Thursday, May 17, 2012

Lillooet - Squamish

Curious Hoary Marmot
With the rain still hammering down there was no chance of any birding yesterday evening and in fact for the first time since arriving we were confined to quarters. However, this being Canada where you can enjoy the four seasons in one day, I wasn’t surprised to wake this morning to beautiful blue sky.

My morning walk around the campground and along the Fraser River was bracing, with the sun not yet clearing the high mountain tops and a chilly northerly blowing it was bitterly cold. The first wildlife of the day was a Hoary Marmot sentry, one of the group assigned to watch the ground and sky for predators, and then let out the shrill piercing call of impending danger, which this one did! After the initial alert, the Marmots curiosity generally takes over and we both sat and watched each other for a short while before I moved on, really fascinating animals.

Friendly Gray Jay!
The usual Spotted Sandpiper, they seem to be everywhere, was feeding along the extremely fast running Fraser. An Osprey then flew by, large fish in talons, landing on the old suspension bridge further down where it was nesting. Spotted Towhee, Wilson’s Warbler, another bird that seems to be everywhere, Bald Eagle, Golden-crown Kinglet, Rufous Hummingbird, House Wren and Yellow-rumped Warbler were all recorded. Dee once again came up trumps, as she often does, when she located our first MacGillivray’s Warbler for Canada just prior to leaving the campground.

Our drive today takes us to our final campground, where we’ll spend our last two nights of this tour before heading into Vancouver and our flight home Saturday evening. The route as you head from the dizzy heights of Lillooet takes you south along highway 99 and has some of the most breathtaking scenery of the whole tour. In fact, some of the gradients heading down are so steep we stopped on two occasions to let the brakes cool down, smoke bellowing from the rear discs!

Golden-crowned Sparrow
The journey down offers some great stop offs to explore and one, Lillooet Lake produced two Trumpeter Swans, also of note during the drive: Gray Jay, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Western Meadowlark, Western Tanager, Say’s Phoebe, Varied Thrush, and Pileated Woodpecker. We stopped for lunch at Pemberton overlooking one of the locally managed lakes and here we sat out watching Osprey, Otter and a family of ‘real’ Canada Geese. Once again I missed out on the opportunity of taking a shot of Anise Swallowtail Butterfly, my nemesis of this tour!

Having done the sightseeing of what is Whistler Mountain, home of the 2010 Winter Olympics on our previous tour, we continued on past to Squamish and The Paradise Valley Campground. This is a stunning place set in complete cover of Pine, Birch and Maple and offers several trails, some of which run alongside the Cheakamus River and Canadian Pacific Railroad. The Cheakamus is better known for its wintering Bald Eagles who feed off the Salmon carcases post spawning and can contain over 2000 birds some years.

Red-Breasted Sapsucker (Record Shot)
After setting up camp Dee and I enjoyed a walk through several of the trails and at one stage came across a nesting Common Merganser, which we left in peace. The usual Spotted Sandpipers were around, a Turkey Vulture came floating through and before arrived back at the RV we’d also noted Red-Breasted Sapsucker and Hammond’s Flycatcher.

Squamish Estuary (Friday) and Maplewood Bird Sanctuary (Saturday) before sadly heading off back to the UK on Saturday evening, so its likely my next two posts will be slightly late and probably written when back in the UK!