September 19 – Goofy Jays and Autumn Days

I know it’s not quite autumn yet, but up here in Alaska it often looks lately like it is almost winter. The picture below shows part of the Chugach Mountain range as it looked from our living room a few days ago.

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But then it was alternating rainy and sunny, and the snow went away, for awhile at least. Although many of my pictures have electrical lines crossing through them, I still think the scenes with yellow birch trees are beautiful.

This morning, however, this is the view we have of the mountains – just low clouds.

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At home, the Steller’s Jays have been unusually combative. Either the grown youngsters and their parents are having family squabbles or perhaps a newby has arrived. In any case, every now and then there’s a lot of noise and raised crests, and then all subsides. I haven’t seen any casualties or actual jay injuries. About half of the 5-6 jays that are often around are tame enough to eat from my hand. The picture below was taken from inside the house looking out on our back porch at one of the recent duels. As usual, peanut hulls are everywhere. The jays often hide shelled peanuts under the rug, and others sometimes steal the nuts away (or maybe it’s the same jays coming back for the hidden nuts).

 

September 15 – Surfacing Briefly

Yesterday morning I slipped away from my desk and chores and managed to get out to Potter Marsh, braving the wind and a bit of rain.

The birds seen were Trumpeter Swans (12) bobbing along and wiggling to stir up the mud, usually closely followed by Mallards looking for tidbits from the swans’ efforts, Green-winged Teal, American Wigeons, a couple Greater Yellowlegs, and resident birds, including Black-capped Chickadees, Black-billed Magpies and two adult Bald Eagles.

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Both yesterday and today I noticed a bit of new “termination dust” (the snow that was there earlier had melted) but so far the snow does not seem to be staying on the mountains visible from our house.

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Birch trees in Anchorage are definitely beginning to turn yellow and leaves are beginning to fall and be blown about.

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The amount of daylight has been decreasing by over 5 minutes each day. In a week, there will be 12 hours each of dark and light, and then we’ll be racing toward increasing darkness. And the snow will come closer and closer. Sigh.

September 13 – Commas and Jays

I thought it would be good to surface again on my blog. For the past many days I’ve mostly been facing west – facing west at my computer working on my manuscript, punctuated periodically by facing west out the backyard windows and porch door to see what birds are around. Every now and then I allow myself to crochet a few stitches on my next shawl.

On the manuscript, I long ago went through the detailed comments of the reviewers. Since then I’ve been re-reading and revising, primarily following their more general suggestions, and hoping to remedy concerns regarding commas, repetitiveness, verbosity, clarity and the like. The goal is to get it off to the publisher so they can review it and my comments on how I’ve responded to the reviewers and can decide if indeed they are willing to publish it. Fingers crossed (although it’s hard to type in that position).

It’s been very windy the last couple of days, blowing the birds and seed around and blowing the porch rug as shown under the hungry jays on the back porch. The garbage can is where their peanuts are stored and the weed-whacker handle is where they often sit as they work at cracking open the peanut shells. Because they are so quick on taking most of the peanuts away to hide them, they spend much time just sitting on the porch waiting for me to bring them more peanuts.

The final picture shows our backyard fireweed patch as it begins to turn fall colors.

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Now, back to work.

September 8 – BIG Moose

Today I went to Campbell Creek Estuary Natural Area, hoping for sparrows, very few of which I saw. Just Lincoln’s Sparrows.

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It was more a day for raptors. After viewing a Merlin, a Peregrine Falcon and a Northern Harrier; Mallards, American Wigeons and Canada Geese; Sandhill Cranes; Black-billed Magpies and a Steller’s Jay; and various little birds (Black-capped Chickadees, American Robins, Red-breasted Nuthatch), I decided to check out the woodland trail. Imagine my surprise when over the bushes just ahead of me, a big bull moose rose to his feet from where he had been lying down next to the path! Needless to say, I did not go farther up the path. I was very glad he did not appear interested in following me.

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As I approached Jewel Lake, I was delighted to see an Osprey circling repeatedly over the road.

At Lakes Hood and Spenard, there was very little activity, just Greater Scaup, a Horned Grebe (sleeping so not much of it was visible to make me absolutely certain of my ID), and both goldeneyes (no photo).

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September 7 – Moose Trio Excitement

This morning I looked out the back window and saw a half-grown moose in our neighbors’ back yard, eating their flowers.

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As I began taking a photo, I heard my phone ringing (quacking) and went back in to answer it. It was our neighbor telling me we had a moose in our own back yard and that there was a second young one behind our fence in another neighbor’s back yard! He was right. The mama moose was mostly hidden in the little “forest” I am allowing to grow back there, ripping off whole branches and munching leaves. So it got a little unintended random pruning.

As I watched, the mama gradually showed herself, munching nonstop.

Eventually she walked toward me (I was standing on our second floor porch) and poked her head over the side gate and nuzzled the first young one that had come around our house.

Mother and the first young one went out of sight beside our house while the second young one stayed way back behind our house. I looked out toward the front of our house and saw the mama and one young one walk across the street and stand awhile on a neighbor’s porch area. Soon after, all three moose were eating on the neighbor’s tree and bushes.

People by then were leaving for work and the mama started looking a bit tense. She headed off to the right where school kids were lined up on the corner for the bus. I heard them shriek and run up that street. The moose continued to trot toward them, the bus arrived to pick up the kids, and all were gone.

What excitement!

 

September 5 – Back from Nome

I’m now back from Nome, after an excellent trip of wandering around and birding on Nome’s three main roads. On the afternoon of September 3 and on September 4, I shared a Nome rental car with a fisherman-professor, John Waldman from New York. We would drive to a good fishing spot, where I would drop him off for a couple of hours and go birding, and then return to pick him up and repeat. Toward the end of the day yesterday, I returned and got photos of him catching a very lovely silver salmon (I think that’s what it was; he returned it to the water).

Scenes from yesterday on the Council Road are below. I took many photos of the golden vistas and the beautiful multi-colored slopes. The blueberries were very good, but I was too lazy to do anything but pick and eat a few.

Birds seen and photographed were dowitchers (Long-billed, I believe), Pectoral Sandpipers, Sandhill Cranes, a Slaty-backed Gull (undoubtedly a different one than seen some 70 miles away the day before), a Glaucous Gull, and young Northern Shrikes.

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For this trip I stayed for the first time at an airbnb, Remi’s. Shown below are Remi and Igor, wonderful hosts, and their two darling, very friendly little rescue dogs.

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I’m thinking of spending more time in Nome at different seasons of the year. It’s a very interesting place with great diversity of habitat, and I’ve just made a beginning in seeing it.

September 3 – Days 3 and 4, Nome

 

I’m only halfway through day 4 but I have time to post now and may not later. Yesterday (9/2) I drove out Council Road in mostly pouring rain. Periodically I stopped and just waited in the car until the rain let up enough to let me see anything. Still, there were birds. Highlights were a couple of Eurasian Wigeons among the hundreds of Americans (no photo here), a few Common Redpolls, Sanderlings running along the beach, a single Black-legged Kittiwake, Sandhill Cranes, and good views of Common Eiders.

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This morning I drove out Teller Road for about 30 miles. Highlights were a single Red-throated Loon, many Northern Shrikes, the tattler seen two days ago, a single Slaty-backed Gull, two circling Northern Goshawks, and a good view of an American Tree Sparrow.

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September 1 – Nome, Day 2

Most of the day I slowly wandered up Kougarok Road to Salmon Lake, about 40 miles. It was a beautiful day, gradually increasing in sun and then later, raining. Birds were mainly gulls (Glaucous, Glaucous-winged, Herring), Common Ravens, Northern Shrikes, American Tree Sparrows and a Northern Harrier.

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After returning to Nome and getting gas, I spent a few hours on the lower portion of Teller Road. The highlight there was a tattler, which I’m calling a Wandering Tattler (please comment if you disagree).

 

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August 31 – Nome, Day 1

I enjoyed being in Nome so much earlier this summer, I thought I’d see what it was like in late August/early September. I arrived today about noon and spent the day out on Council Road.

I saw three loon species – Red-throated (1 only), Pacific (2) and Common (3)(no photo).

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For ducks, there were a few Greater Scaup and a few Northern Pintails (no photo), plus eiders (Common and Steller’s (s)).

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There were about 80-plus Tundra Swans.

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For shorebirds, I saw many Long-billed Dowitchers, a couple of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, zillions of Dunlin, and Black-bellied and Pacific Golden-Plovers. If anyone sees some other species in these photos, let me know please.

IMG_0150There also were about 40 Sandhill Cranes.

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Tomorrow I’ll explore another road.

August 26 – A Sunny Day!

Although there was always the threat of rain, it didn’t happen today, and I went out to Campbell Creek Estuary Natural Area. The tide was coming in, and had about an hour to go before high tide.

Three Mallards floated by on the rising waters.

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There was a distant Merlin out on the flats.

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There were still Sandhill Cranes around, eight that I could see. Some of them were periodically calling, but mostly they were silent.

There were a couple of Orange-crowned Warblers, a few Lincoln’s Sparrows, a couple of White-crowned Sparrows and a Fox Sparrow in the brushy areas.

Not photographed were a Downy Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches, a fly-by Bald Eagle and Greater Yellowlegs, a Common Raven, a Spotted Sandpiper and a Golden-crowned Kinglet. A very nice day to be birding.