We began our first full day in the Yukon by heading down the road to the Albert Creek bird observatory. Here we met banders Yukka Yuttanen and Ted Murphy-Kelly already hard at work. Both provided us with a wealth of info on where to look for birds in the area. We were really impressed by the activity in the Albert Creek area. It was alive with songbirds. Everywhere we pished there were mobs of ORANGE-CROWNED, YELLOW-RUMPED AND WILSON'S WARBLERS and a smattering of scarcer species like TOWNSEND'S, REDSTART, BLACKPOLL, MAGNOLIA and others. Everywhere we looked there were mobs of birds. To me it seemed like a Pelee of the far north! Below is a photo of Yukka holding a recently captured and banded SOLITARY SANDPIPER.
Both Yukka and Ted suggested we head to nearby Watson Lake airport where several good birds had turned up. The inclement late spring weather had caused a grounding of longspurs and among the hundreds of Laplands were a few Smith's seen the previous day. After a hearty breakfast at Kathy\s Cafe we were off to the airport. Right away we picked up a small group of AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVERS which were running around on the overgrown grass south of the main airport buildings.
It was fantastic to see many breeding plumage LAPLAND LONGSPURS in almost all the open areas around town. Below is one male that we managed to approach within about ten feet.
Our first attempt at finding SMITH'S LONGSPURS was unsuccessful but on our return sweep we happened upon two male and one female. This truly is a stunning bird. We were able to walk up to within eight feet of the male SMITHS LONGSPUR below.
Sometimes it is better to be lucky than to be good. I was snapping a series of the male SMITHS when it suddenly took flight as I was still snapping away. The photo below shows the striking white wing patches that SMITHS show in flight.