Our time in Clearwater, British Columbia, is rapidly drawing to a close and by the end of May we will be heading towards the Canadian Arctic.

During our 23 months on the edge of the wilderness we have experienced a wealth of wildlife and botanical experiences.  The discovery of a Common Garter Snake hibernaculum at the edge of the North Thompson River just below the hospital was one of them. This year the snakes started to emerge in late April but at the moment just a few can be found, some sloughing, others having completed the skin shedding. The main emergence should get into full swing within the next few days.

The presence of Black Bears in and around the town adds an element of excitement, especially now that the winter hibernation is behind them. Sadly, one has already been shot having broken into a park home, and several more will likely suffer the same fate. Although some are shot by sport hunters in the surrounding forests, those shot in Clearwater (6 last year) are referred to as “nuisance” bears.  Despite much publicity some folk continue to put rubbish out overnight and this attracts the bears.  Bears are large and potentially dangerous but with a bit of thought and planning from the human side they would not become “nuisance” bears and all would live together without conflict.

About a week ago, walking the 5km from hospital to home, Wolves were howling high on the hill slopes to the south of Clearwater, to be instantly drowned out by the answering calls of seemingly a 100+ village dogs.  Mule Deer tracks can be found along the verges of virtually every road in the settlement, winter and summer. They enter gardens, to the consternation of those attempting to grow roses and vegetables, with near impunity. 

With Dutch Lake at the heart of the settlement many Muskrats call it home. Many species of waterfowl stop over at the lake in spring as they head north and southwards in late autumn before the lake freezes over. Summer breeding residents include a pair of Common Loons and mergansers, the former very trusting, approaching anglers in the hope of free handouts. Some fishermen oblige!

Although many species of bird desert the area in late autumn and through winter for warmer climes to the south, the woodpeckers remain.  They range from the crow-sized Pileated Woodpecker, the medium-sized Northern Flicker, and the smaller Downy and Hairy woodpeckers. Most of these have now moved to the higher lying forests but the Northern Flickers have paired off and several remain in the valley to breed.  Woodpeckers include beak drumming in their calling and two male Northern Flickers that we know of have learned that they get the best sound result from hammering on the metal cylinders atop several of the utility poles!  Evolution in action……..

The list of sightings around Clearwater during our time here have been many, American Dippers walking on streambeds, flighting of Belted Kingfishers, return of the Bank Swallows to the sand cliffs above the North Thompson, Tree Swallows seeking out suitable nesting crevices, or more commonly nest boxes put out by welcoming townsfolk.  In spring the waves of migrants, first the Redpolls, followed by the Dark-eyed Juncos and White-crowned Sparrows.  Then the Calliope and Rufous Hummingbirds seeking out the artificial nectar feeders.

We have one of these feeders on our verandah / stoep and we have spent much time watching these minute and colourful birds battling for dominance at the artificial yellow flowers. It is one of the wonders of nature that these flying gems migrate over thousands of kilometres each year.

We will not miss the changing face of Clearwater- forest clearing for new supermarkets, building of a roundabout on the highway that few locals want or need, the growing lorry traffic heading to and from the expanding gas and oil fields of northern BC and Alberta, but we will miss the wild denizens of this interesting part of the world.