May 26 – Birds Along the Water

Yesterday and today I wandered along some of the Anchorage waterways. Yesterday at Spenard Crossing (which was green and lovely and very different from winter’s icy scene), I got my first close-up view of a Spotted Sandpiper this year.

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Mew Gulls were keeping watch, as well as huddled in the grass (not shown).

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While I was waiting for the Spotted Sandpiper to fly back down the stream, I was entertained by a couple of Black-capped Chickadees.

Today I went to Ship Creek at the peak of high tide, the highest I had seen it there. There was very little exposed land in the big tidal lake. Two Sandhill Cranes shared a small island with a Whimbrel and Greater Yellowlegs (latter two species not shown).

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A Hudsonian Godwit walked in the shallow near-shore water near me, the first time I had been close to one this year.

Near the bridge over Ship Creek a Semipalmated Plover also gave me good views as it foraged on the mud.

Finally, there were gulls, mostly big gulls. I usually try to ignore them as just too confusing, but I did take pictures of what I believe is a Glaucous-winged Gull (and was not one of the many nearby Herring-Glaucous-winged hybrids). You gull experts – feel free to comment.

In a couple of hours I will head north to Wasilla, not to bird (although I will of course do some birding), but mainly to dance at the Dancing Bears Dance Camp that lasts all Memorial Day weekend. Hopefully, my body will also last a couple of days.

May 24 – Birdy Birding Days

Two days ago I enjoyed birding with Don Cecile from British Columbia and yesterday I birded with Bev Agler from Juneau, both days in Anchorage. Birds photographed include Red-necked Grebes and Arctic Terns on nests at Potter Marsh, a White-crowned Sparrow (also in video), a Red-throated Loon at Lake Hood, Long-billed and Short-billed Dowitchers at Lake Hood, and a Tree Swallow at Lake Hood.

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Today began with birding in the sometimes quite heavy rain at Potter Marsh, and I almost quit. But then, after seeing very distant views of my first Pacific Loons of the year at Goose Lake in Anchorage, I decided to continue birding and went to Lake Spenard and Lake Hood. In addition to photographing a fairly close Common Loon, I spent a long time looking at the 100s of swallows (video below is a very tiny sampling of the swallows that covered most of both lakes except when a floatplane spooked them away for a while), mostly Violet-green and Tree, but also at least 10 Bank Swallows (finally photographed) and a single Cliff Swallow (not photographed). The dowitchers were still around, as were dozens of Greater Scaup and a few Red-necked Phalaropes.

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As I was sitting at the end of Floatplane Road trying to get better swallow photos, I heard a beautiful singing bird, and found a male House Finch singing in a sapling very near me (had thinner belly stripes than I remembered them having, but the song was that of a House Finch). I wonder if it is the same bird that was in Girdwood earlier this year.

May 21 – Back from Kenai Trip

For the last few days I have been down in Kenai participating in the Kenai Bird Festival and birding with friends – a very enjoyable trip. Below are a few of the photos that I took beginning with photos taken on the drive down.

Following are photos of birders on festival field trips, marsh marigolds (I think), Northern Shovelers on Cannery Road, a Whimbrel, a Pectoral Sandpiper, a rear view of a Spruce Grouse in a spruce, a Northern Waterthrush, a Gray Jay, and a very distant Redhead (VERY rare in the Kenai area).

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May 18 – Things Continue Ducky

Because I am heading down shortly to Kenai/Soldotna for the Kenai Bird Festival, this post will be short. In addition to birding every day somewhere because it’s birdy spring in Alaska, for the last two days I had the fun of helping out at Outdoor Week at the Campbell Science Center, showing 6th-graders what fun birding is and helping them learn about birds and birding.

At home almost every day we still have a pair of Mallards coming down to our back yard, eating and drinking and hanging out. Usually sometime during the day we also have a single male and/or a single female duck around, but have no way of knowing how many ducks in total are coming to our yard. In any case, it still is fun to have them around.

Come join me this weekend (starting today) at the family-friendly Kenai Bird Festival. There are great field trips each day, and Saturday night I’ll be talking about my Alaska big year.

May 15 – Time Flies When You’re Birding

I have visited quite a few Anchorage areas looking for birds the past few days. On Saturday (5/13) I went to Potter Marsh with some of the people who took the birding class that I offered earlier this year through the OLE! program. Although it got cloudy and colder as we walked the boardwalk, we still had good sightings of birds, including Tree Swallows, winnowing Wilson’s Snipe, singing Lincoln’s Sparrows, possibly nesting Arctic Terns (photo), and the usual ducks (N. Shoveler, A. Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Mallards). I did add a new year bird identified by audio, at least one Alder Flycatcher.

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I then went to Campbell Creek Estuary Natural Area, hoping for and finding my first Savannah Sparrows of the year. In addition, I had a distant Whimbrel walking out on the mudflats, which took off calling after a while (today I had five more Whimbrels at Carr-Gottstein Park). The final new bird for Saturday was a female Northern Harrier also out over the mudflats, first sitting and then flying about showing the distinctive white rump.

I did get out to bird on Sunday at Westchester Lagoon, just seeing the usual birds.

This morning I did my second Birds ‘n’ Bogs survey at Oceanview Bluff Park, and was delighted to hear my first Swainson’s Thrush of the year, as well as the usual snipe and two displaying Greater Yellowlegs. More exciting I guess was the fact that a moose, and then a second moose, walked across the trail I was on between me and where I was parked, with no obvious solution but to wait while the moose that was very close to me just munched and munched its way along the trail, and then finally decided to move off the trail so I could get by.

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After the survey, I went to Spenard Crossing where I saw a duck that had me very confused. At first I thought it was one of the numerous scaup, but its head was wrong, and then I thought female scoter. Mostly its head was under its wing as if it was hiding from being identified. I never even considered Harlequin Duck because as far as I knew they are very rare in Anchorage itself, but Aaron Bowman, whom I consulted, reminded me that it did look like a Harlequin Duck. Definitely unexpected.

I went to Westchester Lagoon and Potter Marsh, getting pictures of the dowitchers and a Least Sandpiper that was there.

Spring here often feels so frenetic. So little time to try to see the birds as they hurry past on their way north.

 

 

 

 

May 12 – Busy, Busy Fun Birding

Everywhere (almost) that I have gone recently there are new birds for the year, at least for Anchorage. Some of the highlights follow.  Both yesterday and today I went south to Girdwood, and yesterday I went beyond to Portage. Both days I also birded at Potter Marsh and in Anchorage.

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At Girdwood yesterday and today there were many shorebirds, but I did not have my spotting scope yesterday. New year-birds there included Semipalmated Plover (photo), Pectoral, Least and Western Sandpipers, and Lesser Yellowlegs.

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At the Trail of Blue Ice beginning at the Moose Flats parking lot there were numerous singing Fox Sparrows and I saw my first Orange-crowned Warbler, Hermit Thrushes, and Solitary Sandpiper for the year.

At Potter Marsh yesterday there was a Northern Flicker, and today there were Red-necked Phalaropes (also seen at Hood Lake in Anchorage).

I walked quite a way up the trail at Windy Point this morning (south of our Anchorage house about 19 miles) and briefly saw two fly-by Townsend’s Solitaires and my first Golden-crowned Sparrows of the year. I also got very close to three Mountain Goats (I believe that’s what they are).

At Westchester Lagoon and Hood Lake I saw my first Bonaparte’s Gulls of the year amid the Arctic Terns.

At Hood Lake the Red-throated Loon that I had seen a couple of days ago landed near me, posing for photos.

There was also a distant Canvasback out among the scaup. I haven’t included a photo here, but right after I wrote the above I learned there were two Redheads at Spenard Crossing and I raced over there and saw them.

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I am including a few recent videos below: 1) singing Golden-crowned Sparrow; 2) swimming Red-necked Phalaropes; and 3) a sometimes noisy Red-throated Loon (with background noise of nearby floatplanes taking off).

 

May 10 – More Cranes and More New Birds for the Year

This morning I birded at Westchester Lagoon and the nearby coastal trail, Potter Marsh, Lakes Hood and Spenard and the Point Woronzoff area in Anchorage. The birch trees are leafing out in a beautiful delicate green.

Sandhill Cranes were along the coastal trail (4) and near Lake Hood (3).

New year-birds that I have not yet photographed this year were four Rusty Blackbirds flying by at Potter Marsh and a noisy Red-throated Loon at Lake Hood. Also new for me for the year were Tree Swallows flying around Potter Marsh and one that perched for me near Lake Hood.

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Other birds photographed were Mew Gulls, a Northern Pintail with a Gadwall, a Barrow’s Goldeneye, Northern Shovelers, and a begging Common Raven at Point Woronzoff.

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I am also including a short video of the cranes (a bit wiggly unfortunately, but shows all four cranes walking around) and another of a croaking Black-billed Magpie.

 

May 9 – Birds ‘n’ Bogs, Yellowlegs and Cranes

Early this morning I did my first Birds ‘n’ Bogs observation at Oceanview Bluff Park.

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This is a program of Alaska Audubon. I participated in it in 2015 but not last year when I was too busy doing my Alaska big year. In this program, participants monitor a number of species of concern at selected Alaskan bogs in spring. Today, being early in the observation period, was a bit low on these species, and I only saw two Greater Yellowlegs, one of the monitored species (others are Lesser Yellowlegs, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Rusty Blackbird, Tree and Violet-Green Swallows and Solitary Sandpiper).


There were other birds there of course, most noticeable being winnowing Wilson’s Snipe and a singing Lincoln’s Sparrow.

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Later I went to Westchester Lagoon and along the Coastal Trail, where the highlights for me were three very close Sandhill Cranes and a perched Bald Eagle.

 

May 8 – Anchorage Yard Birds

The Rufous Hummingbird made a brief appearance at 6:20 this morning but has not been seen since – probably on his way elsewhere. These pictures are from late yesterday. He was seen periodically until 7:45 pm last night.


I spent time today looking for the hummingbird, and in the process, in addition to the everyday Black-capped and Boreal Chickadees, Steller’s Jays and Black-billed Magpies, saw a small flock (about 8) of White-winged Crossbills eating buds up in our birch trees.

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A Downy Woodpecker came to the peanut butter log.

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A pair of Pine Siskins, the first in our yard this year, came to the seed feeders.

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All in all, it was a birdy day but mostly without a hummingbird – so far.

 

May 7 – Rufous Hummingbird in Our Yard!

About 2:00 this afternoon my husband noticed movement on the porch and was the first to see the beautiful male Rufous Hummingbird that since then has been coming to our feeders for almost two hours! The hummer has come multiple times to each of 3 of our 4 feeders. In between he sits in a birch tree, and sometimes disappears for a while, once chased off by a Steller’s Jay that dove at the hummingbird, and eventually he again returns to feed very briefly at a feeder. He also fluttered for a while midair eating insects. I am posting a few of the zillion photos that I have taken of him. One of these just shows the spectacular color of his throat in an otherwise out-of-focus shot. I hope he stays around, but I don’t believe the habitat here is particularly good for him, and of course, he needs a mate.