October 18 – Engrossed in Pine Grosbeaks

As I posted yesterday on Facebook, our first two Pine Grosbeaks of the fall were at our feeders the evening of October 16th. Yesterday, a day that began at 19 degrees in our yard, there were more – one female and three males at one time, and at other times there were 1-2 males, possibly the same ones. Some winters we have very few, but a couple of winters ago we had up to 15 Pine Grosbeaks regularly coming to our feeders. I hope very much that this is another such winter, but we shall see. They are just so beautiful, with such distinctive warbley-whistle calls and songs, and they definitely brighten up a cold, mostly dark winter day!

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October 16 – Hint of Winter, Potter Marsh

This morning our thermometer showed it to be 20 degrees at our house. As has been the case for the last few days, the skies were mostly clear and there was a thin layer of frost on everything. Out at Potter Marsh, the water was starting to freeze over (see line across water below).


From the boardwalk, I could see small group of dozing Green-winged Teal and a Mallard in one of the open water areas, and Common Ravens and Black-billed Magpies flying by.

There were still some yellow leaves on the trees between me and the snow-capped mountains, but nearby there were few leaves on the trees.

When I drove the road along the marsh, I found that there were still two Trumpeter Swans there, a sleeping white adult and a gray-brown non-adult swimming slowly nearby. The young one called a few times, confirming the identification, but the adult never lifted its head from under its wing.

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There also were over 60 Mallards and a few American Wigeon spread out in the open areas.

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Finally, I drove the Old Seward Highway behind the marsh, where the only birds I found were two Black-capped Chickadees and a perched Bald Eagle.

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October 14 – Anchorage Audubon Field Trip

This morning we woke up in Anchorage to the first below-30 degrees weather for the fall. At our house it was 27 degrees and the weather was crisp, and there were scary areas of black ice on the roads for a few hours.

At 8:30 about 15 of us joined Andrew Fisher on a field trip to a number of Anchorage watering holes (for birds, of course). We met just north of Cuddy Pond and walked over there to see what was around. Waterfowl included about 75 Canada Geese, about 50 Mallards, a Common Merganser and about three American Wigeons.

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At Spenard Crossing were more Mallards (of course), Gadwalls, Greater Scaup, Buffleheads, Common Mergansers, Common Goldeneyes (and possibly a Barrow’s), and Northern Shovelers, plus a few gulls (Glaucous-winged type plus Mew). In the woods there were Red-breasted Nuthatches, Black-capped Chickadees, a Downy Woodpecker and a Brown Creeper. Similar waterfowl were at Westchester Lagoon.

Our final stops were along Lakes Spenard and Hood. In addition to the usual lake ducks, highlights there were a Long-tailed Duck and a Northern Shrike.

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It was a great trip, but unfortunately we ran out of time before we could check out other lakes and creeks. I guess I’ll have to go back soon to see what’s around at the other places before things start freezing over.


October 13 – Typical Anchorage Fall

A couple of days ago I went to a few of my favorite Anchorage sites to see if there were any remaining migrants. Almost all of the deciduous trees were bare of their leaves, and for much of the time gray clouds obscured many mountain tops – it is fall.

Most bird species were quite low in numbers, but there were some birds around. At Campbell Creek Estuary Natural Area, there were just one or a couple of each species: Mallards (probably more in the distant mudflats that I could not see), Red-breasted Nuthatch, Boreal and Black-capped Chickadee, Black-billed Magpie, and Glaucous-winged Gull. There were, however, many (estimate 300) Canada Geese on the flats and flying around and honking noisily.

At Jewel Lake and at Lakes Hood and Spenard were a number of duck species: Common Merganser, Common (many) and Barrow’s Goldeneye (few), Bufflehead (seven at the airport lakes), and Mallard (just a few).

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I headed downtown, planning to quit birding for the day, but as I drove north on Minnesota Drive, I saw that there were swans at Spenard Crossing. I rarely can resist swans, so on my way back south, I stopped to look at them, as well as the few gulls (Mew, Glaucous-winged), Gadwalls, a few gulls, Buffleheads, and Common Mergansers and Goldeneyes at the lake, and the usual begging Mallards in the parking lot as well as others on the lake.

Since then, my begging Steller’s Jays have kept me amused out the back door, and out our front door, the snow on the mountains has been steadily increasing. It may still be fall for a while on the calendar, but real winter is not far away.

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October 9 – A Beautiful Fall Day

It didn’t rain today (or snow)! The temperature ranged from about 41 to 50 degrees, with a sunny sky and a modest wind. Not only was it a good day to go birding, but I also had time to do so. So, I went to the Potter Marsh boardwalk. The surrounding hills were mostly covered with snow. The grass was mostly brown, but there were still many yellow leaves on the deciduous trees.

As expected, there were not too many birds remaining. There were about 8 Mallards, 12 Green-winged Teal, a single Common Merganser quite close to the boardwalk, a fly-by Black-billed Magpie, periodic views of a Bald Eagle, and the sound of a Black-capped Chickadee.


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When I drove the highway along the marsh, I found that there were still 4 Trumpeter Swans around, each of which was accompanied by Mallards waiting for the swans to bring up something from underwater.

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I wonder if there will be snow on the ground at our house when I post again.







October 5 – Back in Anchorage

We left Homer in the rain on October 3, but the rain was not continuous and the drive had long stretches without rain.

Some of the higher mountains along the way had very light sprinklings of snow on top (“termination dust”), but down below where we were it was clearly still fall and not winter. At Tern Lake, about halfway home, we stopped to photograph swans and scenery.


Now back in Anchorage, the rain of the last couple of days has produced serious termination dust on the mountain tops, as viewed from our living room.

It’s time to change over to studded tires and prepare heart and soul (and car) for winter.

October 2 – Out Our Window, Day 9, Homer

It’s an unheard of vacation for me when I just stare out the window and don’t even venture forth to look for birds. I have been pleasantly lazy. With the wind and the waves and a bit of rain, the birds just kept coming to me today! I tried to take pictures of most of them as well as of the overall view. Note: because of my weird computer, it’s possible there are two copies of my kittiwake video in this blog post; I just can’t seem to delete the one that inadvertently inserted between the scene pictures below.



The best bird photos from today are below, but because of the distance, most birds, though recognizable, are a bit fuzzy. Seen and photographed (parentheses are numbers seen, but I wasn’t staring out the window all day so there undoubtedly were more) were:

Surf (1) and White-winged (4) Scoters :


A few Common Loons (3):

Red-necked Grebes (2):


Common Murres (16):


Marbled Murrelet (1):


Pelagic Cormorant (6):


Black-legged Kittiwakes (80 or more, often in swarms with other gulls, none of which I worked at identifying when they were so far off shore):




Glaucous-winged Gulls (10 or more):

Mew Gulls (at least 1):


Song Sparrow (2):


Rock Pigeons (3):


Not photographed but seen: Harlequin Ducks (3) and Bald Eagle (1).

Also photographed from our window: the state ferry and a smaller freight ferry (we think that’s what it is, taking on a couple of passengers):



It will be sad to leave Homer, but I’ll be back!

October 1 – More Wandering and Fog, Day 8, Homer

Yesterday morning, before the clouds and fog were too low and before rain was in the forecast, I drove the spit and went to the Beluga Slough Overlook. The Northern Goshawk was still harassing the ducks and the two Trumpeter Swans took off from the water and then returned.


While I usually don’t have many birds at the overlook, this afternoon when I went back, the little birds were very active (Boreal and Black-capped Chickadees, Brown Creeper, both kinglet species and Pacific Wren – pictures of first and last below):



This morning, in fog so thick I could barely see the road, I drove north to Anchor Point. By the time I got there, most areas of fog seem to have lifted at least around Anchor Point. It was a beautiful crisp (37 degrees) morning with only a bit of wind (now, tonight, it’s foggy again here in Homer with increasing wind). The mountains across the inlet were lovely when visible.

I walked along the beach to the mouth of the Anchor River. Mostly there were Glaucous-winged Gulls, Northwestern Crows and Harlequin Ducks.


There were also a few Common Loons, Red-breasted Mergansers and distant scoters on the water. Two Bald Eagles watched me walk by, periodically talking to each other or to me as the sun tried its best to break through the clouds.


At a little wet depression there were three Wilson’s Snipe and a single dowitcher, which eBird says should be a Long-billed Dowitcher. Seems right to me. I couldn’t get any closer to get better pictures. Any thoughts?




September 29 – Goshawk, Sparrows, Homer, Day 6

For the last couple of days I’ve wandered around rather aimlessly around Homer seeing what I could see. The days have progressively been less rainy, but whatever the weather, they have been beautiful.


Highlights yesterday were many White-winged and Black Scoters (a few Surf Scoters), and sparrows, mostly in the Beluga Slough area – Song, Lincoln’s and American Tree Sparrows.


Other interesting birds: calling Common Loon, a couple of Marbled Murrelets, diving Horned Grebes, and a few very brave Northwestern Crows coming to our deck for peanuts.



Today, a mostly non-rainy day, the clear highlight was a Northern Goshawk. I was at the Beluga Overlook (on F.A.A. Road) walking toward the little platform through the spruce trees when I heard a Greater Yellowlegs calling with agitation. Since I hadn’t even seen a shorebird on this trip, I hurried forward for a view of the marsh and the yellowlegs, and to my surprise saw a Northern Goshawk on the ground being scolded by the yellowlegs. The goshawk took off, but it did give me a chance for a few photos.


This afternoon I walked some of the Calvin and Coyle trail again. We ended the day back at the slough watching the sunset, and taking more photos of course.





September 27 – Homer Vacation, Day 4

Although it rained overnight, since I last posted it has just been clouds, only a bit of rain, a rainbow, and actual sun!


Following are a few pictures taken today and late yesterday.

First, a few White-winged Scoters:


Then a few Harlequin Ducks:


And finally, many, many photos of picturesque Black-legged Kittiwakes out the front window of our room: