scabrida)

Andrea on a Canyonlands hike.

Utah Juniper (Juniperus osteosperma). Many of these trees are hundreds of years old, gnarled and twisted. A somewhat younger tree on the right is loaded with juniper berries which are actually fleshy cones.

Art in nature – on a gigantic scale. The blackish band near the bottom is 2 metres thick.

Art in nature – sandstone sculpted by rain and wind.

A dramatic sunset with rain clouds at Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park. The river in the distance is the Green River which joins with the Colorado River in Canyonlands National Park.

Mesa Arch at Canyonlands National Park.

Cliffside scenery – Mesa Arch area.

On 25th March we left the Island in the Sky portion of Canyonlands National Park, re-stocked with food in Moab and continued south towards the Needles portion of the same park, separated by over 100 km of road travel.

Petroglyphs on the road between Moab and the Needles portion of Canyonlands National Park.

We spent one night at the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) campsite near the Needles to be close to the Needles campsite.

Our camp at Creek Pasture BLM campsite. Most of the campers at this site were rock climbers, taking on the cliffs that you see in the background.

We stopped to watch the rock climbers at the Indian River cliffs. The tiny figure in the left photo is shown again, zoomed in, on the right. We were very impressed!

Needles! A sample of the wonderful scenery that we enjoyed for our week at Needles in Canyonlands National Park.

Our camp at the Needles portion of Canyonlands National Park.

We shared our Needles campsite with this Desert Cottontail. That was appropriate because it was Easter weekend, but bunny evidently didn’t get the Easter egg message.

Another resident at our campsite was this beautiful Black-throated Sparrow, sitting in a juniper bush. Who knew that a sparrow could be so striking.

Andrea on one of the many trails in the Needles park.

The hiking trails often traversed large areas of slickrock – mostly easy hiking but sometimes steep and exposed.

Eroded sandstone formations.

One has to ponder at the time it takes to erode sandstone in a desert environment to create these lovely formations.

At every turn in the trails there was more exquisite scenery. In the far left distance are the snowy mountains near Moab.

An easy portion of the 12 km hike from our camp to the Chesler Park needles and back.

But there were also steep and tricky portions along most of the trails.

Along the Peekaboo Trail – notice the people traversing the rock ledge mid-picture.

We had a splendid week in the Needles park, and then headed for home. Instead of busy freeways, we chose to go along back roads – first heading west across Utah into Nevada and then north up Nevada, Idaho, Washington and eventually British Columbia.

Semi-desert country on the border between Utah and Nevada – we traveled through many miles like this.

But if you get out and look around there are many little treasures, like this Squarestem Phlox (Phlox muscoides) or the well camouflaged Saussure’s Blue-winged Grasshopper
(Leprus intermedius).

We also encountered a few small herds of Pronghorn Antelope – apparently one of the few animals that thrive eating sagebrush.

We spent a night at the Great Basin National Park in Nevada, right on the Utah border. The mountains here rise out of the flat desert plain to impressive heights. We camped in fresh snow in the high elevation campground.

Wild Turkeys in Great Basin National Park.

The mountains in Great Basin National Park, Nevada. The highest is Mt Wheeler at 13,063 feet (3,980 m) and several of the others are over 10,000 ft (3,000 m).

We had days of unexpected cold weather in Utah and Idaho. This scene was in Nevada near the Idaho border.

Contrasting campsites on the last two nights of this journey. We camped in deep snow and icy conditions at Winchester, Idaho. Got out of there before breakfast. Our last night was in relatively balmy and sunny Palmer Lake in Washington near the B.C. border at Osoyoos.

Over three weeks away we traveled close to 5,000 km, through five states and our home province. As usual, it wasn’t long enough!

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Wildlife Highlights 2023

Here are some photos of wildlife in British Columbia from my various trips and home sightings.

All photos © Alan Burger

Winter 2023

In 2021 huge tracts of forest around Logan Lake and Tunkwa Park were burnt. One of the few wild animals that benefited from this devastation was Black-backed Woodpecker. I found this female near Tunkwa Park on New Year’s Day 2023, but later also found some in the Logan Lake ski trails burnt forest.
White-winged Crossbills are far less common in our area (Logan Lake & Merritt) than Red Crossbills, but in the high forests around Paska Lake near Logan Lake they can often be found. Photo: © Alan Burger
This chubby little Meadow Vole made a home in our compost bin and spent the winter feasting on bird feeder leftovers. There was a boom in rodent numbers (both voles and deer mice) throughout 2023 in the southern interior of BC. Photo: © Alan Burger
Mountain Chickadees are the most common chickadee in the forests around Logan Lake. Their cheerful calls can liven up the most dismal winter day. Photo © Alan Burger
We have a little Mountain Ash tree in our back yard which in January 2023 was still loaded with berries. But on 12 January a flock of wintering Bohemian Waxwings descended and within 3 minutes it was stripped.

Spring 2023

As our lakes and rivers start to open up from the winter ice cover, waterfowl are quick to return – here Canada Geese and Mallards on Nicola Lake on 12 March 2023.
Mountain Bluebirds (male on the left) and Cassin’s Finch (female on the right) are among the first migrants to return to our area in spring.
In April the Nicola Naturalist Society monitors the migration of Sandhill Cranes through the Douglas Lake Plateau near Merritt. In 2023 we counted over 10,000 cranes but since we were up there only a few days the actual number of cranes using this migration stop-over was likely over 20,000 birds.

For more photos and information on the 2023 crane surveys click here

The area around Logan Lake is slowly recovering from the intense forest fire of 2021.
In a moist meadow above our town spring wildflowers are blooming in profusion. Survivors of the fire, they are getting extra fertilizer from the ash on the ground. These are Dark-throated Shooting-stars (Primula pauciflora).
More spring wildflowers emerging from the blackened soil: Yellow Fritillary (Fritillaria pudica; left) and Arrow-leafed Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata; right).
Snowshoe Hares are common in our area, but not often seen. This one was near Paska Lake. Pure white in winter they change to brown in summer but retain white paws and belly. Photo © Alan Burger
A Red-necked Grebe – one of a pair nesting on Tunkwa Lake in May 2023.
Lewis’s Woodpecker is one of our less common woodpeckers. It has some decidedly un-woodpeckery habits, such as catching flying insects from a high open perch. This one was doing just that near Nicola Lake.
Savannah Sparrows are common in the grasslands of the BC Interior. The yellowish eye-stripe is a recognizable feature.
In April I was honoured to be invited by the Upper Nicola Band to release one of the Burrowing Owls at their restoration site. Captive-bred owls are released into prepared nesting burrows to help boost the numbers of this endangered population. The little owl is obviously not impressed by the procedure.

Summer

A large herd of Bighorn Sheep can regularly be found along Hwy 8 near Spences Bridge. Notice the healed injury on the hind leg of the sheep on the left – a failed cougar attack or an encounter with a barbed wire fence?
Bighorn lambs cavorting and being goofy.

In 2023 I became more interested in contributing to iNaturalist, especially with organisms that are less commonly photographed – like insects.

A White-shouldered Bumble Bee (Bombus appositus) on a red clover flower in our garden.
A Bedstraw Hawk Moth (Hyles galllii) in the same clover patch in our garden. Notice the coiled tongue used to extract nectar.
A robber fly, probably Neomochtherus willistoni. These flies are fast-flying predators of smaller insects which they catch with their strong legs. The blue object it is sitting on is our washing line, 4 mm in diameter.
Two butterflies getting moisture and salts from mud along the shore of Mamit Lake – notice that they both have extended tongues. Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis; left) and Anicia Checkerspot (Euphydryas chalcedona/anicia; right).
A female Yellow-horned Horntail Wasp (Urocerus flavicornis) in our yard. The intimidating black stinger-like appendix is actually the ovipositor used to lay eggs within wood. The wasp first bores into the wood with the yellowy “horn” on its tail and then swings the ovipositor down to drill down further into the wood. The larvae that hatch from the eggs spend many months chewing tunnels through the wood before changing into adult wasps and emerging through the bark. This is a large insect 4-5 cm in length.
Red Turnip Beetle (Entomoscelis americana) in our back yard. We don’t grow turnips but our neighbours do.
Within a couple of days of putting up this nest box on our carport it was occupied by a pair of Violet-green Swallows. Over the next few weeks we watched from our living room as they incubated eggs (just the female) and then raised four chicks (both parents feeding) – all fledged successfully. Hopefully they will return next summer.
I found this Common Nighthawk sitting in the middle of the road in Kane Valley in late June. I was on my way to do a nightjar survey in that area, but didn’t expect to find one quite so easily.
Least Flycatchers are not readily identified by sight, but have a distinctive call. This pair was on the edge of Kane Valley.
On a hike in early July to the Zupjok ridge near Coquihalla Pass we found this family of White-tailed Ptarmigans. The male (on the right) usually plays little role in raising the chicks, but he does hang around to keep an eye on the family. There were five chicks following the female.

Fall 2023

Kayaking around our local lakes is a great way to see and photograph wildlife. For wildlife photos from the lake I most often paddle in click here: Mamit Lake

Tunkwa Lake is another excellent spot just a 15 minute drive from our home …..

Several pairs of Wilson’s Snipe breed along the shores of Tunkwa Lake. Their long beaks allow them to find worms and other invertebrates deep in the mud.
Long-billed Dowitcher is another shorebird adapted to finding prey deep in the mud. But unlike snipes they are not local breeders – they breed in the high arctic tundra but pass through the BC interior on their fall migration and often linger here for many days. Tunkwa Lake, 22 September 2023.
Pectoral Sandpiper is another high arctic breeder that we see on the fall southward migration. Tunkwa Lake, 22 September 2023.
Marsh Wrens are common breeders in the cat-tails and reedbeds in our area.
This Short-tailed Weasel ran across our path as I was walking our dog in our neighbourhood. Fortunately it was very focused on watching the dog so I could get a couple of pics with my phone.
This colourful beetle is a Banded Sexton Beetle (Nicrophorus investigator). Sextons are church officials and one of their duties in days gone by was to dig the graves. These beetles use their well-developed antennae to find carcasses of rodents or small birds. A male and female then pair up to mate and bury the dead animal; the female then lays eggs on the carcass and the resulting larvae feed on it until they are ready to metamorphose into adults. Our neighbour at the time was killing many mice and voles in his veggie garden and probably keeping these beetles busy.

In August and September 2023 I made two trips to Barkley Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island to help with seabird surveys. This is a familiar research area for me, beginning when I lived in Bamfield for three years in the 1980s. But I hadn’t been back on the water here for over a decade so these were very special occasions.

Barkley Sound was full of gulls, in this case the resident Glaucous-winged Gulls, feeding on schools of young herring and sand lance.
Two other common fish-eating seabirds in Barkley Sound: Common Murre on the left and Rhinoceros Auklet on the right.

In addition to loads of birds we also had some excellent mammal experiences ….

A Grey Whale diving.
Male California Sea Lions are common on the BC coast but do not breed here.
Harbour Seals are abundant in Barkley Sound and along most of the BC coast.
Sea Otters were exterminated from Canadian waters over 100 years ago. After re-introductions they are slowly expanding their range and numbers. Sea Otters were never seen in Barkley Sound until about 20 years ago but are now regularly found there. This one is wrapped up in kelp to have a nap.
I encountered this family of River Otters scampering across the beach from the ocean at Green Point in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Despite their name River Otters regularly forage in the sea in BC.

Every fall and early winter our town is invaded by hundreds of Bohemian Waxwings. These are wintering visitors from breeding grounds in the northern boreal regions. Flocks of 200-300 swirl around town descending on any trees that have berries or fruit. After about a month they have depleted all these foods and they move on.

Bohemian Waxwings in our neighbourhood, 2 November 2023.
A Bohemian Waxwing eating fruit in Logan Lake.

Winter again 2023

Northern Three-toed Woodpeckers proudly showing off their three-toed feet. These woodpeckers are uncommon across BC but like to forage in burnt conifers – and there are plenty to choose from around Logan Lake after the intense 2021 wildfires. These are both females (males have yellow foreheads).
A Red Squirrel in a small Cottonwood tree.
This Common Grackle was discovered in Merritt during the annual Christmas Bird Count. I managed to find it again a few days later. Grackles are rare in southern BC and at this time of year they ought to be in Florida or Texas.
Logan Lake town is infested with Mule Deer. We have a 7 ft fence to keep them out of our yard and veggie garden. But I couldn’t resist photographing this handsome buck just beyond our garden fence.
This Mule Deer doe appears to be quite enamored with the Christmas buck – Logan Lake, November 2023

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Mamit Lake wildlife in 2023

Once again in 2023 I made regular visits to Mamit (Mamette) Lake to kayak and photograph wildlife. This lovely lake is just a 10 minute drive from our house and I am usually the only one out on the lake in the early mornings.

All photos © Alan Burger

A view of Mamit Lake. Most of the lake shoreline is natural with no houses or fields bordering the lake.

My primary interest at the lake is birding – and every visit is different. Here are a few species from my visits, beginning in late July and continuing until early October.

Only three species of shorebirds breed at the lake in summer, in contrast to the 14 plus species that visit on migration. These breeders are Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper and Wilson’s Snipe.

About 8 pairs of Killdeer breed on or near the shores of Mamit Lake. Killdeer feed mainly on the drier parts of the mudflats, taking flies and other insects.

Once the chicks have fledged, Killdeer often hang out in flocks of 10 or more along the shoreline.

Spotted Sandpipers are the most conspicuous of the shorebirds on the lake. They are resident here all summer and 10 or more pairs establish breeding territories along the shoreline. This adult bird is agitated because it has small chicks hidden nearby.

Wilson’s Snipe foraging on the water’s edge. There are probably a dozen or two pairs of snipe nesting around Mamit Lake, but they tend to remain in the thick vegetation and are not often out in the open like this.

Wilson’s Phalaropes do not breed on Mamit Lake (as far as I have seen), but they must breed on ponds nearby because juvenile birds like these regularly show up in mid- to late-summer. Phalaropes are unusual among shorebirds in that they mainly forage by swimming and picking tiny prey items off the water.

Closer view of a juvenile Wilson’s Phalarope. Notice how immaculate and unworn its feathers are.

This juvenile Wilson’s Phalarope still carries some of its natal down – suggesting that it must have come from a nearby nesting site.

Several species of waterfowl breed at Mamit Lake and in mid-summer there are numerous broods of ducklings out on the water, usually accompanied by their mother.

One of several broods of Barrow’s Goldeneyes that were on the lake in mid-summer. The little ducklings dive underwater to feed themselves from the time they leave the nest. Female Barrow’s Goldeneyes are renowned for attacking other conspecific females and the winner often ends up with a duplicate brood of ducklings. So these 14 ducklings are likely not all her own offspring.

A female Blue-winged Teal with her brood of ducklings. This is one of the less common duck species breeding here – I encountered only two females with ducklings

The huge beak easily identifies a female Northern Shoveler, with her ducklings. Another uncommon duck on this lake – probably only 2-3 pairs breed here.

Mallards are by far the most common breeding duck on the lake – this horde is mostly comprised of half-grown ducklings, all staying together with a few adults in between.

Other bird species that breed at or near the lake and use the lake as their primary source of food are Bald Eagles, Osprey, and Belted Kingfishers.

An adult Bald Eagle with a large fish – probably a sucker, one of the more common large fish in the lake. One pair of eagles has a nest visible from the lake and another pair probably nests nearby.

This immature Bald Eagle was one of 5 or 6 regularly seen at the lake through the summer.

An Osprey calling – there is likely another conspecific in sight. One or possibly two pairs of Osprey nest nearby and use the lake as their fishing ground.

Belted Kingfishers nest in the sandy banks at a couple of locations on the lake shore. This hovering bird is a female – with chestnut breast markings.

Most often the Belted Kingfishers forage by sitting on perches overlooking the water and plunging down into the water when a fish is spotted.

I usually see 4-6 Great Blue Herons foraging for fish along the shoreline of Mamit Lake.

White Pelicans do not breed on Mamit Lake but this is a favourite spot for immature birds to spend much of the summer. At one stage there were 45 pelicans at the lake – feeding and resting.

Birds are not the only interesting wildlife at Mamit Lake ……

I see several Mule Deer every time I paddle around the lake in summer and fall.

I regularly see Coyotes sniffing along the shoreline, but they are very wary and usually disappear into the thickets when they see me in my kayak.

Migrant shorebirds are one of the main features of Mamit Lake and I eagerly anticipate getting there from late July through early October to see what species might have arrived. Many of these birds breed thousands of km away in the arctic tundra but stop off to feed, often for week or two, on their southward migrations.

Long-billed Dowitchers are regular visitors to Mamit Lake on their southward migration. These birds are a long way from their arctic tundra breeding grounds, but on 27th July they still have most of their cinnamon breeding plumage.

Here are two of the regular small “peep” sandpipers that visit the lake in late summer – Semi-palmated Sandpiper on the left and Least Sandpiper on the right. Their leg colour, beak shape and plumage are identification features.

The elegant Greater Yellowlegs are regular visitors and always a delight to watch.

Solitary Sandpipers are normally an uncommon species in our area, but in 2023 they were seen in many nearby wetlands and there were 2 or 3 on Mamit Lake for much of the late summer.

This Solitary Sandpiper provided some goofy entertainment – first getting something dislodged from its throat and then running across the mudflats.

Another contrast of migrant peeps – Semipalmated Sandpiper left and Least Sandpiper right.

Juvenile Hooded Mergansers – likely born and raised here at Mamit Lake. Look closely and you can see the serrated ridges on the inner beaks of these birds – these tooth-like ridges allow mergansers to catch slippery fish and aquatic invertebrates like dragonfly larvae.

Taking photos of land birds from a kayak on the lake is not easy. Here are a couple: an Orange-crowned Warbler in the shoreline bushes (left) and a Song Sparrow having a bath (right).

By August we get a continual influx of migrant shorebirds – mostly species that breed a long way away.

By August there are usually several dowitchers stopping off at the lake – mostly Long-billed Dowitchers, but see the next photo …..

This photo shows two species of dowitchers. There are two Short-billed Dowitchers – the bird at the front left and the bird furthest right at the back. This species is unusual in the BC Interior but more common along the coast. The remainder are all Long-billed Dowitchers – the species most likely to be found in the BC interior. Notice that the Short-billed Dowitchers have orange-and-black tiger striping on their dorsal feathers – one of the diagnostic features of this species.

Another long-billed shorebird, but the plumage is very different from that of the dowitchers. A resident Wilson’s Snipe foraging in the shallows.

Lesser Yellowlegs usually show up on Mamit Lake in August and there might sometimes be a dozen or more on the lake.

Compare the yellowleg species – Greater Yellowlegs on the left and Lesser Yellowlegs right. When they are side-by-side like this recognition is easy, but when alone one has to look at bill-length and subtle plumage features to identify them.

Another graceful Greater Yellowlegs. If the bill is longer than the head length that indicates Greater.

An equally elegant Lesser Yellowlegs. If the bill is about head length then it indicates Lesser.

Least Sandpipers can be found for most of August and September at Mamit Lake. Their tiny size and greenish-yellow legs are diagnostic.

This was a very exciting shorebird to find on Mamit Lake – a Stilt Sandpiper. The long yellow legs and long slightly downturned bill are identification features. Several of this mid-sized shorebird were reported in the Kamloops and Logan Lake area around mid-August in 2023.

There were few shorebirds at Mamit Lake from late August through September and I suspect that was because there was always a Merlin at the lake through this time. These little falcons prey on small shorebirds and land birds and I saw them also harassing much larger birds – kingfishers, magpies and a kestrel.

Here are two different Merlins at Mamit Lake – an adult on 2nd September and an immature bird on 27th August 2023.

White Pelicans were on the lake for most of the summer with a high count of 45 birds on 6 August 2023. Notice all the feathers on the mudflat – these birds are moulting.

Scenic shot – Mamit Lake on 17th September. Notice the little group of White Pelicans on a tiny island near the far shore.

A post-breeding flock of swallows containing mostly Bank Swallows and a couple of Barn Swallows.

Savannah Sparrows breed in the vegetation bordering the lake but often venture out on the mudflats to feed on seeds and insects.

In late September migrating flocks of American Pipits forage on the open mudflats. I counted 129 on 17 September, the day these photos were taken.

Action from a Bald Eagle – this adult eagle was swooping down to attack a duck on the water – unsuccessfully.

Red-necked Grebes sometimes breed on Mamit Lake. There was a pair here in 2023 but I didn’t see any chicks.

Canada Geese are resident at the lake from early spring until the lake freezes and they raise many goslings here. Some of these birds are likely locally-bred juveniles.

In a kayak it is sometimes possible to quietly drift up to birds and get quite close. This Green-winged Teal appeared to be asleep, but look closely and you can see it was actually watching me. Then it aroused with a big yawn!

By October it is getting downright chilly for early morning paddling on Mamit Lake, but the magnificent fall colours and the chance to find some interesting migrants make it worthwhile.

Autumn colours at Mamit Lake on a misty morning – 8 October 2023.

Western Grebes on a cold misty morning – 8 October 2023. This species breeds on Shuswap Lake more than 100 km from here and these birds are probably from there, making their way to the coast to overwinter.

A Western Grebe in the colourful reflection of fall trees.

Horned Grebes are another species that doesn’t breed on Mamit Lake but several of them stop off on the lake in early fall as they migrate to the coast.

Common Mergansers – another species that I see on Mamit Lake only on their fall migration. But there can be several dozen of these fish-eating ducks on the lake in October.

The last of the pelicans – these two were still on the lake in early October, but gone by mid-October.

But they weren’t the last big white birds on the lake …..

Five of the 10 Trumpeter Swans on Mamit Lake – 22 October 2023. These were the first swans to arrive in our area on their southward fall migration. Some of them remain in local lakes until these freeze over in mid-winter.

Late migrants – these three Long-billed Dowitchers were the only shorebirds on the lake on 22 October.

More fall colours at Mamit Lake – 8 October 2023.

All photos were taken with a Canon 7D MkII with a Canon 300 mm L lens. I keep the camera gear in a waterproof drybag which allows quick access but protects the gear.

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Fall Exploration in BC – 2023: Wells Gray Park

This fall, Andrea and I explored two fabulous areas we hadn’t been to before – both less than 2 hours drive from our home. Here is the first ……..

Wells Gray Provincial Park – 7-11 September 2023

Surprisingly we had never been in the main portion of this park before – we had kayaked on Murtle Lake in the northeast corner of the park but never ventured into the central portion. So we took our little truck camper and spent five days (four nights) there. We stayed in Pyramid Campsite which was centrally located and we made day trips from there.

A hike up to the alpine on the Trophy Mountain trail was a major highlight. One can drive a long way up the mountain and the trail from the parking lot to the alpine areas is a gentle uphill. After 45 minutes one emerges from the forest into beautiful grassy meadows. We were too late in the season for most wildflowers but the scenery was still exceptional.

The Trophy Mountain trail at the start of the alpine meadows, Wells Gray Provincial Park.

Alpine Meadows on the Trophy Mountain trail.

Andrea and Kona at the remains of a hut used by a trapper/shepherd in the 1950s. Not exactly luxury accommodation.

The Trophy Mountain trail

Spot the bear. This Black Bear was grazing on marsh plants at a small lake just below Sheila Lake. Fortunately a safe distance away from our trail.

Sheila Lake is a popular and well-organized campsite in the alpine area. Part of Trophy Mountain on the right.

An American Pipit at Sheila Lake

Sheila Lake, Wells Gray Provincial Park. The tent platforms are a recent addition to protect fragile alpine habitat.

Beyond Sheila Lake the trail heads up into more sparse alpine habitat. Trophy Mountain is in the background.

Alan and Kona at a high lookout with Trophy Mountain behind. The peak is 2,350 m above sea level.

We found this Spruce Grouse in the forest along the Trophy Mountain trail.

We encountered several Snowshoe Hares in Wells Gray Park – all in their brown summer outfits, but retaining white belly and paws. Look at the size of the paws – it is easy to see how the bunny gets its name!

Wells Gray Park is renowned for its many impressive waterfalls. Much of the central park is on a thick layer of basalt, about 600,000 years old. Basalt tends to flake away cleanly with water erosion, thereby creating steep waterfalls.

Osprey Falls just below Clearwater Lake, Wells Gray Park.

Panorama shot of Osprey Falls on the Clearwater River.

Helmcken Falls is the fourth highest waterfall in Canada. The Murtle River drops an impressive 145 m straight down and has chewed a major canyon for several kilometres through the basalt.

To fully appreciate Helmcken Falls we visited it twice – in the early morning on 8th September (left) and in the late afternoon on 10 September (right).

Spahats Falls – almost as impressive as Helmcken Falls, dropping 70 m into a narrow basalt canyon.

Basalt cliffs at Spahats Falls. These lava layers are 10-20 m tall.

A large Chinook Salmon vainly attempting to leap up Bailey’s Chute on the Clearwater River. During our visit dozens of these big fish kept leaping up the cascade, only to be swept back by the relentless current. These fish were born in the Clearwater River nearby and are returning to spawn, having swum over 600 km upstream from the Pacific Ocean to reach this point.

More placid waters on the Clearwater River at Horseshoe Bend – the shallows here are a major spawning area for the salmon.

We also did several hikes through the forested lowlands of the park, along lovely trails.

Alice Lake – one of many lakes in the forested areas of Wells Gray Park.

A tiny Western Toad toadlet in Alice Lake. Only 2 cm long it had recently metamorphosed from a tadpole in the lake.

An interesting mineral springs near the Ray Farm in Wells Gray Park. We expected the water bubbling from this spring to be hot but it was icy cold.

Angel’s Wings mushrooms (Pleurocybella porrigens) in the moist forest, Wells Gray Park.

Ruffed Grouse were common along the roads and in the campsite at Wells Gray park.

Red Squirrels are abundant in Wells Gray Park.

One hike took me to the top of Pyramid Mountain – an extinct tuya volcano – one that erupted under the immense ice-age glacier that covered this area tens of thousands of years ago. The views from the top were excellent.

View from the top of Pyramid Mountain looking northeast.

Looking east from Pyramid Mountain with the Murtle Lake valley in the far distance.

Moose are common winter visitors to the park and especially on the higher slopes like Pyramid Mountain. But all we saw were their winter nuggets.

The only downside to our Wells Gray experience was to have our camper invaded at night by mice (native Western Deermice). Having no mousetraps, we devised a margarine-container live-trap and with much patience and lack of sleep we captured and re-located eight of the little critters over several nights. The local store-keeper said there had been a huge demand for mouse-traps this summer.

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Cathedral Park back-country hike – August 2023

In August 2023 five of us did a wonderful but hard-going hike through some of the less-visited sections of Cathedral Lakes Provincial Park – near Keremeos, BC and bordering the US/Washington border. Andrea and I and many friends have camped and hiked in Cathedral Park on numerous occasions but this was the first time I attempted back-country overnight backpacking. As usual we took the shuttle provided by the Cathedral Lakes Lodge to get up to the core area of the park. We camped at the Quinisco Lake campsite for 2 nights and explored some of the popular trails in the core area. Then we hefted our packs and set off on a 3-day, 2-night trek – first to Haystack Lakes and then to Ewart Creek and back down to the main road at Ashnola River. Here are some photos from the trip.

All photos © Alan Burger

Our group camping at Quinisco Lake. We stayed here for 2 nights while exploring the well-used trails in the core area of Cathedral Lakes Provincial Park.

Lake of the Woods – one of seven scenic lakes in the core area of Cathedral Lakes Provincial Park. The rocky mountain in the left distance is Boxcar which we traversed on our hike.

A Cascade Golden-mantled Ground-squirrel. Double the size of a chipmunk, they have the same habit of boldly trying to steal one’s food at the core area campsites.

White Bog Orchids (Platanthera dilatata) in a wet spot next to Quinisco Lake.

We encountered two of these handsome male Spruce Grouse on the trail between Quinisco and Lake of the Woods.

A Clark’s Nutcracker. We watched as this bird took small items of food and cached them in the moss & lichens next to where it was sitting – and then plugged the hidden cache with more lichen.

A Yellow-pine Chipmunk – a very common resident of Cathedral Park, especially where it can scavenge scraps from campers. This one is having a more honest meal of a flower head.

Early morning at Quinisco Lake looking up at the slope where the Diamond Trail crosses.

On our second day, Chris and I did the 8+ km Diamond Trail loop while Duncan and his sons James and Jake did the more strenuous 16 km Rim Trail loop.

View from the high point on the Diamond Trail loop, looking down on Scout Lake. Notice the smoke in the valleys from two nearby wildfires – fortunately far enough away not to cause us alarm. But 4 days after our trip this small fire erupted into a massive fire causing the park to be closed and evacuation of the Lodge and all campers in the park.

A Dwarf or Alpine Lupine (Lupinus lepidus) on the gravelly alpine of the Diamond Trail.

Chris on the Diamond Trail.

Pikas were very active in the boulder fields in many places. These little critters look like guinea-pigs but they are actually related to hares and rabbits (Order Lagomorpha).

A Hoary Marmot. Even though it was not even mid-August some of these big rodents were already hibernating and we saw relatively few that were still out and about, putting on fat to see them through the winter.

Hoary Marmot.

The alpine and subalpine meadows of Cathedral Lakes Park are renowned for their summer wildflowers – and although they appeared to be fewer than in some previous years they were still profuse and a delight.

A Broadleaf Lupine (Lupinus latifolius) on the Diamond Trail.

Fireweeds (Chamaenerion angustifolium) were in full splendour at the time of our visit.

A couple of white-flowered species: Fringed Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia fimbriata) on the left and Sitka Valerian (Valeriana sitchensis) on the right.

We encountered numerous mushrooms – these are probably Lycoperdon perlatum puffballs.

A bolete mushroom – likely Suillus ochraceoroseus. And no – we didn’t try eating any.

Scout Lake on the Diamond Trail – a lovely spot for lunch and a comfy seat in the grassy lake edge.

We were surprised to see this Hooded Merganser on Scout Lake – the dark eye indicates that it is a juvenile.

A Pika in the meadow bordering its rocky hideout, gathering grass for its winter haystack.

Pikas spend much of the summer gathering grass and herbs and laying them out on the rocks to dry – providing food for the long winters. Unlike marmots, ground-squirrels and chipmunks, Pikas do not hibernate and remain active through the winter in their bouldery habitat underneath the snow.

On August 10th we shouldered our heavy packs and headed away from the Core area. Our destination on that day was Haystack Lake, via Goat Lake, Boxcar and then a long series of ups and downs along un-named ridges.

The valley-bottom trail heading to Goat Lake.

Jake and James on the trail approaching Goat Lake with the jagged peak of Matriarch Mountain behind.

Alan next to Goat Lake with Matriarch and Macabre peaks behind.

These young River Otters, probably siblings, were an unexpected sight at Goat Lake. There were plentiful small trout in the lake to keep them going – at least until the lake freezes over in winter.

River Otters at Goat Lake

A view of Goat Lake with the pair of otters on the foreground rock. If you look carefully you can see James fishing from the far shore.

From Goat Lake we had a long uphill slog to the saddle between Lakeview Mountain and Boxcar and then further up to the Boxcar plateau.

At first the trail goes up slopes covered with open larch forest.

Duncan and Jake approaching the treeline above the larch trees.

Above the larch forest we encountered a large herd of Mountain Goats – females and their offspring.

Chris heading up the final open scree to the saddle. The dark mountain immediately beyond Chris has the Stone City, Smokey-the-Bear and Cleft formations popular with many hikers in Cathedral Park.

Duncan and Chris on the Boxcar plateau. The rounded peak with a summit pimple in the distance is Haystack Mountain – our destination for this day.

View from the Boxcar looking back west at the core area of Cathedral Lakes Park, with (L to R): Pyramid Peak with Ladyslipper Lake below it, Quinisco Peak, Red Mountain, and Scout Mountain with the lodge and Lake of the Woods in the far right valley.

The Boxcar plateau. On the rocky outcrop to the east you can see some hikers – the only 3 people we met in three days of hiking.

Some of the weather-sculpted sandstone rocks at Boxcar.

Boxcar sandstone formations in the foreground, Mount Ewart in the centre middle distance and the mountainous wilderness of Washington State beyond.

Looking down from Boxcar at Goat Lake – getting from there to here was a hard two-hour uphill hike.

What appeared to be a grey rock turned out to be a female White-tailed Ptarmigan. We were on the lookout for these high-alpine grouse so it was great to find some.

The female ptarmigan was joined by her five almost full-grown chicks.

From Boxcar we headed eastward into less-traveled areas beyond the core area but still within Cathedral Lakes Provincial Park. The US/Washington border is just a km to the south.

Our route from Boxcar to Haystack Mountain – a long drop down, up-and-down along the lower ridge, a steep climb up to the big (un-named) mountain ridge, and then behind that ridge to the northwest side of Haystack Mountain and eventually around that mountain to Haystack Lakes.

Another herd of Mountain Goats – again females with young ones.

Looking back from the big mountain ridge at our route from Boxcar.

Jake and James relax after the steep climb up to the major ridge.

Wonderful sandstone rock formations once again. Our route took us up and through the gap on the left.

Looking back to the southeast from the cleft in the sandstone.

Contouring around the east side of the big mountain ridge, heading for Haystack Mountain. The geology here is interesting – this big ridge is yellow-grey sandstone and there is a sudden transition to the black basalt that makes up Haystack Mountain.

This little plant, Umbellate Pussypaws (Calyptridium umbellatum) thrives in the most inhospitable-looking habitat – loose sandstone gravel in the high alpine areas.

Finally a glimpse of the Haystack Lakes from the slopes of Haystack Mountain. Three of the four lakes are visible. Our camp was in the trees bordering the lake at the left edge of the photo.

Our campsite on the shores of the largest of the lakes with Haystack Mountain beyond.

Early morning light on Haystack Mountain.

The next day, August 11, took us from Haystack Lakes through mostly forested habitat towards the Centennial Trail and eventually Ewart Creek. Although this was mostly downhill it proved extremely hard going in many places. A BC Parks trail crew had been through this route earlier in the summer and had marked the trail and chainsawed through huge areas of fallen trees, caused by beetle kill and some extreme wind events. Unfortunately their trail marking was somewhat haphazard and even though we were experienced hikers we lost the trail several times and this meant trying to go through almost impenetrable deadfall.

One of the new trail markers put up by the recent BC Parks trail team.

A Spruce Grouse in the forest near Haystack Lakes.

We were extremely grateful for the chainsaw work by the BC Parks trail team.

Hunting for the trail markers in the forest blowdown. This was extremely slow and heavy going, having to climb over and under hundreds of fallen trees.

Eventually we found the Centennial Trail which was well-marked and recently cleared, so by late afternoon we reached Ewart Creek on the eastern border of the park.

A very welcome place – the camp on the banks of Ewart Creek.

Our final day, August 12, involved a relatively easy hike down the well-used trail parallel to Ewart Creek and eventually to the trailhead 3 km from the Ashnola River main road.

Duncan and Chris on the Ewart Creek trail.

The bridge over Ewart Creek at the Juniper Creek confluence. This bridge was once a marvel of bush engineering but after 50+ years it is in sad disrepair and rather dodgy to cross.

Duncan at the pool below the Juniper/Ewart Creeks bridge.

Here in the lower-elevation forest the common grouse was Dusky Grouse (formerly known as Blue Grouse). We found two families on the way down Ewart Creek. This is an almost full-grown juvenile.

From the Ewart Creek trailhead we hiked 1.8 km down the road to find a place where we could cross the Ashnola River.

The final obstacle on our trip – wading across the Ashnola River.

Duncan and I waded the river to go and fetch our vehicles at the Cathedral Lakes Lodge base-camp. The road was right next to the river and within a few minutes we had a ride with a young couple for the 4+ km up to the base camp. But then we had to wait almost 2 hours for someone to let us into the compound to retrieve our vehicles.

Sore-footed but happy! Our group just before heading home: Duncan, his sons Jake and James, Chris and Alan.

NOTE ADDED: Four days after we got home the Crater Lake fire, which had been burning for weeks near Cathedral Lakes Park, suddenly erupted into a huge fire causing evacuations of the park, the Lodge and for many other residents nearby. It remains a mystery why the BC Wildfire Service didn’t control or kill the fire when it was just a small smouldering fire that was allowed to burn for weeks before it suddenly flared to become a major threat.

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Zupjok-Alpaca peaks hiking trip July 2023

In early July Chris Lepsoe and I did a 2-day overnight hike to Zupjok Peak, continuing to Alpaca Peak in the mountains near Coquihalla Pass. We left our vehicle at the parking lot of the Coquihalla brake-check. The first few km of the hike takes one through beautiful old-growth forest. After a few minutes the traffic noise from the Coquihalla highway fades away and one is left with an ongoing chorus of beautiful birdsong – Varied Thrush, Townsend’s Warbler, Pacific Wren and the haunting flute-like calls of numerous Hermit Thrush.

Chris near the start of our hike, in the lovely old-growth forest. The trail follows an abandoned road for several easy km. Zupjok Peak is visible on the horizon – a step on our route.

All too soon the trail turned north and headed up the steep ridge towards Zupjok Peak. This is a sweaty uphill slog for a couple of oldies like us. As we approached the treeline a huge thunderstorm broke loose. Not wanting to be on the exposed ridge with all the lightning strikes we huddled under the stunted subalpine trees as the rain poured down for almost an hour. Eventually the weather moved on and we climbed the final stretch to Zupjok Peak and the alpine ridge beyond.

On the Zupjok ridge looking toward the Anderson range to the northwest. Chris is still wearing his gloves after getting chilled during the thunderstorm.

An interesting bird sighting as we gained the ridge was a pair of Black Swifts riding the strong winds that accompany the thunderstorm.

We hiked along the ridge for about a km but realized that there was no opportunity to camp along the ridge – no water and sparse shelter from any winds. So we clambered down on to the sloping meadow below the ridge looking for a level spot to camp.

View along the Zukjok ridge with the shark-fin Vicuna Peak and rounded Guanaco Peak in the distance. We climbed down to the sloping meadow below to find a camp site.

Eventually we found a lovely spot next to a pond between immense granite slabs and the rocky moraine that glacial activity created at the foot of the slabs.

Our campsite next to a beautiful little pond between immense granite slabs and the terminal moraine created by ice sliding down the slabs. We camped next to the square boulder at the end of the pond.

Vicuna and Guanaco peaks seen from our campsite pond.

Our campsite near Zupjok Peak. Finding a level spot for my little tent and Chris’s bivvy bag was a challenge but we both ended up with comfy sleeping spots.

A late evening view of the granite slabs above our campsite.

Our campsite below the granite slabs.

Another view of our campsite giving a better impression of the size of the granite slabs.

This Long-toed Salamander, about 12 cm long, was an unexpected resident of the campsite pond, along with many water beetles and caddis fly larvae.

As darkness fell and we were already in our sleeping bags there was a loud chucking cry from nearby, repeated several times. The next morning as we were packing up to leave this mystery bird started calling again and this time we could find it close by – a male White-tailed Ptarmigan.

A male White-tailed Ptarmigan – the source of our mysterious evening calls. These alpine grouse are always a treat to find and one always has to do a lot of legwork to get into their usual alpine habitat. Notice the feathery legs – a feature of ptarmigan.

Meanwhile Chris had spotted a female ptarmigan with 5 small chicks close to our campsite.

The female White-tailed Ptarmigan – much better camouflaged than the male in this summer plumage. In winter they moult into pure white plumage but they retain their white wing feathers year-round.

The female White-tailed Ptarmigan on alert, with her five chicks running about nearby.

The female White-tailed Ptarmigan with four of her five tiny chicks running about on the granite slab – one chick is part-way under the rock.

Female White-tailed Ptarmigan and chicks.

The male flew over to join the family but remained on the moraine, keeping watch.

After enjoying our time with the ptarmigan family we shouldered our packs and clambered back up to the ridge-top – a steep scramble in places. We left our packs hidden in a thicket and, carrying just water bottles, set off along the ridge towards Alpaca Peak.

A view back at our campsite at the foot of the open granite slabs.

A panoramic view of the Zupjok-Alpaca ridge, looking south to southwest. The nearby rounded peak on the left is Zupjok Peak. Beyond that is the high Needle Peak and slightly to the right Flatiron Mountain – both of these have been hiking destinations for us in the past.

Alan on the ridge trail. Behind me is the route from Zupjok Peak along the undulating ridge. Looking along the horizon – to the far left is Zopkios Peak, then the distant Illal Creek ridge with the pyramid-shaped Jim Kelly Peak, jagged Coquihalla Mountain and then beyond Zupjok Peak is Needle Peak.

The impressive Anderson Range of peaks to the west of our route. In any other country this mini-Yosemite would be a national park, in B.C., sadly, it is just another logging site.

Much of the route along the Zupjok-Alpaca ridge is across granite outcrops – good and solid underfoot.

As we approach Alpaca Peak the view of Vicuna and Guanaco peaks to the east becomes more impressive.

Another view of the Anderson Range to the west of our route.

How did these huge boulders end up on the tops of granite ridges? We speculated that they were carried by the ice when the glaciers covered these mountains, dropped down through the ice and then were too massive to be moved as the glaciers dwindled.

Another high-elevation specialty. These Grey-crowned Rosy-finches regularly forage for insects and seeds on the melting snow patches.

Finally – at the summit of Alpaca Peak with its lovely pond. There are actually two summits of equal elevation (2074 m according to my GPS). I’m standing on the west summit and the east summit is behind the pond, with Vicuna and Guanaco peaks beyond.

Looking east from Alpaca Peak – Vicuna and Guanaco peaks.

A wide-angle view towards Vicuna and Guanaco peaks.

Looking north-northwest from Alpaca Peak with Bighorn Peak in the middle-distance.

Chris looking north from Alpaca peak. In the far horizon one can see Stoyoma Mountain – the northernmost peak in the Cascade Range – another mountain that Chris and I have climbed.

Looking back south from Alpaca Peak at the route we took from Zupjok Peak and passing nearby llama Peak. Needle Peak and Flatiron Mountain in the middle distance.

A panoramic view from near Alpaca summit with the Anderson Range on the left and Bighorn Peak on the right.

Near the summit of Alpaca Peak we found this burnt patch of stunted alpine trees – evidently a lightning strike last year.

Another of these enigmatic ridge-top erratics – huge boulders dropped by glaciers in the most unexpected places.

Heading back from Alpaca Peak – a long hike along the undulating ridge to Zupjok Peak and then the steep descent back into the forest and eventually our car-park.

GPS track of our route – 7 & 8 July 2023.

A wider view of our route showing the local peaks.

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Wildlife Highlights 2022

Wildlife Highlights 2022

With the Covid threat somewhat reduced we were able to do a bit more traveling within British Columbia and, for me, memorable boat trips to and from southeast Alaska which both covered the entire BC coast.     All photos © Alan Burger

Winter

The year began with a couple of exciting owl encounters – first a Great Grey Owl on the road between Merritt and Logan Lake …

A Great Grey Owl at dusk next to Mamit Lake Road, 6 January 2022. Photos: © Alan Burger

I love those penetrating yellow eyes!

Then a few days later a Barred Owl on the Goose Lake Road near Knutsford, also at dusk …

A Barred Owl in the misty dusk on Goose Lake Road, 13 January 20022. Photo: © Alan Burger

On January 11th I assisted with the first Merritt Christmas Bird Count for Kids, run by  NatureKids Merritt and the Nicola Naturalist Society. Despite bitterly cold weather this was a fun event. Below is a photo from that outing – more here:  CBC4KIDS Merritt 2022

Mallard crowds on the Nicola River, 11 January 2022. There are also two American Wigeon in this flock, one taking off on the left and one with its cream-coloured head crest surrounded by Mallards. Photo: © Alan Burger

In late January I made a trip to Vancouver Island, doing some birding in the Qualicum and Victoria areas and in Boundary Bay on the mainland en route.

Pacific Wren in the Duncan area. © Alan Burger

Bewick’s Wren in the Duncan area. © Alan Burger

Male and female Harlequin Duck on the Victoria waterfront. © Alan Burger

Surfbirds are regular winter visitors to the BC coast – Clover Point, Victoria, 28 January 2022. © Alan Burger

Boundary Bay south of Vancouver is always a wildlife hotspot and during winter supports huge populations of waterfowl and shorebirds.

Dunlin roosting at high tide – Boundary Bay, 29 January 2022. © Alan Burger

Stirred up by a Peregrine Falcon, the aerobatic maneuvering of a huge flock of Dunlin is an amazing sight. © Alan Burger

American Wigeon with a few male Eurasian Wigeon among them, Boundary Bay, 29 January 2022. © Alan Burger

Back home in the BC interior there was also much to see and enjoy.

A dozen or more Common Redpolls were unexpected visitors to our backyard feeder for several days in February 2022. This is an Arctic-breeding species that visits our areas in some winters – always a good bird to see. © Alan Burger

Trumpeter Swans on Nicola Lake, 11 February 2022. © Alan Burger

Our regular Nicola Naturalist Society Snow Bunting Shiver outing on 27th February produced interesting mammals as well as birds (and we did get one Snow Bunting). A full set of photos is here:  Snow Bunting Shiver 2022

Mama Moose and her large calf were a highlight of the Snow Bunting Shiver outing on 27 February 2022. © Alan Burger

Spring

My favourite season, as migrant birds start returning, flowers start emerging and nature kicks into higher gear.

A pair of Green-winged Teal at Colony Farm near Vancouver, 7 March 2022. © Alan Burger

This Coyote emerged from the bushes to check out the waterfowl at Colony Farm, 7 March 2022. © Alan Burger

Crows are so much a part of everyday life that one seldom stops to take a photo or have a close look. Colony Farm, 9 March 2022. © Alan Burger

A male Wood Duck flanked by two females at Fishtrap Creek Park near Abbotsford, 9 March 2022. © Alan Burger

In April I did a gig as a naturalist in southeast Alaska for Sea Wolf Adventures. This included a pre-passenger trip from Port Townsend WA to Ketchikan AK covering the entire British Columbia coast. Photos are here: Spring BC-AK Voyage

Here is one pic from that cruise:

Humpback Whales bubble-net feeding in southeast Alaska. Look closely and you can see a herring desperately leaping to escape. Photo: © Alan Burger

My return from Alaska took me to Kelowna giving me a chance to explore the Okanagan for a few days. This area has some species that don’t regularly occur in the Merritt-Logan Lake-Nicola Valley area where I live.

California Quail are an introduced species in BC. They thrive in the Okanagan but are not found in the Nicola Valley. This male was on full alert as his mate foraged in the long grass nearby. Photo: © Alan Burger

Another species we don’t see around the Nicola Valley is the Painted Turtle – Vaseux Lake, Okanagan, 2 May 2022. © Alan Burger

Male Yellow-headed Blackbird foraging along the shore, Robert Lake, Kelowna – 29 April 2022. © Alan Burger

Male and female Red-winged Blackbirds. © Alan Burger

And closer to home …

Two unusual geese species together: 2 Snow Geese and 1 Greater White-fronted Goose at Tunkwa Lake, 4 May 2022. © Alan Burger

This young Black Bear was quite curious of our stopped vehicle – on Pennask Lake Road, 14 June 2022. © Alan Burger

Arrow-leafed Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata) is a common spring flower across most of southern BC. © Alan Burger

Summer

We were fortunate to do several trips within BC this summer. Some are already documented:

Kayaking Kootenay Lakes – July 2022 – click here

Cathedral Park hiking – 15-18 August 2022 -click here

European Skipper (Thymelicus lineolata). Dozens of these little butterflies were in the long grass near our house in Logan Lake, 27 July 2022. © Alan Burger

This tiny grasshopper is still a nymph (no wings yet) and therefore hard to identify. It is one of 40 species of Spur-throated Grasshoppers (genus Melanoplus) found in Canada. © Alan Burger

Chokecherries (Prunus virginiana) are favourites with Robins and other birds. Humans find them tasty too, but the pip is rather large for a small cherry. © Alan Burger

In late summer large flocks of Common Nighthawk (30-50 birds) visit Logan Lake just before sunset.

Rufous and Calliope are the common hummingbirds around Logan Lake in summer, so it was a surprise to have this Anna’s Hummingbird around the neighbourhood feeders in late August 2022. © Alan Burger

The local bachelor herd of Mule Deer just above our house. These deer spend a lot of time in the town and are used to people. I took this photo with my phone.

In late summer and early fall there are many interesting wildlife species to be seen by kayaking on Mamit Lake, which is just 14 km from our home in Logan Lake.

River Otters on Mamit Lake, 26 August 2022. © Alan Burger

Many more photos: Mamit Lake wildlife in 2022 – click here

Autumn

In September I made the return voyage down the BC coast from Ketchikan AK to Bellingham WA. A fabulous week through the entire Inside Passage. Sea Otters in Queen Charlotte Strait were among the many great sightings.

A Sea Otter in Queen Charlotte Strait at the north end of Vancouver Island. © Alan Burger

More photos here – Down the B.C. coast in “Sea Wolf” – September 2022 – click here

In October we loaded up our little camper on our pickup truck and headed to the Rocky Mountains. With a non-functioning heater it was chilly at night but we did lots of hiking and enjoyed great scenery and wildlife.

Fall colours in Jasper National Park, 10 October 2022. © Alan Burger

A Yellow Pine Chipmunk in Jasper National Park. © Alan Burger

We encountered this Black Bear family along the main Jasper-Banff highway. A flock of cars soon joined us, with the usual idiots getting out of their cars and walking down the road near the bears. We and the bears left the area in disgust.

We thought that was the end of our bear encounter, but 15 minutes later they re-appeared, right where we had gone up a side road to have a pee break. This prompted our very rapid retreat to the truck.

Winter comes early in the Rockies. We hiked up to Wilcox Pass in drifting snow and a chilly wind – 11 October 2022 © Alan Burger

This was one of five male Bighorn Sheep I found in the Wilcox Pass hills. Based on their behaviour and what I heard from other hikers there was a herd of females in the nearby valley and these were likely the subordinate males keeping a close watch but kept away by the dominant ram. © Alan Burger

Another three Bighorn rams keeping their distance, Wilcox Pass, 11 October 2022. © Alan Burger

Panorama view from Wilcox Pass of the mountains near the Columbia Icefields. © Alan Burger

Lake Louise at sunrise, 13 October 2022. © Alan Burger

Majestic Castle Mountain in the Rockies, Banff National Park. © Alan Burger

Milbert’s Tortoiseshell – one of several butterfly species that were still on the wing in the Rockies in October. © Alan Burger

A brand new beaver dam blocking a branch of the upper Columbia River near Spillumacheen, BC. © Alan Burger

In November we had the annual influx of Bohemian Waxwings into Logan Lake. These are a boreal-breeding species that overwinters in our area, attracted to the many berries and buds available. At one point we had over 800 waxwings in huge flocks around town.

One of the large flocks of Bohemian Waxwings in Logan Lake, 12 November 2022. © Alan Burger

Mountain Ash berries are one of the favourite foods of the Bohemian Waxwings. For weeks there were orange bird droppings all over town. © Alan Burger

Part of the big Bohemian Waxwing flock – here resting on a spruce tree in between feeds of Mountain Ash berries. © Alan Burger

The interior of BC had an early snowy start to winter. A misty cold day on the Douglas Lake plateau, 19 November 2022. © Alan Burger

Douglas-fir cones in the fall snow. © Alan Burger

Well, not exactly wildlife, but I loved this scene of cows in the mist on the Douglas Lake Ranch, 19 November 2022. © Alan Burger

In late November we made a visit to Victoria. In between visiting family and friends I managed some fun birding ….

This Tropical Kingbird was reported for several weeks at Martindale Flats near Victoria. As its name suggests, this bird’s normal range is Mexico and south, but individuals regularly wander further north as far as British Columbia. © Alan Burger

Another seldom-seen species – Long-eared Owl. This bird was at an undisclosed location near Victoria. Responsible birders usually keep owl locations secret because irresponsible photographers often harass them to try for better photos. This photo was taken with a long lens at a safe distance. © Alan Burger

Black Oystercatchers roosting at high tide, Cattle Point, Victoria. Note that they all have their eyes open, even though they appear to be snoozing. © Alan Burger

A Black Turnstone at Esquimalt Lagoon, 25 November 2022. © Alan Burger

A pair of Northern Pintails at Esquimalt Lagoon, 25 November 2022. © Alan Burger

Winter again

The year ends with several Christmas Bird Counts. Brutally cold conditions (below -30C at times) and heavy snowfall made this year’s counts difficult, but there were still some interesting birds to be found.

Details from the Merritt Christmas Bird Count here: Merritt CBC 2022

Coyote in the snow – Quilchena on the Merritt Christmas Bird Count, 17 December 2022. © Alan Burger

The highlight on the Merritt CBC was Sharp-tailed Grouse – a species never recorded in the previous 23 counts. Our group found 22 of this elusive grouse in the Quilchena area.

A Sharp-tailed Grouse in the Quilchena area, 17 December 2022. © Alan Burger

This White-throated Sparrow was a regular visitor to our backyard feeder for the last half of December and was the feature species on the Logan Lake Christmas Bird Count. © Alan Burger

And the year ends, as it began, with some encounters with owls ….

A Great Horned Owl roosting in a willow tree near Nicola Lake – Merritt Christmas Bird Count, 17 December 2022. © Alan Burger

A Northern Pygmy Owl at Paska Lake on the Logan Lake Christmas Bird Count, 21 December 2022. © Alan Burger

Most of these photos were taken with a Canon 7D MkII camera with a Canon 300 mm 1:4 L lens. The insect photos used a 100 mm macro lens.

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Mamit Lake kayak birding & wildlife 2022

Here are some photos from my kayaking trips to Mamit (Mammette) Lake just 14 km from my home in Logan Lake. The lake supports a big population of breeding and migrating waterfowl and is an important migration stopover in late summer and fall for a wide variety of shorebirds. Approaching birds slowly and carefully in a small kayak is a good way to get good views and photos of birds on the water and on shore.

A typical scene in the early morning at Mamit Lake – a few herons & shorebirds and hundreds of ducks.

Local breeders

Here are a few species that breed in or around the lake.

There are about 6 pairs of Killdeer that breed around the lake – mainly foraging on the open mudflats. The photo shows an adult (behind) and a fledged juvenile (in front). Compare the fresh but dull feathers on the juvenile with the brighter worn feathers of the adult.

Wilson’s Snipe breed in the marshes bordering the lake. They are quite secretive birds but one occasionally sees them along the lake edge – usually in places where there is some emergent vegetation as in this photo.

There are usually one or two pairs of Common Loons on the lake in summer. In 2022 they didn’t seem to raise any chicks.

Great Blue Herons nest somewhere near the lake. In late summer there are often 2-3 newly-fledged juveniles around the lake. This bird with a dark crown is a juvenile.

This Merlin was around the lake on a couple of my visits. The bushes around the lake usually had numerous sparrows and warblers, which would be potential prey for this little falcon.

More than 50 Canada Geese hang around the lake, often with a gaggle of goslings in tow. These ones are fully grown in mid-August.

A pair of Red-necked Grebes successfully raised a chick on Mamit Lake in 2022. Here the young chick is following one of its parents – 31 July 2022.

Several pairs of Barrow’s Goldeneyes breed on the lake. By late summer one sees only females and ducklings or newly-fledged juveniles

This group of Green-winged Teals is mostly almost-full-grown ducklings – perhaps from two broods that have joined up.

A female Ring-necked Duck leads her brood of ducklings – 7 August 2022

And of course the local mammals …..

I regularly see Mule Deer when paddling around the lake. They are often quite curious to see the unusual sight of a kayak – like this doe.

The large numbers of ducks breeding in the shoreline vegetation and waterfowl loitering on the mudflats attract Coyotes. Like the deer, this Coyote was very curious at the unusual sight of a kayak and emerged from the thicket to get a better view.

I encountered this family of River Otters on several visits in 2022 – a female on the left with two full-grown pups. They were always fun to watch – a mix of apprehension and fascination with my kayak.

“I’m going to hide behind my Mom while I watch this scary thing!”

Non-breeding visitors and migrants

From the late-July through mid-October there is a constant turnover of birds visiting Mamit Lake. Each visit produces something new. Some are species that breed nearby and others are long-distant migrants heading south from breeding sites as far away as the high Arctic.

An adult Ring-billed Gull – one of the visiting species that breed relatively close to Mamit Lake. There is a breeding colony of this gull on Shuswap Lake at Salmon Arm.

Solitary Sandpipers also breed in small numbers in southern British Columbia. This is a relatively rare bird to see anywhere in B.C. so I was delighted to have three on 31 July 2022 and two a week later.

The elegant Lesser Yellowlegs – a fairly common visitor to the lake and one of my favourite birds to see and photograph.

A couple of Lesser Yellowlegs reflected in the water as they preen.

Greater Yellowlegs are also regular visitors to Mamit Lake from late summer through fall.

Another Greater Yellowlegs. These long-legged birds often forage by wading.

Wilson’s Phalaropes also breed in southern B.C., but not at Mamit Lake. This group of six newly-fledged juveniles was on the lake on 31 July 2022. Unlike most other shorebirds, phalaropes often forage by swimming.

A closer look at one of the juvenile Wilson’s Phalaropes. Phalaropes have lobed toes which allow them to swim more efficiently.

This juvenile Red-necked Phalarope remained on Mamit Lake for a week in late August 2022. This species breeds on the Arctic tundra and overwinters out at sea off South America, so it was a treat to have it on Mamit Lake on its southward migration – 21 August 2022.

Here is the same Red-necked Phalarope at the same location on the lake five days later – 26 August 2022.

Two peep sandpipers that look very similar at a distance but are identifiable at close range. The Least Sandpiper (left) has diagnostic yellowy-green legs and fairly bright plumage. The Semi-palmated Sandpiper (right) has black legs and dull plumage. Both were at the lake on 7 August 2022.

A couple of Least Sandpipers – these are the most common migrant shorebird at Mamit Lake and occur from late August through mid-October. The bright green deposits behind these birds are accumulations of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) which can produce toxins and led to the closure of Mamit lake for human swimming and fishing in summer 2022. These blooms are indicators of excessive fertilizers and cow manure running into the lake.

A couple of sandpipers that are regular visitors but never common on Mamit Lake: the Western Sandpiper (left) is extremely common on the B.C. coast but less so in the interior; Baird’s Sandpiper (right) is uncommon across B.C. but more common migrating across the Prairies. Notice how long the wings are in the Baird’s Sandpiper – this is a super long-distant migrant – they go all the way to Tierra del Fuego, the last bit of continent before the Antarctic.

Somewhat larger than the peep sandpipers (Least, Western, Semi-palmated etc.), Pectoral Sandpipers are another species that regularly stops over at Mamit Lake on its long migration from Arctic tundra breeding grounds to South American wintering areas.

Several juvenile Semi-palmated Plovers were at the lake in early September 2022.

In early fall small flocks of 10-20 American Pipits arrive at the lake to forage on the mudflats, often in among the shorebirds.

Four White Pelicans spent the late summer and fall at Mamit Lake. The traces of brown on their backs and heads indicate that they are immature birds. White Pelicans breed on only one location in British Columbia – at Stum Lake west of Williams Lake, over 200 km direct flight from Mamit Lake. Non-breeding immatures, like these, are free to wander far afield.

This incoming White Pelican is disturbing the peace at the pelican roost site.

Horned Grebes don’t breed on Mamit Lake but they are common breeders in several other lakes in the BC Interior. These little grebes appear in fall as they move away from their breeding grounds. 11 September 2022

A male Ring-necked Duck along with two Horned Grebes – 30 September 2022.

A Horned Grebe taking flight.

Long-billed Dowitchers are regular visitors and appear to remain for some weeks at the lake. They breed in the high Arctic tundra many hundreds of km from Mamit Lake and migrate to the southern U.S. and Mexico in winter. This is an adult bird in the process of moulting from its bright cinnamon, white and black breeding plumage into a dull grey winter (basic) plumage. 26 August 2022.

Two Long-billed Dowitchers stepping out in the mud – 7 August 2022. These are adult birds still in breeding (alternate) plumage with bright white-tipped back feathers.

The fields around Mamit Lake are often used as a migration stop-over for Sandhill Cranes heading south in fall – 11 September 2022.

My friend Nigel paddling on Mamit Lake in fall – 30 September 2022.

A Great Blue Heron topping a big Ponderosa Pine tree makes an interesting silhouette.

All photos were taken with a Canon 7D MkII with a 300 mm EF 1.4 “L” lens.

For more of my photos of wildlife on Mamit Lake in previous years go to this link and scroll down: Nature & Birds in BC

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Down the B.C. coast in “Sea Wolf” – September 2022

All photos © Alan Burger except where noted.

This documents my trip from Ketchikan, Alaska down the British Columbia coast to Bellingham, Washington in the “Sea Wolf“. This was a follow-up to my spring voyage in April 2022 up the BC coast and doing a naturalist gig in southeast Alaska with Sea Wolf Adventures https://seawolfadventures.net/

You can see photos of that voyage here: Spring 2022 on Sea Wolf

The Sea Wolf

The Sea Wolf is a wooden-hulled ship 100 ft long. She was built as a minesweeper during World War II and served in San Francisco harbour as the U.S.S. Observer. Here she is as a navy vessel in the 1940s.

The U.S.S. Observer – minesweeper in San Francisco Harbour 1942. Photo: Wikipedia

This old lady celebrated her 80th birthday this year. She still has the original diesel locomotive engine. In her current life with owner Kimber Owen she does eco-tourism adventure trips, mainly in southeast Alaska.

I flew to Ketchikan to join the vessel. For the transit to Bellingham there were just 6 of us on board – skipper Keith, engineer Joe, deck-hand/naturalist Emma and three of us as passengers/cooks/washer-uppers: Tim, Heidi and me. Ketchikan is an interesting town built along a narrow strip between steep mountains and the sea, with a long history as one of Alaska’s first towns.

Part of Ketchikan harbour.

Unfortunately in summer Ketchikan is a popular stopping place for huge cruise ships – the town was jammed with several thousand tourists and we were happy to scoot away southward into peaceful wilderness.

One of three monster cruise ships that were in Ketchikan port the day we departed.

Our first night was spent at anchor near the Alaska-BC border in a lovely cove among the Duke Islands. The next morning we were on our way at sunrise for a beautiful clear day.

Heidi and Alan on the bow at sunrise, crossing Dixon Entrance into B.C. waters, 20 September 2022. Photo: Tim

Mountains at Dixon Entrance on the Alaska/B.C. border

We encountered many mixed-species feeding flocks, dominated by Common Murres and several species of gulls. The murres dive down and attack schools of fish from below, driving them up to the surface where the gulls can access them.

Common Murres on the water. Notice the stubby wings – they use these to “fly” underwater in the same manner as penguins. But murres can also fly in the air – although they have to beat their wings very rapidly and use a lot of energy to do so.

A Common Murre with a chick. Murre chicks leave their cliff nesting sites when one-third grown and just 3 weeks old. They go to sea with their father, who provides them with fish until they are able to catch their own. This pair had swum many kilometres from their breeding colony.

Adult Black-legged Kittiwake. Notice the gaps in its wings as it moults and grows new flight feathers.

The Canadian Customs agency made us divert into Prince Rupert to clear customs, which added 4 hours to our day’s travel. We ended the day tucked into Kxgeal Cove in Grenville Channel.

The next day, 21 September, provided continuing good weather as we made our way down the long narrow channels of the BC Inside Passage – Grenville, Royal, Finlayson and eventually into Milbanke Sound and as the sun set, passed Ivory Island into Seaforth Channel. Through all these channels we had magnificent mountain scenery and lots of wildlife.

Sunrise in Grenville Channel – 21 September 2022.

One of the dozens of Humpback Whales that we encountered along the Inside Passage.

Humpback Whale

We were surprised to see this Grey Whale in Royal Channel. They are most often found on the open coast. This one appeared to be sleeping – it didn’t move as we cruised by, except to blow every minute or so.

A typical scene as we traveled southward through the narrow channels of the Inside Passage.

One of a pod of Orcas (Killer Whales) that we passed.

Tim on the bow in wonderful calm conditions.

Ivory Island lightstation at the south end of Milbanke Sound.

Sunset on Milbanke Sound as we entered Seaforth Channel, 21 September 2022.

We spent the night at anchor opposite the small settlement of Shearwater, near Bella Bella. The next day the good weather continued as we traveled through more narrow channels – Lama Passage, Fisher Channel and the wider Fitzhugh Sound. The open ocean of Queen Charlotte Sound is often a concern to mariners in these waters, but we crossed this section over several hours in lovely calm conditions with loads of interesting wildlife.

A juvenile Black-legged Kittiwake. One seldom sees these oceanic gulls in the sheltered waters around Vancouver and Victoria, but they were quite common in Queen Charlotte Sound and the northern end of Q Charlotte Strait at the northern end of Vancouver Island.

A juvenile Short-billed Gull (until recently known as Mew Gulls). This species was one of the most common gulls throughout our voyage.

We passed numerous scenic islands with mountainous backdrops.

A big male Orca in Queen Charlotte Sound.

Another scenic island with dozens of roosting gulls, and interesting mountain vistas. Queen Charlotte Sound, 22 September 2022.

A small flock of Red-necked Phalaropes. These shorebirds breed in tundra habitat but become seabirds for most of the year, typically picking up tiny food items along tide rips and slicks.

We saw a few dozen shearwaters, but mostly at a great distance so separating Sooty and Short-tailed was sometimes impossible. This I figured was a Sooty Shearwater, with a bulkier body and a paler underwing.

This bird passed close enough for half-decent photos and I was fairly confident in recording this as a Short-tailed Shearwater. These birds breed in Tasmania but migrate up to the most northern reaches of the Pacific during their non-breeding season (northern summer).

As we entered Queen Charlotte Strait at the northern tip of Vancouver Island we were obviously in very productive marine habitats. Everywhere we looked there were flocks of feeding birds and many Harbour Seals and Steller’s Sealions.

One of the many mixed-species feeding flocks we passed in Queen Charlotte Strait.

Identifying large gulls at this time of year is a challenge. With black wingtips and dark eyes this is likely a third-year Thayer’s (Iceland) Gull, a regular fall and winter visitor from the Arctic.

A line of Common Murres. The bird with the black face is still in its breeding plumage, the others are moulting into basic winter plumage.

Common Murres – another half-grown fledgling accompanied by its father.

Proximity to the open ocean and the productive habitat allowed us to see several seabirds that one normally doesn’t see in the sheltered waters of British Columbia, like the shearwaters, Cassin’s Auklets and storm petrels.

Short-tailed Shearwater – Queen Charlotte Strait.

Cassin’s Auklets attempting to take off. These stubby-winged divers have trouble getting airborne. In this case, as the ship approached they gave up trying to fly and dived underwater to avoid us.

What a delight to see a few Fork-tailed Storm Petrels. They normally feed out in the open ocean but the nearby Storm Islands are an important breeding colony at the north end of Queen Charlotte Strait.

Dozens of Steller’s Sealions hauled out on an island – Queen Charlotte Strait.

Sea Otters are slowly making a come-back in B.C. waters. We saw about 10 in Queen Charlotte Sound and Q. C. Strait.

Gulls roosting – Queen Charlotte Strait.

We spent the night anchored next to Port McNeil. The next day, September 23rd was cool and misty as we made our way down the long Johnstone Strait and Discovery Passage.

September 23rd was the only cloudy, misty, sometimes drizzly day we had on the whole trip. But some interesting scenery with the low clouds and fog. A small island in Johnstone Strait.

We passed by the mouth of the Tsitika Valley – one of the small areas of old-growth forest on northeastern Vancouver Island that was preserved only as a result of intensive pressure from environmental groups. This was all slated to be clearcuts.

A closer view of the Tsitika Valley with its magnificent old-growth conifers. Much of Vancouver Island looked like this before industrial logging took hold.

Alan on the bow on 23rd September.

Throughout our trip we encountered numerous flocks of birds migrating southward – mainly waterfowl – ducks and geese.

Surf Scoters heading south.

Greater White-fronted Geese are not a common sight in British Columbia. This flock was heading south along with many other waterfowl.

Pacific White-sided Dolphin bow-riding, Discovery Passage near Seymour Narrows. These were extracts from a video.

At the end of the day we anchored near Comox. We expected a continuation of the unsettled weather but instead September 24th turned out to be calm and sunny – perfect weather for transiting the open water of the Strait of Georgia.

Sunrise near Comox, 24th September 2022.

A Parasitic Jaeger (Arctic Skua) – a rare bird in the Strait of Georgia. These jaegers often steal food from smaller gulls, by harassing them in flight until they regurgitate their meal.

Pelagic Cormorants heading to foraging grounds.

We encountered more Red-necked Phalaropes in the Strait of Georgia.

Red-necked Phalaropes on the water.

The lightstation on Jenkins Island next to the larger Lasqueti Island with the mainland beyond.

South of Lasqueti Island I was in familiar waters that I regularly cross by ferry to Nanaimo or Victoria. We had a beautiful warm, calm day, lounging in our t-shirts on the ship’s bow and enjoying regular sightings of Humpback Whales and occasional Harbour Porpoises.

Flat calm sea next to South Pender Island as we neared the end of the British Columbia portion of our travels. The islands on the right in this photo are some of the San Juan Islands in Washington.

Our final night in British Columbia was at anchor in Bedwell Harbour, South Pender Island.

Mount Baker in the sunrise glow, 25 September 2022. This dormant volcano, just south of the BC/Washington border, is 3,288 m (10,786 ft) high. Many years ago I reached the summit with a group of friends.

Our final full day on the Sea Wolf was among the San Juan Islands, stopping for several hours at Friday Harbour to clear customs, take on water, get rid of garbage and pick up a few essentials (we’d run out of beer!).

Sunset on my final evening on the Sea Wolf, at anchor off Bellingham, WA. The end of a memorable week-long voyage.

On September 26th I said farewell to my Sea Wolf friends, caught a bus to Vancouver, another bus to Merritt and was home in Logan Lake in time for supper.

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