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


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


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


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


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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Cathedral Park hiking – 15-18 August 2022

All photos © Alan Burger

In summer 2022 I made a solo visit to Cathedral Lakes Park – my sixth visit to this lovely mountain park. Andrea and a couple of friends had been up there two weeks earlier. As usual I took the shuttle ride up to the lodge and then camped in the Quiniscoe Lake campsite.

On my first full day I did the Rim Trail going up above Quiniscoe Lake. It was a steep uphill slog but produced spectacular views in crystal clear conditions from the top of Quiniscoe Peak.

Panorama taken from Quiniscoe Peak. On the left is Quiniscoe Lake with the lodge on the far left of the lake and the campsite on the far right. Going to the right are Lake of the Woods, Pyramid Lake and Glacier Lake. Across the valley is Lakeview Mountain.

Looking west from the Rim Trail on 16 August under clear skies. Mount Baker is clearly visible on the horizon, 120 km away.

Although the vegetation is sparse on the ridge-line, there are always interesting plants and animals to see.

American Pipits are the most common birds I usually see long the ridge trail. They breed here.

Horned Larks also breed in the high alpine areas and one of the pairs I encountered was feeding a fledgling.

A closer look at a Horned Lark.

This Fritillary butterfly – probably Freija Fritillary Bolaria freija – is one of the more common butterflies in the alpine areas of Cathedral Park.

On the exposed ridges with gravelly sandstone substrates, the cushion-plant Moss Campion (Silene acaulis) with pink flowers provides a stable organic base for other plants to get established – in this case some grasses and a yellow groundsel (Asteraceae).

Shrubby Cinquefoil (Potentilla [Dasiphora] fruitcosa) is one of the plants to continue blooming into late summer, providing bright splashes of yellow.

Looking across at the mountain ridge above Ladyslipper Lake with Grimface Mountain behind.

The southern mountain ridge of Cathedral Park.

I was surprised to see several raptor species circling the cliffs or passing over the ridge, including an immature Bald Eagle, Cooper’s Hawk, Northern Harrier, American Kestrel and, most exciting of all , a Prairie Falcon – one of the rarest raptors breeding in B.C.

An immature Northern Harrier soaring over the mountain ridges.

On 16 August I had three separate sightings of a Prairie Falcon – perhaps the same bird. On the last occasion it was close enough for a photo.

One of the interesting geological features on the Rim Trail is the dramatic transition from black basalt to pale tan sandstone. Here the sandstone is an intrusion between basalt areas.

The Stone City area on the Rim Trail has wonderfully weather-sculptured outcrops of sandstone. Endlessly diverse and scenic.

One of the lovely sandstone outcrops in the Stone City area.

The Stone City area is also a great place to find one of the more elusive birds in Cathedral Park – White-tailed Ptarmigan. These alpine grouse are masters of camouflage, with their speckled summer plumage perfectly mimicking the rock and gravel substrates and their white winter plumage making them almost invisible in snow.

Spot the ptarmigan? This female White-tailed Ptarmigan was on high alert as I was watching because there was a Prairie Falcon circling nearby and she was well aware of its presence. She had two half-grown chicks nearby.

A closer view of the female White-tailed Ptarmigan. Note the feathered legs – one of the features that allow this hardy bird to live in high alpine areas year-round.

One of the two White-tailed Ptarmigan chicks I encountered on the Rim Trail.

Hoary Marmots spend up to eight months of the year hibernating underground. To do this they have to end the summer with a hefty load of fat. On mid-August 2022 I saw very few marmots and I suspect some of them might already have started hibernating.

Hoary Marmots spend a lot of time in summer feeding on vegetation and also a lot of time basking on rocks. From a high perch they can more easily spot the approach of a predator. In Cathedral Park this would include Lynx, Coyotes, Golden Eagles and perhaps occasionally Cougar and Wolves.

Early every morning at Quiniscoe Lake campground there is a parade of  Mountain Goats passing by – usually females with their offspring of various ages.

A young Mountain Goat passing by the Quiniscoe Lake campground.

This young kid – just a few months old – was very curious to see humans, but kept close to its mum as the group passed by.

On my second full day I hiked to the Red Mountain Meadows, an area where few visitors go just outside the core area of the park. I had never been there and had an enjoyable day exploring a new trail before returning in the afternoon along the familiar Diamond Trail.

Approaching the Red Mountain Meadow from the north side of Red Mountain, with other mountains to the west and Mount Baker just peaking above on the far right.

Panorama view from Red Mountain Meadow looking east with, left to right: Scout Mountain, Red Mountain and Quiniscoe Peak.

A weathered old tree trunk garnished with yellow-green lichen on Red Mountain Meadow

Fresh cones of Subalpine Fir (Abies lasiocarpa).

The Diamond Trail is always a delight with wildflowers, butterflies and wildlife.

Tiny ripening berries of Grouseberry (Vaccinium scoparium). This is a very common plant carpeting the open woodland sub-alpine areas.

A mass of yellow alpine daisies, pale purple asters and red paintbrush flowers.

A Rocky Mountain Apollo butterfly (Parnassius smintheus) nectaring on a groundsel flower.

A tiny Anna’s Blue butterfly (Lycaeides anna) nectaring on yellow groundsel flowers.

Butterflies are not the only pollinators in these alpine meadows. Here a couple of large bees are visiting a Small-flowered Penstemon (Penstemon procerus).

Paintbrushes (Castilleja sp.) are common in the alpine areas, but because different species often hybridize they are not always easy to identify. These ones are growing in a bed of Mountain Avens (Dryas octopetala) which has already gone to seed.

Columbia Ground-squirrels (Spermophilus columbianus) are common wherever there are grassy meadows in Cathedral Park.

My hike to Red Mountain Meadow, Diamond Trail and Scout Lake included many areas suitable for Spruce Grouse and I searched carefully for this bird, but in vain. Back in camp that evening as I was eating my dinner what should appear 10 metres away but a Spruce Grouse chick. Then another. And another. Eventually five half-grown chicks were foraging diligently around the camp, sometimes almost under my feet. But no sign of mum.

One of five Spruce Grouse chicks that came wandering into my camp area on 17 August.

Three of these Spruce Grouse chicks flew up into the nearby larch tree and were eating the buds along the branches.

Eventually about 40 minutes later, mum finally appeared …..

A female Spruce Grouse – the mother of the truant five chicks.

As it was getting dark I watched carefully to see how she was going to collect the scattered chicks and find a place to roost for the night. It all seemed very haphazard with chicks wandering up to 15 metres from each other. But eventually the female walked off out of sight toward the forest and the chicks drifted along, still pecking at food bits along the way.

A regular visitor to my camp was this Cascade Golden-mantled Ground-squirrel (Spermophilus saturatus). The northern edge of this species’ range just barely makes it into British Columbia. Cathedral Lakes Park is one of the few places where they are common. Here the setting sun is highlighting its fur.

Another regular visitor to the camp area was this Mule Deer doe.

My final day was spent around Glacier Lake with it’s lush sub-alpine meadows, loaded with flowers, butterflies, other insects, birds and mammals.

An impressively large fly visiting a daisy flower.

One of the most spectacular butterflies – Milbert’s Tortoiseshell (Aglais milberti).

Insects from three different Orders visiting a daisy flower; left to right: Diptera (fly), Lepidoptera (moth) and Hemiptera (bug).

Pikas are one of my favourite critters. Living in rock piles they are always extremely active collecting vegetation to add to their drying hay piles to provide winter fodder.

Among the dozens of Yellow-rumped Warblers in the sub-alpine trees, I was surprised to find this Nashville Warbler. I snapped this photo just as it grabbed a caterpillar in a fir tree.

Yellow-pine Chipmunks are common throughout Cathedral Lakes Park – from the highest alpine to the thickest forest.

More photos of previous trips to Cathedral Lakes Park:

July 2021  click here:   Cathedral Park July 2021

September 2020  click here:   Cathedral Park September 2020


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Kayaking Kootenay Lakes – July 2022

In early July Andrea and I traveled to the Kootenays (SE British Columbia) to pick up her new Delta kayak and join friends on some lake trips. Our first excursion was a 2-night trip in the northern end of Slocan Lake, departing from New Denver.

Photos © Alan Burger and some where noted © Cynthia Bush.

Departing from New Denver to cross Slocan Lake.

The maiden voyage of Andrea’s new Delta kayak on Slocan Lake, 5 July 2022.

We camped at Wee Sandy Creek campsite in Valhalla Provincial Park on the west shore of Slocan Lake – a lovely campsite next to the frigid creek which was in full spate from melting snow.

Our camp at Wee Sandy Creek campsite.

Wee Sandy Creek campsite.

This female Common Merganser regularly came fishing in the shallows near our camp.

At the end of a wet spring, the wildflowers were thriving and many were in full bloom.

This lush carpet of Twinflower (Linnaea borealis) was right at our campsite.

A closer view of the tiny Twinflowers (Linnaea borealis) with the flower stalks less than 10 cm tall.

A short hike from the campsite takes one to a high bluff with great views over the lake and mountains to the east, north and south. A lovely spot to end the day.

Sunset on the mountains to the south of Slocan Lake.

Enjoying the view from the lookout bluff overlooking Slocan Lake.

The next day we had a relaxing paddle for about 7 km northwards up the western shore. There are many scenic cliffs with fascinating rock patterns, and lush forest with diverse conifers and deciduous trees.

Paddling along the western shore of Slocan Lake, 6 July 2022.

Our flotilla heading up the shore of Slocan Lake.

Tom and Kim along multi-coloured cliffs.

Andrea below another colourful cliff.

Slocan Lake had a heavy dusting of pollen, which accumulated in many places to make a dense yellow layer, through which we paddled. Pollen production from the millions of nearby conifer trees was exceptionally heavy this year.

Floating pollen producing amazing patterns. Photo: © Cynthia Bush

In many places along the shore the yellow pollen layer covered most of the water surface. Photo: © Cynthia Bush

Paddling through pollen.

Patterns in the pollen.

Yellow pollen on the waterline and colourful cliff plants make an interesting display.

Along the shore we encountered many flowering plants, including this rose – likely Nootka Rose (Rosa nutkana).

A bumblebee busy pollinating the rose flowers.

A thick carpet of moss and lichens coming down to the water’s edge.

Paddling in calm water – Slocan Lake, 6 July 2022

We went ashore in a few places, to explore the forest. In most places there was a thick carpet of moss with a variety of flowering plants.

Cindy checking out the flowers among the carpet of moss.

White-veined Wintergreen (Pyrola picta) with the flowers not yet opened.

Round-leafed Rein Orchid (Plantathera orbiculata) just starting to flower.

Prince’s-pine (Chimaphila umbellata) with flower buds not yet opened.

And lots of Twinflower (Linnaea borealis).

An adult Bald Eagle perched along the lake edge.

We also spent several hours exploring the trails out of Wee Sandy Creek campsite. One trail follows an old logging trail built before 1910 in the days of horse-logging. This is an impressive feat of construction along very steep slopes and into the canyon of the creek.

The trail along the roaring Wee Sandy Creek. Parts of this trail follow an old early-1900s logging trail.

One of many big red cedars along the Wee Sandy Creek trail.

In the deep forest were many Queen’s Cup (Clintonia uniflora) and mushrooms.

Kim and Helene along the Wee Sandy Creek trail.

Helene and Alan relaxing at camp. Photo: Cynthia Bush.

With the threat of changing weather, on the third day we packed up and made a leisurely trip back along the west shore and then across to New Denver.

Helene and Cindy heading home – New Denver is visible across the lake.

Alan with Helene in the background. Photo: Cynthia Bush.

Heading back to New Denver with the peaks of Kokanee Glacier Park in the distance, 7 July 2022.

Common Mergansers were diving for small fish where creeks entered the lake.

Yellow Monkeyflowers (Mimulus guttatus) with an unidentified white flower behind making a colourful shoreline display.

Common Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia) was indeed a common plant along the shoreline.

And did I mention that we saw many clumps of flowering Twinflowers (Linnaea borealis)?

Andrea and Helene crossing the glassy-calm Slocan Lake.

Cindy powering across the lake.

The next day, July 8th, we took the kayaks to Kootenay Lake, paddling from Proctor southward along the south arm of the immense lake.

A Great Blue Heron along the shore of Kootenay Lake.

A wolf spider, about 1.5 cm in length, on the cobble shoreline at Irvine Creek beach, Kootenay Lake.

Pictographs on a cliff overlooking Kootenay Lake. We speculated that this is an ancient memorial to honour those who drowned when canoes capsized on this immense and unpredictable lake.

Two species of Swallowtail butterflies mud-puddling (sucking up water and salts) at a wet spot on the shore of Kootenay Lake. Photo: © Alan Burger

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis) – Kootenay Lake. Photo: © Alan Burger

Pale Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio eurymedon) – Kootenay Lake. Photo: © Alan Burger




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Travel in B.C. & Alaska on the “Sea Wolf”- April 2022

In April I was invited to be a guest lecturer/naturalist on the Sea Wolf for an 11-day voyage through southeast Alaska from Ketchikan to Juneau. The Sea Wolf is a lovely wooden ship that takes 12 passengers + 6-8 crew on adventure cruises, mostly in Alaska. Andrea and I had been on the ship a few times in Alaska and B.C. The boat was built in 1942 as a minesweeper for San Francisco harbour during WWII. Celebrating its 80th birthday, this vessel is in great shape and still has the original main diesel engine. But the old lady does need a lot of maintenance and had been undergoing extensive refit all winter 2021-22 in Port Townsend, Washington.

The owner Kimber Owen had invited me to travel up from Port Townsend to Ketchikan on the repositioning voyage across the entire British Columbia coast before the paying passengers came aboard for the Ketchikan to Juneau voyage. I jumped at the chance. When I arrived in Port Townsend the Sea Wolf was still out of the water in the boatyard. Due to covid-related issues the re-fit was way behind schedule and much needed to be done.

The Sea Wolf high and dry in the Port Townsend boatyard, a few days before we left for Alaska.

Eventually we left Port Townsend on April 13th. A lot of work had to be done on the ship, both inside and out, as we traveled up through the B.C. Inside Passage. Luckily, after the first stormy day at sea, we had excellent calm weather all rest of the way to Ketchikan.

Getting the ship into shape – sanding the new caprail as we cruised through the BC inside passage.

Alan and Emma, one of the Sea Wolf naturalists, sanding the caprail at the bow.

The birding was good all the way up the BC Coast. In several locations near colonies we encountered hundreds of Rhinoceros Auklets. Huge flocks of waterfowl, loons, gulls and grebes were migrating up the coast too.

Rhinoceros Auklets along with two Glaucous-winged Gulls near the Washington/B.C. border. Photo: © Alan Burger

Rhinoceros Auklets in breeding plumage. Photo: © Alan Burger

These two gull species were extremely common throughout B.C. and southeast Alaska during our travels: Short-billed Gull (until recently known as Mew Gull) left and Bonaparte’s Gull right. Photos: © Alan Burger

And with good weather we could appreciate the stunning scenery of the B.C. coast – a seemingly endless array of lofty snowy mountains making a fitting backdrop for the lush coastal rainforest.

Some of the mountain scenery along the B.C. coast – Mount Waddington range.

Yet another lovely mountain along the B.C. Inside Passage.

These were some of the 3,000 Surf Scoters that were massed in the shallows near Ivory Island in the central B.C. coast. We encountered several huge flocks of this species. They usually aggregate in places where herring are spawning.

We had great views of several marine mammal species along the way – many Harbour Porpoise, a few Dall’s Porpoise, a couple of Humpback Whales,  a lively pod of Pacific White-sided Dolphins, Harbour Seals and California and Steller’s Sea Lions.

A beautiful calm morning in Bob Bay near Bella Bella. Captain Hans looks on as the engineer Joe raises the anchor.

Despite long days of travel we still had to travel through the night on our last leg in order to get to Ketchikan on time. We took turns through the night assisting the person on watch in the wheelhouse to look out for floating logs – luckily we had a full moon to assist.

Arrival at Ketchikan, the southernmost town in Alaska, on April 17th.

Ketchikan has a very colourful history – several of these dockside homes served as brothels and speakeasies during the goldrush days. Now they attract huge numbers of tourists when the big Alaska cruise ships stop by.

We met our eight passengers on April 18th. Several of them had been on the Sea Wolf in previous years. All were seasoned travelers with lots of past experiences and all were great shipboard companions. We spent the first day exploring the Ketchikan area while the ship’s crew feverishly did the last-minute preparations.

A nice hike at Settler’s Cove State Park produced great views of several interesting birds plus a River Otter along the shoreline.

A pair of Barrow’s Goldeneyes at Settler’s Cove park, Ketchikan. Male left, female right. Photo: © Alan Burger

A sample of the Tlingit totem poles – both old and new at the Saxman Reservation in Ketchikan. The carving school here teaches young Tlingit the traditional skills needed for totems, long-houses and other native arts.

Leaving Ketchikan we spent the next two days in the Misty Fiords National Monument – a wonderful wilderness of high mountains, deep steep fjords and interesting wildlife. During summer this area is popular with boaters, and planes and helicopters bring tourists from the cruise ships in Ketchikan. But this early in spring, before the cruise ships arrive, we had the place to ourselves. For more than two days we saw no other boats and no aircraft.

Typical scenery in Misty Fiords National Monument.

Dall’s Porpoise – the most dashing and energetic of all the porpoises. The pale one in the left photo is immature. The right photo shows the characteristic “rooster-tail” splashes as they travel at speed.

Harbour Seals hauled out on the rocks – Misty Fiords National Monument.

Emma leads the kayak briefing on the top deck. Getting out on the kayaks almost every day was a highlight of the trip.

Kayaking beneath the immense glacier-sculpted cliffs in Misty Fiords.

While we were admiring this impressive cliff with streaming waterfalls, we realized there was a Mountain Goat feeding near the base of the cliff. Do you see the tiny white dot on the biggest area of yellow grass? Walker Bay, Misty Fiords, 19 April 2022.

See the Mountain Goat now? That scale gives one a better appreciation of the height of these ice-scoured near-vertical cliffs.

The boat moved closer so we could get a better look at this intrepid billy Mountain Goat. While we watched he casually strolled down the near-vertical rock face and moved away into some trees.

The Uluk and Klahini Rivers share this beautiful estuary in Misty Fiords. The mountains form the boundary between Alaska and British Columbia.

Exploring the Klahini River estuary.

An adult Bald Eagle, Klahini estuary. These eagles are common in coastal Alaska and we saw them every day on our trip.

Greater Yellowlegs at Klahini estuary.

A mountain in Misty Fiords. Many of the high mountains in southeast Alaska have this dome shape – the result of glaciers scouring, even over the summit, during thousands of years of glaciation.

A beautiful calm morning on 21 April near Snow Passage, southeast Alaska.

Common Mergansers at McHenry Inlet – 21 April 2022.

Kayaking in the Kashverof Islands.

For part of our voyage we were along the Pacific Flyway – a major migration pathway for millions of birds heading to mainland Alaska to breed. Some, like these Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes even continue across the Bering Strait and breed in the Russian Far East.

A high-flying flock of Sandhill Cranes heading for northern breeding grounds. Photo: © Alan Burger

Migrating Snow Geese over the Kashverof Islands, 21 April 2022. Photo: © Alan Burger

Petersburg was our only town stop between Ketchikan and Juneau. We dropped off engineer Joe and picked up fresh groceries. The Sea Wolf is at the wharf at the centre of the photo.

Navigation buoys make convenient resting spots for Steller’s Sea Lions in Petersburg harbour. Photos: © Alan Burger

This big male Steller’s Sea Lion came cruising by to check us out as we took the skiff across Petersburg harbour to go on a hike. Photo: © Alan Burger

Pigeon Guillemots provided entertainment at the Petersburg wharf. A group of 30 or more were nesting under the decking of a tall fisheries wharf and displaying on the water nearby. Photos: © Alan Burger

Hiking on the boardwalk at the Kupreanof muskeg trail near Petersburg, 22 April 2022.

A late afternoon hike at Cascade Creek on Kupreanof Island. A stiff climb through the forest had its rewards with views of a lovely cascading creek.

Skunk Cabbage was just coming into bloom. The flower spathe emerges before the leaves. Bears and deer find these flowers and leaves tasty despite their skunky smell, and many of them were chomped. Photos: © Alan Burger

A highlight on April 23rd was an early morning skiff ride to visit the Baird Glacier.

A panorama view of the Baird Glacier. This glacier is retreating rapidly and some of our crew had been here 20 years ago when the glacier front was where there is now a large lagoon.

As the glacier retreated, the bare gravel and rock of the terminal moraine became suitable habitat for plants to colonize. Over a period of 50 years the plant succession has progressed beginning with tough pioneers like mosses and lichens, then a few grasses, and as the organic soil develops shrubs take hold, then alders and eventually Sitka spruce trees. Within the space of a few 10s of metres one can see the full range of ecological succession here.

One can easily see the succession of plant colonizers on the glacier moraine – first hardy mosses and lichens, then grasses and a few shrubs, then trees. Baird Glacier, southeast Alaska.

Colourful mosses and lichens are among the first colonizers of the gravelly glacial moraine. Photo: © Alan Burger

The large lagoon in front of the glacier has a fascinating array of icebergs – many shapes and colours. Photo: © Alan Burger

More colourful icebergs in the Baird Glacier lagoon. Photo: © Alan Burger

Captain Hans fulfilled a long-held dream of being able to drive the skiff right up into the glacial lagoon. Then we all went on a victory tour of the lagoon.

A happy bunch of boaters in the Baird Glacier lagoon, 23 April 2022.

On the 24th April we explored parts of northern Kuiu Island. Here we found many Marbled Murrelets and dozens of Sea Otters. The otters are rapidly increasing in numbers and expanding their range – much to the delight of visiting naturalists and the despair of local crab fishers.

Most of the Marbled Murrelets that we encountered in southeast Alaska were in pairs, preparing to breed. Getting good photos of these birds is tricky because they avoid boats, even kayaks. Photo: © Alan Burger

A Sea Otter trying to break into a large clam. At Security Bay on Kuiu Island, 24 April 2022. Photo: © Alan Burger

A female Sea Otter with a large pup carried on her chest. The female’s front paw is hiding the baby’s face. Off Kuiu Island, 24 April 2022.

Mountains and mist – Baranof Island seen from Frederick Sound.

Early morning on 25th April at our anchorage at Baranof Island.

We spent the morning of the 25th exploring Warm Springs Cove on Baranof Island. A handful of recreation cabins and a couple of lodges are huddled along the foreshore, bordered by a thunderous big waterfall. Up the hill are numerous hotsprings and most of the buildings have hot water piped in for heating and for household use. There are also three public hot tubs on the foreshore where one can soak in a stream of hot mineral water – some of us took advantage of this luxury.

Warm Springs Cove on Baranof Island has an eclectic collection of cabins along the waterfront, and the research station of the Alaska Whale Foundation. Notice the tideline waterfall beyond the buildings.

This impressive waterfall borders the shoreline buildings at Warm Springs Cove.

The Alaska Whale Foundation has its research station here and their biologists have undertaken much ground-breaking research on the local humpbacks and other whales. Imagine my surprise to discover that one of the lead researchers is Andy Szabo, who had worked for me as an undergraduate summer student studying Marbled Murrelets on Vancouver Island in 1999. It was great to have a catch-up after more than 20 years.

We went for a hike up the hill behind Warm Springs Cove but discovered that spring had not fully arrived here. Deep snow blocked the trail. But much to our surprise, a Rufous Hummingbird was buzzing around this chilly spot.

Based on a tip from Andy Szabo we cruised up the coast of Baranof Island in search of Humpback Whales. And sure enough, an hour or so later we encountered a group of 30-35 humpbacks feeding.

Blows, backs and flukes – even at a distance we could see there was a lot of activity with these Humpback Whales

For the next three hours we drifted along among these huge whales as they performed their unique bubble-net feeding. A couple of whales swim in a circle below a school of small fish – herring in this case – releasing bubbles. The bubbles rise to form a net which startles the fish, keeping them packed in within the bubble net. A male whale then sings below the net which drives the fish upward, trapping them at the surface. At this signal a dozen or more whales surge upward in synchrony and with gaping mouths. Expandable throat pleats allow a humpback to engulf tons of water along with the fish. The water is then forced out through the baleen plates hanging from the whale’s palate. The trapped fish are then swept into the gullet by the whale’s tongue. After a few breathing blows, the whales dive down to repeat the whole process – again and again. It is an amazing spectacle to witness. At times we had two groups of whales doing separate bubble-netting.

The climax of the bubble-net feeding as 10-15 Humpback Whales rise up in synchrony to engulf the fish at the surface. Photo: © Alan Burger

The whale on the left front shows the massive extension of the throat as it engulfs tons of water containing the fish. The white fore-flipper of another whale rises above the surface. Photo: © Alan Burger

A few blows and breaths for fresh air and the whales dive down to repeat the performance. Photo: © Alan Burger

At one point we shut off the engine and lowered a hydrophone into the water to pick up the sounds the Humpback Whales were making. It was an amazing experience to hear the calls and feeding songs, sometimes painfully loud, at the same time as watching them feed.

Another feeding event – the pink palate and bristly baleen plates are visible in some whales. Look closely and you can see a herring desperately leaping to escape. Photo: © Alan Burger

Flukes and humpy backs amidst the mist from their blows as the Humpbacks dive again. Photo: © Alan Burger

Hundreds of gulls attend the feeding whales and come swarming in hoping to snatch a herring as the whales rise. Appropriately most of them are Herring Gulls. Photo: © Alan Burger

Herring Gulls looking for a meal among the Humpbacks. Photo: © Alan Burger

A close-up of an adult Herring Gull. Photo: © Alan Burger

The markings on the underside of a Humpback’s tail are its fingerprint. Biologists can identify individual whales from such photos, and track their movements, breeding and social lives. Photos: © Alan Burger

Dinner in the stern fantail of the Sea Wolf. We enjoyed gourmet meals throughout the voyage.

A popular haulout for Steller’s Sea Lions at the Brothers Islands. These are mostly immature males. Photo: © Alan Burger

Steller’s Sea Lions are the largest of the eared seals (Otaridae). Big males, like the one on the left can weigh over 1,000 kg. Photo: © Alan Burger

Steller’s Sea Lions at the Brothers Islands. Photo: © Alan Burger

The productive intertidal zone in southeast Alaska provides rich foraging for many shorebirds – here we have Surfbirds and Black Turnstones. Photo: © Alan Burger

Black Turnstone on the left and Surfbird, right. Photo: © Alan Burger

Just as the 25th April belonged to Humpback Whales, the 26th belonged to Orcas (Killer Whales). Early in the afternoon in calm sea we could see some black fins a long way off and as we got closer we could see a dozen or more Orcas coming our way. They were evidently not in a hurry to move along and for over an hour they swam and played near our little ship, sometimes passing within a few metres.

The tall dorsal fins of Orcas (Killer Whales) make them visible a long way off, especially in calm seas. 26 April 2022. Photo: © Alan Burger

The pod we encountered had Orcas of all ages. Photo: © Alan Burger

A spyhopping Orca. Photo: © Alan Burger

This female was accompanied by two calves – one a year or more old and the smaller one a more recent addition. Photo: © Alan Burger

Tail-slapping – just playfulness or a social signal of some sort? Photo: © Alan Burger

Once again, we shut off the engine and lowered the hydrophone into the water. More magic as we listened to all the squeaks and trills as the Orcas passed by, leaving us to imagine what this communication was all about.

Orcas passing close by the vessel. Photo: © Alan Burger

Our final full day of the voyage was spent in Endicott Arm – a long, narrow fjord with Dawes Glacier at its head. Long before we could see the glacier we were encountering chunks of ice – mostly bergy bits the size of a car or bus and later some reasonable icebergs.

Approaching the Dawes Glacier in Endicott Arm – 27 April 2022. Photo: © Alan Burger

Captain Hans took the Sea Wolf a long way up through the icy water until we were just a km or two from the glacier front. Then we launched the kayaks and went paddling among the icebergs, bergy bits and growlers. A wonderful experience.

Kayaking in the icy waters in front of the Dawes Glacier, Endicott Arm. Photo: © Alan Burger

Alan kayaking at the Dawes Glacier, 27 Spril 2022. Photo: Dick & Marjy Fiddler

Returning to the Sea Wolf at the Dawes Glacier.

A sea level view of the Dawes Glacier. Like most Alaskan glaciers, this one is retreating rapidly. The rock face most recently exposed by the disappearing ice shows up as pale and un-vegetated on the far side of the glacier. Photo: © Alan Burger

Shipmates Dick and Marjy Fiddler took this photo of the Baird Glacier as they flew home after the voyage. The photo shows where we were paddling some hundreds of metres from the glacier front. Photo: © Dick & Marjy Fiddler

Kayak operations at the Sea Wolf. The paddlers enter and leave the kayaks from the float on the right. The kayaks are winched up to be stowed on the upper deck.

A lovely blue iceberg – Dawes Glacier, Endicott Arm. Photo: © Alan Burger

Wonderful shapes carved in ice by the movement of water. Photo: © Alan Burger

Our next stop was Ford’s Terror – an aptly-named finger of ocean that sneaks up a crack in the mountains for 8 km. We had hoped to take the skiff up this reach but it can only be done at slack tide. When the tide is rising or falling the rushing water produces an impressive (and terrorizing) set of rapids at the entrance. With fading light we ran out of time to get slack tides so had to move on.

Ford’s Terror – what looks like a river coming out of the mountains is actually the ocean, emptying out at low tide from an 8 km-long narrow arm.

Glaciated cliffs, waterfalls and tough trees growing in unexpected places – typical of southeast Alaska. Ford’s Terror, Endicott Arm.

As our last evening approached we were still missing one highly characteristic Alaskan critter – a Brown Bear. But Hans knew of a big meadow near the entrance to Endicott Arm where bears were often seen. So we headed there. Sure enough, as we approached a big bruin came ambling along the grassy meadow. Bears had only recently emerged from their hibernation dens, so this fellow was a bit lean but in good shape.

A big Brown Bear ambling across the meadow near the end of the day, 27th April.

As the bear entered the forest edge, a Porcupine came scurrying out and headed off across the meadow away from the bear. Having a Brown Bear and a Porcupine in view at the same time was a special treat to end the day.

The next morning we cruised up Stephen’s Passage to Juneau – which was the end of a very special and wonderful voyage.

Checklist of birds and mammals that we saw on the Alaska voyage: Sea Wolf 2022 – Bird and Mammal Log final

A day later I was seeing Canyon Wrens and Bighorn Sheep in the dry Okanagan Valley of southern British Columbia.


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Wildlife Highlights 2021

With Covid lurking around every corner, we didn’t do much traveling this year – in fact the small amount of traveling we did was all in British Columbia except for 2 days just across the border in Alberta. So most of our wildlife experiences in 2021 were close to our home in Logan Lake, southern interior of BC.


Winter is a lean time for seeing wildlife, but there are some interesting options. I usually try to get up into the high grasslands in winter, hoping to find Snow Buntings, Horned Larks and, once in a long while – a Snowy Owl.

I love the subtle light and texture of snow and grass with softly rounded hills. Douglas Lake plateau – 29 January 2021. © Alan Burger

Muted sunlight breaking through a snowy day – Douglas Lake plateau, 29 January 2021. © Alan Burger

Horned Larks breed on the Douglas Lake plateau. This bird might have been an early arrival or just passing through – 12 March 2021. © Alan Burger

Northern Pygmy-owls are year-round residents in our area, and they usually hunt in daylight, providing opportunities for winter shots like this. Near the Quilchena Hotel – 3 January 2021

I took these photos of a juvenile Northern Shrike through our living-room window in Logan Lake. On an exceptionally sunny January day this bird was having some success catching flies that were coming out of winter hiding spots. © Alan Burger

Two species of chickadees liven up our garden all year round: Black-capped Chickadee (left) and Mountain Chickadee (right). They are often together in mixed flocks in winter. © Alan Burger


My favourite season in Canada. Plants begin to come alive, insects emerge, migrant birds arrive and one is left amazed at the life that has survived the savage winter cold.

The tiny Sagebrush Buttercup (Ranunculus glaberrimus) is always the first plant to bloom in our area. The shiny yellow petals, less than 2 cm across, act as solar collectors and provide a touch of warmth to visiting insects in the chilly spring days. © Alan Burger

For the past two years in spring, a pair of elegant Black-necked Stilts has been foraging in the shallow ponds at Tunkwa Provincial Park, just 15 km from our home. They are rare breeders in BC so I keep hoping they will stay and breed, but they haven’t yet. 5 May 2021. © Alan Burger

In the same ponds as the stilts was this Wilson’s Phalarope. They do regularly breed in the BC interior but I’ve yet to see evidence of breeding in the Logan Lake area. Tunkwa Provincial Park, 5 May 2021. © Alan Burger

One normally encounters Grey-crowned Rosy-finches in high alpine areas at the edges of snow banks. But two of these handsome finches appeared in our backyard among the juncos. This bird is actually the coastal race of the species (hepburni), not the race one would expect in the interior. Logan Lake,  10 April 2021. © Alan Burger

Muskrats are quite common in our area, usually in small ponds or lakes. This one was munching on a tuber among the cat-tails at Tunkwa Provincial Park – 17 April 2021. © Alan Burger

The rushes and cat-tails around small ponds are the usual habitat for Yellow-headed Blackbirds. This is a male. Just before I took the photo he was giving his weird harsh song. Tunkwa Provincial Park, 19 April 2021. © Alan Burger

A male Mountain Bluebird – Tunkwa Provincial Park, 5 May 2021. © Alan Burger

Spring sees lots of waterfowl courtship – Barrow’s Goldeneyes at the Logan Lake marsh – 14 May 2021. © Alan Burger

One of our largest butterflies – a Canadian Tiger Swallowtail on a dandelion flower – Lundbom Commonage near Merritt, 26 May 2021. © Alan Burger

In early June I drove up to northeastern BC for 2 weeks. Stopped at several wildlife hotspots and spent several days around Tumbler Ridge with friends. I was pleasantly surprised at the abundance of large mammals I encountered, despite the ever-present human activity of logging, oil and gas extraction and some ranching.

I spent a couple of days at the Muhaga Marsh near Mackenzie in central BC. There is a bird banding station here but it was boarded up. In the nearby marshes were numerous Moose. At one point I could see 10 at once, scattered around the wetlands – these 4 were part of that aggregation. 2 June 2021.  © Alan Burger

Common Garter Snakes basking in the spring sunshine. They have probably just emerged from their winter hibernaculum. Muhaga Marsh, 1 June 2021. © Alan Burger

Black Bears were common too – this one was next to the highway near Chetwynd – 2 June 2021.  © Alan Burger

One of the highlights of my trip was to have this family of Grizzly Bears – mom and 2 large cubs – eating dandelions next to the highway near Tumbler Ridge – 8 June 2021. © Alan Burger

Northeastern British Columbia supports many birds that are rare or absent in the rest of the province – Blackpoll Warbler is one of those species. This male was singing at the Bullmoose Marsh near Tumbler Ridge, 3 June 2021. © Alan Burger

Also at Bullmoose Marsh were a pair of Solitary Sandpipers – a rare species in most of BC. 8 June 2021. © Alan Burger

A short hike in the hills above the town of Tumbler Ridge produced this male Dusky Grouse – 3 June 2021. © Alan Burger

Macoun’s Arctic butterfly (Oeneis macounii) in the forest near Tumbler Ridge – 9 June 2021. © Alan Burger

Tumbler Ridge lies among the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and provides ready access to some excellent alpine habitats – Mt Spieker, 10 June 2021. Note the large wind turbine farm in the distance. © Alan Burger

Golden-mantled Ground-squirrel in the alpine of Mt. Spieker near Tumbler Ridge – 10 June 2021.  © Alan Burger

White-tailed Ptarmigan on Mt. Spieker, 10 June 2021.  © Alan Burger

Hoary Marmot on Mt. Spieker, 10 June 2021.  © Alan Burger

On my way home from Tumbler Ridge I spent a couple of nights, and a lovely day of hiking in Mount Robson Provincial Park in the heart of the Rockies.

In a seemingly barren rocky stretch was this splash of colour – Yellow Ladyslipper orchid (Cypripedium calceolus). Mt Robson Provincial Park, 12 June 2021. © Alan Burger

After a day in cloud, Mount Robson finally emerged in all its glory as the sun was setting, 12 June 2021. © Alan Burger


Southern British Columbia had a rather brutal summer in 2021. First we had the “heat dome” with unprecedented high temperatures day after day in late June and early August. Even at Logan Lake, elevation 1100 m, we had 3 successive days over 40C and 4 weeks when it was over 30C most days. Then, driven by the heat and drought came the wildfires. Huge forest fires burning in many parts of the province. We endured weeks of thick smoke and the stress of the Tremont wildfire getting closer to our town Logan Lake. This fire eventually burnt 635 square km of forest, caused us to evacuate our town for 8 days, burnt to within 200 m of our house and destroyed the cherished ski and hiking trails bordering the town. The town was only saved by heroic work by 170 firefighters and a lot of heavy equipment.

This is what the forest adjacent to Logan Lake looked like when we returned from evacuation. Smouldering continued for a couple of weeks. 23 August 2021. © Alan Burger

The fire was so intense that it burnt up roots creating underground tunnels. 23 August 2021. © Alan Burger

A few days after our return home this Long-tailed Weasel showed up in our garden. It has injuries, probably burns from the wildfire or hot ash. 2 September 2021. © Alan Burger

Woodpeckers are one of the few bird species that one still sometimes finds in the burnt forest, mostly at the few trees that are still alive with just scorched bark.

A male Pileated Woodpecker in the Logan Lake ski trails forest. © Alan Burger

Months after the fire many trees show these distinctive markings – presumably where woodpeckers have flaked off the bark to seek insects beneath. Cooked insects maybe? Logan Lake ski trails, 7 November 2021. © Alan Burger

Before the evacuation we did escape the smoke for a wonderful 5-day trip to Cathedral Provincial Park. I’ve posted photos of that trip here:  Cathedral Park 2021

During this time we also spent several days kayaking in nearby Mamit Lake and enjoying the plentiful wildlife there. I’ve posted photos of that here:

Birding by kayak on Mamit Lake, Summer 2021 – click here

More Mamit Lake wildlife  – August 2021 – click here

Here are a few pre-fire photos

Wild horses are a feature of the Logan Lake area. In winter they do a lot of damage to our carefully groomed XC ski trails, but at other times they are quite fun to see.

A mating pair of Common Apline butterflies (Erebia epipsodea) in a meadow near Logan Lake – 22 June 2021. © Alan Burger

Anicia Checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas anicia) nectaring on a Brown-eyed Susan bloom. Photo taken just up the hill from our Logan Lake house – 26 June 2021. © Alan Burger

During our enforced wildfire evacuation we spent some days in Victoria. This Trumpeter Swan was still in Esquimalt Lagoon when its conspecifics had migrated north to breeding grounds in northern BC and beyond. 18 August 2021. © Alan Burger

A Western Sandpiper at Esquimalt Lagoon, Victoria – 18 August 2021. © Alan Burger

Fall and Winter

Early fall remains a good time for birding in our area, with the passage of migrant birds. Mamit Lake is a great place for migrating shorebirds and waterfowl.

Mamit Lake in fall – September/October 2021 – click here

On a cold, windy October day I went with 2 friends up to Tunkwa Provincial Park. A highlight of the day was this Great Grey Owl. It was hunting in the small areas of unburnt forest and wetland. One can see how windy it was in the photo on the left. 2 October 2021. © Alan Burger

Song Sparrows are one of our most widespread and common sparrows. A wooden fence created a pleasing blurring in the lower part of this photo. © Alan Burger

Ruby-crowned Kinglets are a difficult species to photograph. They are small and almost constantly on the move among the foliage. Tunkwa Provinicial Park, 2 October 2021. © Alan Burger

A trip to Vancouver Island allowed me to stop over at Blackie Spit, White Rock near Vancouver. I was there at high tide and the Dunlin were all resting. This is part of a dense flock that I estimated had over 2,000 Dunlin in it. 27 October 2021. © Alan Burger

On the same trip I enjoyed a day of ocean kayaking off Nanaimo and encountered this mixed flock of Dunlin and the larger yellow-legged Surfbirds roosting at high tide. 28 October 2021. © Alan Burger

During the Kamloops Christmas Bird Count my companion and I were attracted to this heavily pecked Douglas-fir tree. A female Pileated Woodpecker and a male Hairy Woodpecker were adding to the damage with a female Hairy out of the picture. Inks Lake area, Kamloops, 19 December 2021. © Alan Burger

In the same Inks Lake area we encountered a mixed flock of Mountain Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches and White-breasted Nuthatches. Here is one of the two White-breasted Nuthatches – they are uncommon in our area and these were the only ones recorded in the Kamloops Christmas Bird Count this year. 19 December 2021. © Alan Burger



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Mamit Lake Wildlife – September & October 2021

I managed only one kayaking excursion in September on Mamit Lake, near my home at Logan Lake town – on the 2nd of the month. As is usual for early fall, the lake had abundant waterfowl and shorebirds. In total I recorded 44 species of birds while paddling the lake perimeter – about 8 km. A highlight was to see a young river otter – but it was too quick for me to get a photo. Loads of migrating Yellow-rumped Warblers were in the bushes around the lake and these had attracted a Merlin and a Sharp-shinned Hawk.

A contrast in size – two shorebirds that frequently stop over on Mamit Lake: Least Sandpiper on the left and Pectoral Sandpiper on the right. Mamit Lake 2 September 2021.

Baird’s Sandpiper is a relatively uncommon species passing through the southern interior of BC. Mamit Lake usually attracts one or two in late summer or early fall. Black legs, shortish pointed beak, long wings and scalloped back plumage are diagnostic features.

One of a small flock of Pectoral Sandpipers on 2nd September 2021.

Mallards are generally the most common duck on Mamit Lake at any time of year. This is a female.

Greenwinged Teal are also abundant on Mamit Lake. At least 60 were present on 2 September 2021.

These four Common Mergansers were the only ones seen on Mamit Lake on 2 September – but in the weeks that followed many more arrived here.

One of the summer-resident Ospreys. There are usually 2-5 of these fish-eating raptors at the lake.

Dozens of migrating Yellow-rumped Warblers were in the bushes around the lake in early September. They are hard to photograph from a kayak as they rapidly flit around catching small insects.


Fully 6 weeks passed before I was out on the water on Mamit Lake again. During that time we had a solid dose of early winter, with low temperatures (overnight below freezing for most of early October and down to -12C one morning), rain, snow and almost constant wind. Not conducive to kayaking on an open lake. But on 18 October, in the midst of a spell of calm warmer weather, I had a wonderful morning on the lake, with glorious fall colours, lots of interesting birds and flat calm conditions.

Cottonwoods and aspen trees giving lovely coloration to the lake surrounds. Mamit Lake 18 October 2021.

There were fewer of the usual ducks and almost no Canada Geese (only 3), but instead there were some unusual species of waterbirds. A flock of 18 Snow Geese took off from the hayfield next to the lake and circled overhead. At this time of year in the southern interior of BC one sometimes sees one or two Snow Geese among the Canada Geese, but 18 is highly unusual.

Snow Geese at Mamit Lake, 18 October 2021.

Snow Geese circling over Mamit Lake. Look closely and you can see that several are juvenile birds with slightly duller plumage and black instead of pink beaks. © Alan Burger

Another somewhat unexpected bird was a Surf Scoter. They are, of course, super abundant on the coast of B.C., but much less so in the interior. This was my first record on Mamit Lake.

A juvenile Surf Scoter on Mamit Lake, 18 October 2021.

Other somewhat unusual waterbirds that were on the lake were the grebes – at the end of the morning I had tallied 12 Red-necked Grebes, 11 Horned Grebes, 4 Western Grebes and 1 Eared Grebe. These last two species were the first I’d seen on this lake. Having Western Grebes here was a special treat – I was able to drift up slowly to within photo range of these elegant birds.

Western Grebe – Mamit Lake, 18 October 2021. © Alan Burger

Western Grebes – the one on the left is in the act of diving. © Alan Burger

And yet another uncommon species – a lone adult Bonaparte’s Gull already in its winter plumage.

An adult Bonaparte’s Gull, in winter plumage, on Mamit Lake, 18 October 2021. © Alan Burger

Bonaparte’s Gull – Mamit Lake, 18 October 2021. © Alan Burger

And dominating the waterbird numbers on 18 October were Common Mergansers. I estimated at least 180 of them – all either females, immatures or males in eclipse plumage. There were no males in alternate (breeding) plumage. Seeing a flock of over 100 mergansers taking off is a thrilling sight. Many smaller flocks were sitting on the shoreline or feeding out on the lake.

Common Mergansers resting on the shore of Mamit Lake, 18 October 2021.

Common Mergansers in flight. © Alan Burger

A passing Bald Eagle put this flock of Common Mergansers to flight.

A pair of Common Loons generally breeds on Mamit Lake, but in fall others use the lake as a migratory stop-over. On 18 October there were four immature and one adult on the lake.

A juvenile Common Loon on Mamit Lake, 18 October 2021. © Alan Burger

The shorebirds that are a feature of this lake in late summer and early fall had nearly all moved on. The only shorebirds seen were two Long-billed Dowitchers.

Two Long-billed Dowitchers alongside a Green-winged Teal. Mamit Lake, 18 October 2021.

A closer look at the two Long-billed Dowitchers.

Likewise, most of the terrestrial birds that are common around the lake in summer and early fall had gone. But one interesting addition was a few Horned Larks. I could hear some of them singing snatches of melodious song and got to see one small flock of six birds foraging on the shore.

Part of a small flock of Horned Larks foraging along the shoreline, Mamit Lake, 18 October 2021.

Autumn colours around Mamit Lake, 18 October 2021.

Mamit Lake (also spelled Mammette)  is just 12 km from our home in Logan Lake town. I use a Canon 7D Mk II camera with a Canon 300 mm L series lens. I keep these in a waterproof dry bag as I paddle around in a small plastic kayak.

Here are links to my earlier postings of Mamit Lake excursions:

For August 2021 wildlife photos: Mamit Lake August 2021

For July 2021 click here: Mamit Lake July 2021

For Mamit Lake wildlife in 2020 click here:   Mamit Lake August 2020

or here Mamit Lake September 2020


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Mamit Lake Wildlife – August 2021

As August 2021 rolls in we are still dealing with nearby wildfires and near-constant smoky conditions in the Logan Lake and Nicola Valley areas. But there are some semi-clear days when it is good to be out exploring nature. Here are some more photos from Mamit Lake, just 12 km from our home, where we often go paddling in small kayaks – perfect for drifting up to birds and other wildlife for closer looks and photos.

In late summer Mamit Lake acts as a stopping place for shorebirds migrating south from their breeding grounds further north. For many species this means the high arctic tundra, so it is always a treat to see them here.

Long-billed Dowitchers are regulars at Mamit Lake in late July through September. On August 3rd there were 6 in one flock – these are some of them, still in their breeding plumage. Photo: © Alan Burger

Greater Yellowlegs are also regulars at Mamit Lake in late summer. This looks like a juvenile bird with fresh plumage. Mamit Lake, 3 August 2021. Photo: © Alan Burger

Lesser Yellowlegs can often be found alongside the Greaters. Their smaller size and shorter bills are diagnostic features, especially when they are seen close to Greaters. Mamit Lake, 3 August 2021. Photo: © Alan Burger

Our smallest sandpiper, aptly named Least Sandpiper, is easily recognized by its greenish-yellow legs. Mamit Lake, 3 August 2021. Photo: © Alan Burger

Semipalmated Sandpiper is marginally larger than Least and can be separated from that species by its thicker, straight bill, blackish legs and slightly different plumage. Mamit Lake, 3 August 2021. Photo: © Alan Burger

Here we have two peeps (small sandpipers) side-by-side: Semipalmated at the back and Least in front. Note the differences in their leg colour, beak shape and plumage. Mamit Lake, 3 August 2021. Photo: © Alan Burger

Mamit Lake is unusually full in 2021, with many lake margins covered with emergent vegetation. This has provided good feeding opportunities for Wilson’s Snipe and they are much more conspicuous than in previous years. Mamit Lake, 3 August 2021. Photo: © Alan Burger

Spotted Sandpipers breed on many of the gravel and sand beaches of Mamit Lake and by the end of July most of the chicks are flying and semi-independent. Notice that there is still a tuft of chick down on the neck of this juvenile. Mamit Lake, 3 August 2021. Photo: © Alan Burger

In late summer Mamit Lake is loaded with waterfowl – including many recently-fledged juveniles. This adult female Green-winged Teal had a brood of 5 almost-full-grown ducklings nearby. Mamit Lake, 3 August 2021. Photo: © Alan Burger

The hundreds of ducks and dozens of shorebirds on Mamit Lake have attracted an immature Peregrine Falcon. 3 August 2021. Photo: © Alan Burger

Several pairs of Bald Eagles breed around Mamit Lake. Judging by the size of this nest, it has been used by eagles for many years, with another layer of sticks added each year. Mamit Lake, 3 August 2021. Photo: © Alan Burger

These two Great Blue Herons are newly-fledged juveniles, part of a family that was flapping around Mamit Lake on 3rd August 2021. © Alan Burger

A close look at one of the juvenile Great Blue Herons. Mamit Lake, 3 August 2021. Photo: © Alan Burger

Beavers are an unusual sight on Mamit Lake. This one emerged near my kayak and immediately got my attention by slapping its tail like a gunshot. It had a water-level burrow in one of the shoreline mudbanks. Mamit Lake, 3 August 2021. Photo: © Alan Burger

There were few shorebirds on 12 August – not surprising since the air was full of smoke and there were advancing fires near Logan Lake. In fact the town was given an evacuation order later that day so we left. But here are a few photos from 12 August.

Buffleheads – some of these are nearly full-grown ducklings. Mamit Lake 12 August 2021 © Alan Burger

This newly-fledged juvenile Sora was very curious about my slowly drifting kayak. This species is normally very secretive and hard to see. Mamit Lake 12 August 2021 © Alan Burger

Killdeer breed on the shores of the lake and at times one can see over a dozen around the lake. Mamit Lake 12 August 2021 © Alan Burger

Willow Flycatchers are fairly common in the shrubs bordering the lake. This is a newly-fledged juvenile with brownish wing bars and unworn plumage. Mamit Lake 12 August 2021 © Alan Burger

This group of Mule Deer were wading along the shore. Note the bambi – this year’s fawn. Mamit Lake 12 August 2021 © Alan Burger

By 22 August the evacuation order of Logan Lake had been lifted, after fires had come very close to engulfing our town. We could once again bring our little kayaks to Mamit Lake. This time there were lots of shorebirds, with 11 species noted. Here are a few:

Greater Yellowlegs are regulars at Mamit Lake in late summer and fall – on 22 August there were 8 along the shore. © Alan Burger

Lesser Yellowlegs are also regularly found on the lake shoreline. © Alan Burger

By the end of August Least Sandpipers are generally the most common shorebird stopping at Mamit Lake. On 22 August 2021 there were at least 20 present. Note the yellowish legs which distinguish this species from other peep sandpipers. © Alan Burger

Wilson’s Snipe breed in the marshes around Mamit Lake. It is somewhat unusual to see one out in the open mudflat; they are usually among vegetation and harder to see. © Alan Burger

This Long-billed Dowitcher is a newly-fledged juvenile but has already flown hundreds of km from its arctic tundra birthplace. Mamit Lake, 22 August 2021. © Alan Burger

The first Pectoral Sandpipers appeared on 22 August at Mamit Lake. This species is identified by the speckled breast with a sharp lower margin, yellowish legs and a slightly down-curved bill. © Alan Burger

A highlight of my visit on 22 August was the sudden appearance of a huge scattered flock of over 160 Black Swifts. They were moving just ahead of a strong storm front which brought very welcome rain to our fire-ravaged area. True to their name these birds fly very fast and are hard to photograph.

Black Swifts over Mamit Lake, 22 August 2021. © Alan Burger

Part of a group of seven Great Blue Herons resting on the shore at Mamit Lake, 22 August 2021. © Alan Burger

For more photos from Mamit Lake in July 2021 click here: Mamit Lake July 2021

For more photos of Mamit Lake wildlife in 2020 click here:   Mamit Lake August 2020

or here Mamit Lake September 2020


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Cathedral Park hiking – 26-30 July 2021

It has been a rather brutal summer in the BC interior – with the phenomenal heat bubble (over 40 C in Logan Lake for 3 days in a row) and then the widespread fires and ever-present thick smoke. So we decided to head up to the high mountain country with 3 friends and booked a shuttle ride up to Cathedral Park near the U.S. border. It was smoky much of the time for the 5 days we were there, but much less than in the valleys below, so we enjoyed great camping and alpine hiking.

Camp at Quiniscoe Lake, Cathedral Park. We lucked out to get 4 adjacent campsites next to the lake so had a private, very pleasant location.

As usual for Cathedral Park, we were regularly visited by Mountain Goats. They come into the camping areas, attracted by the salt from human urine (people peeing near their tents at night). We used pee-bottles as recommended.

One of the families of Mountain Goat that came by our camp every day. This is a female with both this year’s and last year’s kids. Photo: © Alan Burger

One of the many immature Mountain Goats. It is shedding the thick winter coat giving it a ragged look. Photo: © Alan Burger

A few Mule Deer were also in the Quiniscoe Lake area. Notice the flies on the deer’s nose. This year we were plagued by mosquitoes, black-flies and no-see-ums – a product of the warm summer no doubt. Photo: © Andrea Lawrence

Yellow-pine Chipmunks were all over the camp area and beyond. This one is eating currants from the bush next to it. Chipmunks provide lots of entertainment, as long as they aren’t getting into one’s food supplies. Photo: © Alan Burger

Somewhat bigger than a chipmunk and much less common, a Cascade Golden-mantled Ground-squirrel. This species is restricted to the Cascade Mountains of B.C. and Washington. Photo: © Alan Burger

On our first full day we did the 8 km Diamond Trail loop and side trip to Scout Lake. This covers a wide range of habitats from sparse open alpine to lush meadows and forest.

Here we are in the high country, the only place with cell phone coverage, checking on the fire situation back home. All OK – nice to be reassured.

Lower down there are moist meadows with spectacular wildflowers – mostly fireweed in this photo.

Hiking through the fireweed.

A close up of fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium). Photo: © Alan Burger

Paintbrush (likely Small-flowered Paintbrush Castilleja parviflora) – one of several species of paintbrush in Cathedral Park. Photo: © Alan Burger

Along with all the flowers there were many butterflies and other insects. Here are a few.

A Freija Fritillary (Clossiana freija) – one of the more common and conspicuous butterflies we encountered. Photo: © Alan Burger

Tentatively identified as Vidler’s Alpine (Erebia vidleri). Notice that is has damaged wings – likely from a bird trying to catch it. Photo: © Alan Burger

Big, colourful and bold – a beautiful Milbert’s Tortoiseshell (Aglais milberti) nectaring on ragwort blooms. Photo: © Alan Burger

A spectacular large butterfly – the Rocky Mountain Apollo/Parnassian (Parnassius smintheus). Photo: © Alan Burger

Two moths and a fly sharing the nectar on a Subalpine Fleabane (Erigeron glacialis) flower. Photo: © Alan Burger

And, of course, we kept a close lookout for birds and mammals.

Cathedral Park supports many Spruce Grouse in the forested areas. This is a female. Photo: © Alan Burger

The harsh calls of Clark’s Nutcracker are a regular feature in the forests of the park. Photo: © Alan Burger

Columbia Ground-squirrels are common in the grassy areas – both in the valleys and in many alpine areas. Photo: © Alan Burger

A Snowshoe Hare. One can just see the huge white feet – these remain white all year whereas the rest of the bunny changes from winter white to summer brown. Photo: © Alan Burger

The next day two of us decided to take on the Lakeview Loop – down to Lakeview Creek, a long valley hike to Goat Lake, then up the steep ridge to the Boxcar, up the next long ridge to Lakeview Mountain, back down to the creek and up again to our Quiniscoe Lake camp. In total a grueling 19 km 10-hour hike with knee-grinding changes in elevation. But some spectacular scenery and interesting plants and geology.

We first descended almost 200 m in elevation to the Lakeview Creek. Then a very pleasant trail next to the creek heading up to Goat Lake. Some other hikers had spotted a moose in these willow thickets on the same day.

Along the way more Freija Fritillaries (Clossiana freija). Photo: © Alan Burger

Approaching Goat Lake one begins to get nice views of the Grimface Mountains.

A close look at the spires that make up Grimface Mountain.

Goat Lake is in a very scenic location, with an amphitheatre of high peaks forming the backdrop. A lovely spot.

After a steep climb up from Goat Lake one reaches the saddle separating the Boxcar formation from Lakeview Mountain. A great place to rest and enjoy a smoky view of the mountains to the east.

Approaching the Boxcar summit – a really interesting area with sandstone bedrock and boulders surrounded by gravelly flats. The far distant mountains to the south are in Washington State.

Lovely sandstone rock formations at the Boxcar.

One of the rare plants that thrive in the gravelly soils of the Boxcar and Lakeview Mountain is the Umbellate Pussypaws (Cistanthe umbellata). Photo: © Alan Burger

Another Umbellate Pussypaw plant in full bloom. The flowers reach about 8 cm high. Photo: © Alan Burger

Looking down from the Boxcar. Goat Lake is visible 500 m in elevation below. It takes a tough slog to reach this summit.

From the Boxcar we backtracked down to the saddle and then up the steep ridge heading to Lakeview Mountain.

Looking back at the Boxcar ridge as we climbed up the slopes of Lakeview Mountain. The saddle between these mountains was our route.

While having a well-earned rest and snack on the summit of Lakeview Mountain we were visited by this Pika – emerging from the rock crevices right at our feet. Photo: © Alan Burger

On the slopes of Lakeview Mountain there are huge areas with epiglacial stone stripes. The repeated freezing and thawing of ice over hundreds of years moves the rocks and separates larger boulders from finer gravel. Gravity then distorts these formations into stripes going downhill. Photo: © Alan Burger

The next day, despite creaking knees, I joined two of our energetic ladies for a loop around the Rim Trail – another 13 km hike with about 500 m elevation gain. But I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to find some ptarmigan in the high alpine areas.

One of six Spruce Grouse chicks that we encountered in the forest heading towards Ladyslipper Lake. Photo: © Alan Burger

Mama Spruce Grouse with one of her 6 chicks. Photo: © Alan Burger

This lovely butterfly is tentatively identified as a Zephyr Anglewing (Polygonia zephyrus). Photo: © Alan Burger

Ladyslipper Lake with Pyramid Mountain behind. This is a beautiful lake and a great place to rest on the climb up to the Rim Trail. Photo: © Alan Burger

After an hour or more of steep climbing we were once again looking down on Ladyslipper Lake as we neared the top of the Rim Trail

On the Rim Trail looking down at Ladyslipper Lake. In the smoky background is Lakeview Mountain with Lakeview Creek in the deep valley between.

Approaching the Stone City area on the Rim Trail. The scenic rounded sandstone and gravelly substrate are similar to those at the Boxcar. Photo: © Alan Burger

More rounded sandstone and gravel in the Stone City area. In the smoky distance are mountains across the border in the U.S. Photo: © Alan Burger

American Pipits are one of the few birds that breed in these high, sparsely-vegetated alpine areas. Photo: © Alan Burger

The high Rim Trail is a good place to look for White-tailed Ptarmigan. These rugged members of the grouse family are adapted to live in the high alpine and arctic areas. But they are hard to find – their summer plumage closely matches the lichen-spattered rocks and they sit tight as you walk past, reducing the chances of one noticing them.

After almost an hour of fruitless searching I finally spotted a White-tailed Ptarmigan. One can see how well camouflaged they are. I probably walked past several more without seeing them. Photo: © Alan Burger

This female White-tailed Ptarmigan did not move as I carefully approached so I suspected she might have chicks nearby. Photo: © Alan Burger

Sure enough, almost under my feet was this half-grown White-tailed Ptarmigan chick. I didn’t find any others. Photo: © Alan Burger

Lovely rock formations in the Stone City area. Photo: © Alan Burger

As one walks along the Rim Trail the bedrock abruptly changes from the pale sandstone (here in background) to black volcanic basalt. This wonderful columnar basalt feature is known as the Woodpile. Photo: © Alan Burger

Among the high alpine plants that thrive along the Rim Trail are many Lance-leafed Stonecrops (Sedum lanceolata). Photo: © Alan Burger

The tiny Alpine Lupine (Lupinus lyalli) is common in the harsh high-elevation areas of Cathedral Park. Photo: © Alan Burger

On our last night the park operator came around to tell us that the park was on evacuation alert because of a fire 10 km away. But we were leaving the next morning anyway – to return to the dark smoky lowlands and home.

Our September 2020 visit to Cathedral Park is featured here:  Cathedral Park 2020


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