Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Lillooet Kaoham Train Shuttle to Seaton Portage Sept. 9-17 2016

This blog deviates from my normal blog as it doesn't contain many pictures of wildlife.  Instead I am utilizing it to vent my frustration with the tourist train in Lillooet.  It is described as "one of the most scenic rail trips in the world, along the shore of Seton Lake, surrounded by high mountains and near vertical cliffs. The 2 car Kaoham Shuttle train runs daily between Lillooet and Seton Portage."  However the train is mostly for locals but Fridays, tourists may purchase a round trip ticket for $10.
We began our trip with friends Art and Marlene. We initially decided to camp on Kootenay Lake.  Our first stop was Kekuli Campsite in Vernon where the California Quail were abundant.

Here is our camp at Davis Creek Campground on Kootenay Lake.  This is one of the most scenic campgrounds we have experienced.

It was here we discussed the Lillooet train ride.  We headed to Kaslo where a nice lady at the information centre searched her computer and found all the information we needed.

On Tuesday I phoned the number she provided and left a message with the Kaoham answering machine.  I explained we wanted 4 round trips for the coming Friday and left our names.

The next day (Wednesday) we had a message from a lady saying we were all confirmed for that Friday.  We  broke camp and took the 2 day trip to Lillooet.  We arrived in Lillooet on Thursday and took a trip around town.  We saw one of our neighbours from home, walking down the street with his wife, and told him about our pending trip. He said he would like to join us so he made a reservation too.

Here we are early Friday morning, waiting for the train to arrive.

And here is what we were waiting for.  The little puffer belly pulling in from its trip to Seaton Portage.  We waited in a nervous anticipation as the representative  opened a file and started calling off names and collecting fees.  Imagine our disappointment when our names weren't called.  We asked the representative why we weren't called and she replied if we weren't on the list we weren't getting on the train.  We wanted to play back her message on the phone that confirmed our reservation but she told us the train wasn't for us anyway but only the locals.  Then she threw up her arms and said she had to go because she had a "medical emergency".  The train left without us.  We then noticed a couple of other parties that had reservations and didn't get on.

The train returned that afternoon and we were there to meet it.  We again asked the rep to listen to her message and she reluctantly consented.  When she realized she had made a mistake she checked her file and discovered she had mistakingly put us down for the week after.  Instead of apologizing she rushed off and jumped into a waiting car and said again, "I have to go. I have a 'medical emergency'".  

This is a map of the total distance of our trip.  Notice the distance between Kaslo and Lillooet.
This is Seaton Lake that the train traverses.  In conclusion I would suggest if one intends to take this trip you must realize it is a hit and miss operation (to put it mildly).  You may have a great experience or a great disappointment depending on the whims of the operators.  At least don't take a 600 kilometre side trip to get there, like we did.  To add insult to injury, our neighbours, who reserved 2 days after us, took the trip and throughly enjoyed it.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

July 2016-Grizzlies, Lava Flow, Hyder AK, Stewart, Garter Snakes, Green Heron, Black Bear, Steve Wolfe, Nass Valley

This blog includes a few pictures I took locally and some from a trip we took to the north west coast of British Columbia.  I have included an incredible chance encounter at the end of the blog. 
I found a young Barn Swallow alone on a bridge.  Anticipating the return of an adult to feed it I set up my camera's speed, iso, focus and waited.  It wasn't long before an adult appeared and I got this picture.  Apparently I did everything but  set the depth of field.
The Goodyear Blimp visited Abbotsford on its last tour before being replaced by a Zeplin next year.

Wilband Ponds have a den of Garter Snakes which appear in the morning to warm up before venturing out.  This snake appears to have 3 heads.  I have counted over 20 at one time.  I contacted the city and they are investigating protecting the site.  

The large size of this snail attracted me to it.  I learned later it is a Pacific Sideband Snail and is BC's largest land snail.
A Green Heron has been fishing at a small beaver dam at Wilband Ponds for a few months now.  Taken in sunlight.
Taken in the shade.
Towards the end of the month Dian and I packed up the trailer and headed to Stewart, BC.  
At Stewart we cross the border into Hyder, Alaska.  A viewing platform there allows one to see spawning salmon and the animals they attract.  
There are always 3 or 4 rangers here to keep the public safe and answer questions. They have 2 way radios and inform each other, and the public, when a bear approaches.
The boardwalk is deceptively high off the ground.
This is the main attraction.  The venue allows one to get within meters of the Grizzlies.
This one is called "Dogface" because he is so scarred up.  Here he strips the fat rich skin of a Chum Salmon.  Dogface is about 15 years old.  The rangers told us he will be immense in a few months and he will have replaced all that shaggy fur with a new coat.
A Varied Thrush was scavenging along the banks. 
Sometimes we had to wait hours for a bear to show up.  This otter helped kill the time.
This Grizzly only showed up for a brief appearance.  Luckily it offered some nice poses.  I may have cropped this a little too tight.
Perhaps it didn't stay around for very long because it was afraid Dogface may show up.  It is eating a leftover salmon that Dogface caught and partially ate.
A White-throated Sparrow showed up somewhere at one of our campsites.
Mew Gulls were common on the stream.
Our next stop was Lava Bed Provincial Park. 
This park is on Nisga Land.  This tribe has negotiated with the province to have all taxes paid by the local citizens go the members of the band instead of the government.  
An immense lava flow occurred here 300 years ago.  It killed over 2000 residents of the valley.
The lava blocked the flow of a stream and it formed this lake.  Hence the name Lava Lake.
This hawk made me bang the brakes.  After observing a few diagnostic traits we determined it to be a leucistic Red-tail Hawk or a pale Harlans Red-tail. The tail was white also.   Unfortunately it wouldn't let us approach for better shots.
An American Redstart was starting to look a little shabby as it moults into its winter feathers.
We saw a few Black Bears but this one gave the best photo opportunities.

A few raindrops enhanced the scene.
About 10 years ago I joined a social media group to share photos.  One photographer impressed me enough to befriend him on Facebook.  His name was Steve Wolfe and he lived in Los Angeles.  Two years ago we visited Portal Arizona for the 3rd time.  There is a road sign there that I always found interesting.  It was indicating a house down the road called Faranuf.  A year ago I was reading Steve's Facebook page when I saw he had purchased that house.  What a coincidence.  Well, on our way back from our recent trip we camped at Beaumont Provincial Park, close to Vanderhoof. Dian and I went for a walk before supper and saw a truck and trailer slowly approaching us.  It had a vanity license plate on the front that read Faranuf. The window was rolled down and the driver was going to ask if we had seen any birds, but before he could I said "Do you live in Portal, Arizona?" Yep, it was Steve.  There are millions of people and destinations in North America.  What are the chances of meeting someone cold like that?  We had a great visit after supper when Steve said he was on his way to Alaska and wouldn't be home until November.  To make it a little more unbelievable, Arizona only issues 1 vanity plate to be installed on the rear of the vehicle but they had mistakingly sent him 2 so he also put one on the front.  Without that plate we would have been  strangers passing in the milieu of life.  

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Sunday, June 26, 2016

June 20-24, 2016-Lillooet, Diamonds Ranch, Fountain Lake, Bobolink, Veery, Macgillivray's Warbler

At the beginning of June we visited BC Hydro's Seton Campground close to Lillooet.  We liked the location and the fact it was free camping.  So we headed out there again for 5 days.  The following maps show 2 areas we visited.
The point on the map indicates the Diamond Ranch between Pavillion and Clinton.  This back road is very picturesque and birdy.  I wish we would have gone all the way to Clinton but rain showers were hindering our explorations.

High in the hills above Lillooet are a couple of nice lakes that we hiked around.  One was Fountain Lake.

This Robin was collecting bugs on the shore of Fountain Lake.

We were excited to find a Bobolink on the Diamond Ranch.  Unfortunately it was raining at the time.  This restricted our exploration of the area.  This area is 1500 meters above sea level and is a vast grassland between Pavillion and Clinton.  The good variety of birds we found there was unexpected.
Ian Routley from Lillooet went up to find the Bobolink on June 30 2016.  He reported back that he found it and 1 other male and 1 female.  They were carrying insects.  This may be the first breeding evidence recorded for this area.  
Okay butterfly guys-Fritillary?  Thanks to Tim Allison of Calgary for identifying it as a Field Crescent.

I posted a picture of this Gray Catbird on the blog  from our previous trip.  He popped up again and ate a few Red Osier Dogwood berries.

Dian heard something and after a little searching we found a Macgillivray's Warbler at Fountain Lake.

Many of the birds we saw were in feeding mode.
Lillooet has a vast area covered with spawning salmon channels.  This buck Mule Deer was cooling off in them. 
A doe Mule Deer was in camp.
Song Sparrow at Fountain Lake collecting insect specimens.
Spotted Sandpiper at Fountain Lake. 
This Spotted Sandpiper at Fountain Lake had 4 other little ones.

We heard Veerys but it wasn't until the last day that we finally saw one at our campsite.
We have come to the conclusion that Veerys are difficult to photograph as they are skittish and stay in dark undergrowth.  Veerys sing at sundown and this was evident at the campsite.  We heard them every evening so we knew they were there but we couldn't find any. This one finally appeared the morning before we left.
The wind blew the feathers of this Vesper Sparrow to reveal the chestnut patch.  At Diamond Ranch.
Warbling Vireo at Fountain Lake

Western Meadowlark Diamond's Ranch
We spotted some people in a field on a drive to Goldbridge.  So we stopped and saw this sign.

It was a group of archeologists excavating  an ancient native village.  We will have to take the tour the next time we visit.

We thought we would visit Lillooet again and see what we missed the first visit but we just found more things to see and do.  One of the things is to drive the whole route from Pavillion to Clinton.  That is my kind of country.

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