Young Birder Trip to Whistler

Yesterday, 9 of us went to Whistler via the "Epic Rides Shuttle." We took the peak express all the way to the summit at the "Top of the World" and hiked the High Note Trail. We were hoping for White-tailed Ptarmigan but we never saw one. We are all quite used to it now, it's our Golden Goose so to speak. One day we know we will just trip over one....

Our hike was beautiful and eventful, especially when we sat down for a break and my camera bag went barrelling down the hill like a bowling ball. It was just gone at rocket speed. I expected my thousands of dollars of camera gear, wallet full of money and visa and debit cards, driver's license and phone were gone for good. I mean I saw it fly off a cliff and bounce down a rocky hill at lightening speed. I saw Hoary Marmots scatter and scream in every direction as the blue bag came careening at them full throttle. If it wasn't full of expensive gear the scene may have been comical.

Other hikers saw this bag go flying down the mountain and thought a human was falling down with it, what a gong show...

Anyways the bag was ultimately retrieved by my amazing Young Birders and they found everything except for my water bottle. We had to call my phone to find it in a stream strewn far from the bag. The bag was zipped up and closed when it went down the mountain but when it landed it was open and my camera and lens and teleconverter, keys, money, cards were all 3 feet from the bag. Surprisingly it wasn't in pieces?

Thanks Kids for helping me yesterday, man that was crazy. My camera appears to be working fine and so is everything else but the expensive lens needs repair but at least it won't be as expensive as buying a new one.

Getting back to the trip.... we did not see a Ptarmigan but we weren't surprised. The mountain had hardly anyone on it for once, so we thought we may actually have a shot this time... but no haha!

We saw over 15 Hoary Marmots though as many had young. We also saw many American Pikas. The Pikas were out alarming and we ended up seeing 3 of them. I finally got a shot of one too. These animals are related to Rabbits and are part of the lagomorph family some people call them "Whistling Hares." We saw 2 Black Bears as well.

Birdwise the highlights were: Horned Lark, Sooty Grouse, Clark's Nutcracker, Townsend's Solitaire, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Pipits, Rufous Hummingbird, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Dark-eyed Junco, Common Raven, Pine Siskins, Steller's Jay and Golden-crowned Kinglets.

Our hike was 8.3km long on the High Note Trail. It was a beautiful hike, it seemed as if we were walking on the moon. We could see the spectacular "Black Tusk" mountain across from us in Garibaldi Provincial Park. We went through prime White-tailed Ptarmigan habitat too.

Great day and great people.

I heard this quote below yesterday and it really reinforced my beliefs that when kids are connected to nature, the world ian a better place.

"If a child never sees the stars, never has meaningful encounters with other species, never experiences the richness of nature, what happens to that child?"
-Richard Louv

I will see you all on the last trip of the year at the Sooke Hawk Watch with co-leader Guy Monty on Sunday, September 24th. This trip is FULL for those coming from Vancouver but still open to those coming from Vancouver Island.

Young Birders at the summit of Whistler - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Some of the Hoary Marmots we saw at Whistler - Photos: Melissa Hafting
American Pika on High Note Trail in Whistler, BC - Photo: Melissa Hafting


  1. Great shots Mel!! That was a awesome trip, it was great fun exploring whistler mountain, especially for me as I had never been to whistler before! Highlights for me were Horned Lark, and seeing hoary marmots so close, I had no idea they were so big! Thanks so much for organizing this great trip!!

  2. I enjoyed reading about your trip. I have the same results when looking for ptarmigan. Haven't looked this year. I am amazed that your camera and lens survived but happy to hear that they did. Wow, watching your camera bag and gear rolling down the mountainside must have been traumatic. Love your pika and marmot photos. Does your phone work?

    I had a water bottle fall out of my pack on the last day of an overnight backpack trip and roll down the rocks and over a cliff and of course break into a million pieces. No water to drink on the 8 miles hike out to the trailhead. Years ago I laid a 35mm film camera on a flat rock at a lake and bumped it. It ended up in the water. Back then of course there were very few electronics in cameras. I took the camera apart when I returned home and let it dry. It lived to work again. Even the lens.

    Be careful out there.

    1. Hahah thanks jim I've seen Ptarmigan but always without the kids actually I saw one with one of the young birders but I want to see the white-tailed Ptarmigan all together there is always next year! Lol yes it was extremely traumatic watching all your money go down the hill I'm just thankful it wasn't one of isn instead! Luckily camera is ok just need to fix the lens waiting to see how that will cost in the meantime gotta rent lenses when I need it. Yes the phone works its in an "otter box" and that thing has survived several falls, and a week out in the rain and an hour in a washing machine it's indestructible! Haha

  3. Great pictures sounds like a good trip!

    1. Thanks apart from the bag going over the cliff with my camera gear it sure was lol

  4. Most welcome thanks for coming it was fun!!

  5. It is a trip that none of you will forget for a long time! I know that sinking feeling as it was the reason my d500 is in the shop, On the positive note, it was minimum damage given the situation and great that you have the kids with you! Regardless, it sounds like an awesome trip.

    1. For sure that sinking feeling is not fun but you are right it could always be worse and we won't ever forget the years we have shared together on the young birder trips. Those kids have enriched my life tenfold.

  6. Ouuuch my heart was hurting when I read about your cam... Thank God everything is ok! Thanks to our horoscope we visited Austria last year. There are tons of marmots too, and there pretty cute and not shy at all. And we saw spectacular chamois fights in the mountains! The american Pika looks pretty cute as well, I haven't ever seen one!

    1. I've been to Austria anfew times it's a stunning country. Glad you had a great time especially seeing the marmots and chamois hope you see the pikas soon


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