Yukon Nuggets

1966 Yukon Nuggets

First Day of Spring


It’s spring. New life begins popping up everywhere. Goodbye darkness – hello sunshine. And welcome back to the feathered harbingers of spring - the robin.

In the Yukon, these birds usually begin to arrive in early April, and leave in September. But in the fall, there are always stragglers. Back in 1966, a Yukon robin made international headlines as a straggler and what a story the bird had to tell.

On November 10th 1966, Bill Drury was looking out his living room window and spotted a robin munching berries from a mountain ash bush. Now Bill had lived in the Yukon long enough to know that this guy had better get mobile and head south in a hurry.

As the days dwindled down, the robin Bill was now calling Rupert, was still flitting around the yard. Within a week, the temperature had dipped to -17°F with a bitter wind chill.

Rupert’s days were numbered. But not if Bill Drury had anything to say about it. First he snared Rupert in his hat, brought him inside to thaw out, fed him melted snow in a tablespoon and cranberries impaled on broom straws. But now what?

Bill phoned the local wildlife office. No way Rupert would survive the winter, he was told.

So Bill phoned the local agent for Canadian Pacific Airlines. Highly unusual he was told, but maybe something could be arranged. By now, Rupert was comfortably living in a budgie bird cage. Next day he was booked on CPA flight 22 to Vancouver.

Bill Drury delivered Rupert in his cage to stewardesses Virginia Marshall and Autumn Bell, who would take him on this unusual migration. Bill also brought along a handful of cranberries to tide Rupert over during the seven-hour flight.

In Vancouver, Rupert the Robin was met at the airport by Bill Bell, chief inspector for the SPCA. He spent the night at Bell’s home, where he dined on some mountain ash berries picked from a bush on the nearby street.

On November 20, 1966, Rupert the wayward Yukon robin was released into Stanley Park. Zoo curator Alan Best said he should do very well because the mountain ash bushes in Vancouver were filled with his favourite berry.

A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.

Les McLaughlin

Les McLaughlin

As storyteller, radio man, and music producer, Les proved a passionate preserver of Yukon heritage throughout his life — nowhere more evident than as the author and voice of CKRW’s “Yukon Nuggets,” from its inception until his passing in 2011.