Last month, I enjoyed a wonderful 10-day trip to the Northwest Territories (NWT) with 4-H, and even got to do some birding. I hope you don’t mind a little bit of a 4-H detour before I get to the birds I saw!
Back in May, I headed down to Olds, Alberta, to participate in my first 4-H Selections. Selections is a program for senior Alberta 4-H members, from 16 to 20 years old. It’s a little like camp but more about personal development. At Selections this year, there were 103 members at Selections this year who had applied and been chosen for the program.
At Selections, members are scored on their 4-H Diary (members fill out a dairy each year to keep track of their 4-H career, because for every event you attend you receive points — and the more points you have, the higher you rank at Selections). During the program, members are also judged by the group facilitators and peers, and their knowledge of 4-H is tested with a quiz. Everything combined creates a ranking for the program.
At Selections, members are also awarded a variety of trips — for example, to Ottawa, California, Washington, DC, and the Northwest Territories. All of the trips are in conjunction with a 4-H event except for the Northwest Territories trip, which is a camping and agricultural tour. At the beginning of the program, each member ranks the trips in order of personal preference. I put down the 10-day Northwest Territories camping trip as my first choice as I’d never been before, camping is right up my alley, and it was a good time during my summer job to go.
At the awards ceremony, the NWT trip was the last to be awarded and I was over the moon to get a spot with 21 other members.
I highly recommend attending Selections to any 4-H members, as you meet some wonderful new friends and might even get an award or two out of the program.
In mid-August, my parents drove me to Edmonton, where the 4-H members and our chaperones boarded a bus and started the drive north to our destination — Yellowknife, NWT. We camped at each stop — Queen Elizabeth Campground, Hay River Territorial Park, Fred Henne Territorial Park, Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park, Last Lake Guest House (absolutely charming!), Tangent Park Campground, and the Carson-Pegasus Campground.
We stopped at Hutch Lake, Alberta on our second day for our lunch break. The lake was beautiful and very clear. The Mallards were certainly enjoying it,
A view of Hutch Lake,
We made it!
Common Ravens are very common in the NWT. I saw them everywhere and because they are important to the First Nations culture, they are very popular in the local art,
On the trip we stopped at a number of waterfalls, one of my favourite parts of the trip. This one is Alexandra Falls,
In Yellowknife, we camped at the Fred Henne Territorial Campground. It’s a very nice campground and the views from the Prospector Trail are beautiful.
A view of Great Slave Lake from the trail,
The Fred Henne campground was very good for birding. I added Common Loon, Pine Siskin, and Belted Kingfishers to my Year List and three species — Hudsonian Godwit and Gray Jay — to my Life List. Unfortunately, I was the only birder on the trip.
The Gray Jays were very inquisitive and came close to our campsite,
This Herring Gull was sitting on rocks along the shore of the Great Slave Lake in Yellowknife,
I’ve seen the Northern Lights before at home, but their vibrancy was nothing like what we saw in the NWT. The Northern Lights are famous for “dancing” in the sky and we certainly saw them do so,
In Yellowknife, we walked around Old Town and did some shopping and sightseeing. On one of the large rock formations, you can see the Common Raven design,
We said goodbye to the city by taking a photo in front of the Yellowknife sign,
We were all sleeping on the bus when we could feel our bus driver slam on the brakes. Looking out the window, we could see a mother Black Bear and her cub — everyone was wide awake at this point and trying to get photos of the two before they disappeared in the trees,Another roadside mammal we saw from the bus was a bull Woods Bison, grazing in the ditch,
We saw this sign about the bison earlier on the trip,
The waterfalls seemed to be situated perfectly for bathroom breaks! We got out of the bus and walked down the trail to view Lady Evelyn Falls.
If you look closely at the middle of the photo, right above the water, you can see two Red-breasted Mergansers flying — another species for my Year List.
The last falls we visited were Louise Falls,
On the way back to Edmonton, we toured historic Dunvegan, near Fairview, Alberta. The Dunvegan area was first occupied by the Beaver First Nations people. European explorers arrived in the late 18th century and Fort Dunvegan, named after Dunvegan Castle in Scotland, was established in 1805 by the North West Company.
The Peace River,
We spent our last full day heading to the Carson-Pegasus Campground near Whitecourt, Alberta. When walking around the campground, I saw over 30 Common Loons on the lake. You can view my eBird checklist from the campground here.
Sunset over the lake at Carson-Pegasus,
I had a wonderful time on my trip and was sad to say goodbye to friends, new and old, and some new favourite places.
Excellent story and photos. At about the same time as your trip my wife and I took our annual fly-in fishing trip to an area not far from there. We were at Ryan Lake 50 kms north of Fort Chipewyan and I posted this story yesterday.
Its more of a fishing story but we did also see some wonderful birds and wildlife up there as usual. It is a beautiful part of the world to visit and is vastly underappreciated.
I’m glad you enjoyed your trip and once again your story is wonderfully written and the pictures are great.
It looks like you had a wonderful trip! I love your Common Loon photo. Thanks for sharing, George.
The borealis looks so cool :) I’m totally jealous
I want to return in the winter as that’s when they are at their best!
Looking forward to the pics
Great photos and a good write-up!
Thank you, Wayne!
A fabulous post. A minor complaint – you should post more often!
Thanks, Dan! As for not posting more, I’m working on it :)
Perfecto, should have done some butterflying too!!
I was looking for butterflies, but I didn’t see any.