Climate Change


Is Climate Change Affecting Spring Migration Areas for Birds in the Yukon Southern Lakes?

Jim Hawkings, YBC director

The Yukon climate is changing rapidly — more rapidly than in southern Canada.  Is this resulting in visible changes to important wetlands used for spring migration of waterbirds in the Yukon Southern Lakes?

Below is an aerial photo of M’Clintock Bay taken this spring (2021)

M’Clintock Bay as seen from 5,000 ft above sea level on 24 April 2021. Swan Haven is in the centre-left and the Alaska Highway can be seen at the base of the mountain in the background.

Compare this with photos taken on the same date in the earliest and latest springs since 1986:

Earliest: 2016

M’Clintock Bay as seen from 5,000 ft above sea level on 25 April 2016. Swan Haven is in the centre-left and the Alaska Highway can be seen at the base of the mountain in the background.

Latest: 2013

M’Clintock Bay as seen from 5,000 ft above sea level on 27 April 2013. Swan Haven is in the centre-left and the Alaska Highway can be seen at the base of the mountain in the background.

Update – where does 2021 fit in?

The first 11 days of April were cold with a near-record snow pack.  Then then we had 10 days of sun with above-normal temperatures.  The result was a spring melt that was somewhere in the middle of the pack but a bit later than average for both photo-survey dates.  It ranked 21 of 32 years for 24 April, and 19 of 35  years for 8 May.

Below you can judge for yourself what might be going on from a series of  aerial photographs taken around the Southern Lakes each spring since 1986.  This photo -record is a passion of mine, combining 28 years from my career at Environment Canada, from 1986-2014, and since then with the help of local pilots Gerry Whitley and David Downing and the support of LightHawk.org.  NOTE: there are no photos from 2020 due to complications from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In each case you can look at the photos arranged by year or arranged from earliest to latest spring.

(Note that these are oblique photos, some taken from different angles and elevations, so sorting them precisely by ice cover is somewhat subjective. Also note that some years are missing from some collections owing to variations in survey coverage)

Aerial photos of M’Clintock Bay (Swan Haven) taken on the same two dates (with a few exceptions….) every year:

April 24
Sorted by Year
Sorted by Earliest to latest Spring

May 8
Sorted by Year
Sorted by Earliest to latest Spring

 

Awareness, Appreciation and Conservation of Yukon Birds and their Habitats