Recently my husband and I traveled the Alaska Highway – after a short stay in the Klamath Falls, Oregon area, we headed north. We took the Cassiar Highway – western BC Canada, as I think it is more scenic. Also, there seems to be a greater chance of seeing black bears along the highway, and we weren’t disappointed.
We spent several days in the Klamath Falls area visiting Jack’s sister. She lives near Keno Park, owned and operated by Pacific Power and Light. They have a nice campground there with excellent birding. We didn’t camp at the park, but we did bird it – finding over 27 species in a short two hour visit. As we were walking to the park on a road through the Ponderosa Pines (my favorite conifer species), I told Jack I really wanted to see a Pileated Woodpecker. Within 5 seconds (yes seconds) I saw a woodpecker fly by and land. Sure enough it was a Pileated Woodpecker. What a fabulous bird. So big, with its bright red head. I must admit, however, that I was surprised at the lack of warblers and sparrows we’ve seen at this location in the past. Where were they?
At Jack’s sister’s house we were delighted by the appearance of a kit fox. This is a “life” mammal for me, and one I’ve been hoping to see for some time. The photo I got isn’t the best, but this little guy wasn’t going to stick around for me to get any decent shots.
The trip across Canada and on to Homer took us 6 days, averaging about 500 miles per day. We actually could have made the trip (Klamath Falls to Homer) in about 5.5 days, but one must stop in Anchorage to shop for those items that can’t be found in Homer or are there, but at a higher cost. Is Anchorage “local” enough? Probably not.
The first day we traveled from Klamath Falls to Bay View State Park near Burlington, Washington. This state park is located adjacent to Padilla Bay, and is a favorite birding area. Since we were in a hurry to get home, we didn’t spend any time birding the area – only at our campground site.
Day two took us from Bay View State Park to Riverside Park and Campground, located within the community of Vanderhoof, British Columbia. This was nice community campground, and not too busy.
Day three look us from Vanderhoof to the Dease Tanzilla Campground located along the Cassiar Highway. We saw a fair number of wildlife sightings along the way, including at least six black bears, two moose, and a Red Fox walking along the highway.
Day four we traveled from the Dease Tanzilla Campground to the Congdon Campground along Kluane Lake. This was probably the best campground we stayed at on this trip. The campground has two loops – one along the lake, and a forested interior loop. We stayed in the interior loop. The site was a pull-through, and had good separation from neighboring sites, not that we had any neighbors. Only one other person stayed in the forested loop, and not all the lakeside campground sites were filled. So where is everyone staying? Of course we really didn’t see a lot of campers traveling the highway – north or southbound. This was surprising. With the price of cheap gas (in the U.S.A, anyway – no bargains in Canada), I would have thought there would be more campers.
We left Congdon campground and slowly (construction delays) made our way into Alaska. We stopped at the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge ( coffee for Jack) and at Fast Eddy’s in Tok for lunch. From Toke we headed towards Anchorage, hoping we could get at least as far as the Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site.
There are seven species of bats known to occur in Alaska: Little Brown Bat, Keen’s Myotis, California Myotis,Long-legged Myotis, Silver-haired Bat, Hoary Bat, and Yuma Myotis. I have never seen a bat in Alaska. Have you? For more information on bats in Alaska, check out: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=citizenscience.batsinak
Along the highway between Tok and Glennallen, we spotted two moose in a pond feeding. This is the typical scene everyone wants to encounter. So we stopped and I started photographing the moose. I swear that one moose kept its head below water for a good 5 minutes. Also at this pond/wetland, were two Trumpeter Swans, two Bald Eagles (who I suspect were waiting for the swan eggs to hatch so they could snatch the young cygnets), and a single female mallard (her young were probably already snatched by the eagles). But the highlight were the two moose calves standing in much shallower water and grasses, feeding and trying to hide out. So cute.
There is a large wetland complex along the Tok Cutoff road where we always stop. There is always some bird life on or near the wetlands. Plus, this one of my favorite sections of the drive between Tok and Glennallen. So beautiful!
We, and one other camper, stayed the night at the Matanuska Glacier SRS campground. I was surprised at how few people there were in the campground – granted the campground only has about 10-12 sites.
The final day of our journey had us heading into Anchorage with stops at various stores to stock up on food and other items we need (or think we need). Then the final push to Homer, with stops at Tern Lake (always) and Soldotna (for gas). We arrived in Homer around 5:00 pm, picked up our dog Joey who was staying with friends, and happily headed home.
Despite our “rush” to get home, I did get some time to bird and enjoy the wildlife along the highways – Black bears, Moose, Red Fox, Spruce Bunnies (known officially as Snowshoe Hares).
Once home we were treated to the site of a male Pine Grosbeak searching for any leftover seed from this past winter, as well as feasting on the dead dandelions (hey, maybe they are good for something). We rarely see Pine Grosbeaks at our house in the summer, so this sighting was a treat.
Whether you bird from your house, car, or by being in the great outdoors …. IT IS ALWAYS A GREAT DAY TO BIRD.