Cabin at the Norman Wells visitor and cultural center
It was Sunday morning (Aug. 13) and I was back home in central Maine. After a week away, I was getting reacquainted with the family, the house, the yard. In the cool of early morning, a cup of tea warming my hands, I walked out into the garden. The tomatoes looked good but could probably stand to be staked as the heavy fruits were almost on the ground. A melon had finally appeared since I had left and some purple bush beans were coming in.
As I leaned over the garden, pulling an occasional weed and shaking the soil from its roots, I heard a familiar sound overhead. A low, hoarse croak. The croak of a raven. The sound of the Northwest Territories, of Yellowknife and Deline and Norman Wells. Where I live ravens are only an occasional visitor. Funny that only 24-hours after leaving the Northwest Territories I should look up to see a single black raven crossing the blue sky high above my house, its croaking calls tumbling down into my ears.
It brought me back to Norman Wells where all the street signs are in the shape of ravens. Alasdair’s tour of the town on Friday (Aug. 11) had taken us from D.O.T. lake where we scoped out a flock of scaup and Ring-necked Ducks to the Imperial Oil pumping facility and artificial islands where many of the oil rigs are located.
Imperial Oil facility at Norman Wells
We ended our tour at the impressive nonprofit visitor and cultural center before heading over to meet amateur birder Kristie for lunch. When she’s not birding, Kristie is employed with the Industry, Tourism, and Investment department of the Government of the Northwest Territories working especially to help small businesses to get a toehold in the region. We had some interesting discussions about the potential for ecotourism in the region, what it’s like when you only have a few hours of daylight in which to complete your Christmas Bird Count, and the beauty of the northern lights in January.
We had a 3:00 flight back to Yellowknife but before we left, Scott and I made one last trip back to the wildlife offices to drop off another nocturnal migration monitoring microphone and see a few more GIS maps of the region.
Scott found this dragonfly down the street from the hotel in Yellowknife on our last night.
Our final evening together was spent swapping stories and impressions of the trip on the deck of the Oldtown Landing restaurant in Yellowknife overlooking Great Slave Lake. Before the food arrived we compiled the checklist of birds we had seen on the tripâ€”a total of 80 species, 44 of which are species in which an estimated 50% or more of their total population breeds within the Boreal region. Later, while Scott was regaling us with tales of run-ins with police while tracking owls with radar in Pennsylvania, a Bald Eagle wheeled down and landed on the waterfront perhaps a hundred yards away. When Pete and Linda were talking about their recent kayaking trip in Alaska, a flock of Common Terns passed overhead. And as Mel recounted the difficulties of explaining what a trumpet mouthpiece was to airport security back in his trumpet-playing days, over his shoulder I could see a single black raven over the rocky horizon.