January 21 – Another 12 Inches of Snow Today

In the last week we have had about two feet of snow, about 12 inches of which came down today. I think that this week’s total is more than we had the previous two winters combined! I went outside frequently to clean off the bird-feeding surfaces today, but the snow was coming down so heavily that the seed would be covered before I got back in the house. Very few birds were around, and when they did come they had to dig through the snow that had fallen since I last cleaned off the feeders.

We had a single Common Redpoll come under the porch roof to eat seeds and two Black-billed Magpies came in to eat suet.

And Curly came by for about 5 minutes and then disappeared after digging a bit in the snow for seed.

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It’s good we had nothing we had to go to today. In the afternoon we decided to go out to clean off the driveway hoping that the snow would stop coming down soon, but after that it snowed a couple more inches. Behind Dave in the picture below is our house and one of our cars. While we were out there a large flock of Bohemian Waxwings flew by probably wondering where they could find something to eat. When this all melts (assuming it will melt someday), it is going to be a big mess.

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January 19-20 – Home with Winter Birds

Winter birds that I photographed the last two days include Common Ravens gathering on trash day in the neighborhood near where my bird class is.

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Although I did see a flyover flock of Bohemian Waxwings, the fruit trees in that neighborhood were mostly beautiful and snow-covered and birdless.

Photographed yard birds include a Red-breasted Nuthatch, Common Redpolls and Black-billed Magpies.

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The winter birds in our yard include a couple of Black-capped Chickadees, one of which is Curly, the Black-capped Chickadee with the deformed beak. Curly survived overnight temperatures of minus 24 degrees on the 18th and minus 7 degrees on the 19th. In addition to Curly’s beak, another noteworthy feature is Curly’s constant movement. I am including a couple of videos that show this as well as how Curly is able to pick up food by leaning over sideways. It apparently is easier for Curly to feed on the snow rather than on a hard surface because Curly’s beak can dig into the snow when Curly is trying to pick up some food particle.

Today it went to just above zero degrees, which in comparison to a couple of days ago seems like a heat wave. I’m hoping for a bit more heat wave so it is more comfortable to get out and bird.

January 18 – Curly

 

That’s what I’ve named the Black-capped Chickadee with the curved beak that appeared in our yard less than a week ago. Curly was around most of today, but before I tell about my Curly sightings, I should mention that the yard was busy today with other birds too. It was bitter cold (never above zero degrees, and right now at 19 below zero and going colder tonight) and birds came and went from many of the feeders.

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The other bird photo that I will post today is of a stunning male Pine Grosbeak, one of four grosbeaks that were around today.

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But back to Curly. Nearly every time that I looked out the window today, Curly was visible somewhere. I first noticed Curly on the shaggy outdoor rug outside on our back porch. Curly appeared to be eating a piece of suet, tipping sideways to better handle the food.

Next I noticed Curly at one of the hanging platform feeders and then the suet feeder hanging from our birch tree. Periodically Curly also flew down and landed on the snow to pick seeds off the snow (not shown).

Then I saw Curly delicately preening up in our birch tree for an extended period.

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Curly then visited the old dog dish where I sometimes put bread crumbs, and I realized that was probably what Curly had been eating earlier when I thought it was a large piece of suet.

Curly also visited the suet feeders on the porch today, daintily picking bits of suet and eating. Sometimes, at these feeders or elsewhere on the porch or in a tree, Curly often sat for lengthy periods, flicking wings now and then, unlike the rest of the chickadees which were rarely in evidence today.

I am glad that Curly appears to be holding up in the cold weather and is able to eat a variety of the feeds that I put out for the birds. Because of Curly’s beak deformity, Curly is now a recognizable personality to me and not just an indistinguishable generic chickadee.

January 17 – Scrounging in the Snow

During the snow the last few snowy days, whenever I have swept snow off the platform bird feeders, I have also swept off seed that is now in and on the snow around the feeders. Redpolls, Pine Grosbeaks, Steller’s Jays and Black-billed Magpies are now spending much of their time going after the seed that is on the snow as well as on the feeders.

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Most of the day there were Common Redpolls around, often high in the birch trees. I did see one Hoary Redpoll high in the tree, very pale with nearly all white underneath with only faint tracings of marking down its sides.

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The magpies also spend much time on the snow outside my office window where they are picking up dried mealworms. The magpies regularly fly at the mealworm feeder that hangs on the porch above my window and deliberately knock the mealworms off the feeder and then fly down below to pick up the mealworms.

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The Common Raven came back today and worked on the suet block facing the back door, working hard to pull big hunks of suet out through the mesh.

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Late in the day the Black-capped Chickadee with the deformed beak that has started coming to our feeders sat for a while on the porch railing very near me when I was outside before it flew back to a birch tree.

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January 16 – Six More Inches of Snow and Counting

We kept thinking the snow would eventually stop but so far it has snowed steadily all day. Since Dave has to leave for work tomorrow morning about 6:20, we thought we’d clear the driveway late this afternoon so there would be less to deal with in the morning. When I wade through the snow out in the back yard now, the snow is now about to the tops of my very high boots. It’s the most snow we’ve seen since we moved here in 2014.

All day long I kept going out and brushing snow off the feeders and replenishing the seed but I just could not keep up. The birds often just had to dig in the snow for the seed. I have let the snow pile up on top of the feeder rooftops and covers.

 

For the first time this winter, a Common Raven came down to the suet feeder on the porch railing and towered over the feeder, rather like a monster towering over a doll-house, as the suet block was demolished.

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Later a Red-breasted Nuthatch sneaked in for a bit of the other block of suet on the feeder, and Common Redpolls periodically dropped down to the nearby snowy seed feeder and railing for seeds.

January 15 – Short-eared Owl Reprise

In my opinion, there is no such thing as seeing too many owls or looking at owls too many times. Today I did a quick a walk-through at Spenard Crossing (where the only visible birds were Mallards crowded into a tiny open water area). The place where the American Dipper has often been is almost completely frozen over with very little place for a dipper to dip.

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I then went out past the airport. It was earlier in the day than when I was there a couple of days ago and I expected to have to wait for a possibility of a Short-eared Owl sighting. I arrived at 3:24 pm and by 3:30 the owl came over me and then flew out into the field. For almost a half hour I watched it hunting, banking at the fence when it got near it, periodically landing in the snow and hunting some more. All of a sudden it came toward me, flew over me and landed high in a deciduous tree across the road from me! The light was quite low by then but I managed to get pictures of it flying and sitting. It made my day.

We are expecting even more snow before tomorrow. It does appear to really be winter now.

January 14 – Winter Snow

As forecast, we got about 6 inches of snow overnight. Although there was lots of snow on the ground, the wind took most of it off the branches.

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Although I do love to shovel snow (really), we decided it was time to get out our snowblower that we bought last winter and had only used twice last year. It took awhile to clear off my car so we could get it out of the driveway so the whole driveway could be cleared by my hard-working husband before he went off to work the evening shift.

The birds were hungry of course and I swept off the table feeders after I shoveled off the porch and steps so I could get to the feeders. I left some of the covered feeders with their additional snow covering because they looked so picturesque.

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Although I had planned to go birding this afternoon, I forgot to take my camera long so instead I went to buy more bird seed as I understand more snow is forecast for tomorrow.

 

January 13 – Short-eared Owl!

I saw my first ever Anchorage Short-eared Owl, tonight out at the airport. Last year in my AK big year, after many early morning and late evening tries for the Anchorage Short-eared Owl, I gave up and got my first one for the year in Kenai (and many more, later in Nome). This year, this was my third try out at the airport. A report on the Akbirding listserv earlier in the week had said that at 4:30 pm one day there were multiple owls out there in a couple different areas. I had tried in the morning the first two times, including a very chilly walk along the fence beyond the end of the road.

Today, beginning at about 3:00 I drove slowly back and forth hoping to see a Short-eared Owl from my car as the snow started coming down steadily. At about my fourth  drive from Point Woronzoff to the end of the road and back again, as I rounded the corner with the yellow barricades (at precisely 4:02 pm), a beautiful Short-eared Owl flew by very near me quite high just over the nearby fence. I pulled over and screeched to a stop, but by the time I got my camera out, the owl was far down in the field. With my binoculars I could see that it had landed on a distance fence, but when I tried to photograph it through the nearby fence, the camera just focused on the nearby fence. So I got out of the car and walked to where I could see over the nearby fence and got some pictures. The owl flew out from the fence and back again to the far fence a couple of times, then flew out and back and landed on a yellow post, then flew out and landed in the snow, where it stayed for about 10 minutes. It was getting too dark and the owl was too far away to see if it had gotten something to eat. Two other birders arrived and got to see the owl too. Just before 4:30 the owl flew out to the field again and landed in a patch of brown grass protruding through the snow and I could not longer see it. I was getting cold anyway so decided to call it a day, a wonderful day!

My photos of course are not crisp due to the darkness and distance but at least one see that it is indeed a Short-eared owl.

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Other noteworthy birding things of the day – I had my first Black-capped Chickadee with a deformed bill on our porch today eating seeds and suet. Many such birds have been reported in the area, and Anchorage Audubon had a program on it recently. The cause appears to be virus-related, and is mostly, but not completely, found in Black-capped Chickadees. This one did not appear to be having much trouble eating, just turning its head sideways to pick up food, and looked quite healthy.

I also got short videos of our Hairy Woodpecker eating suet at one of our feeders, peanut butter at another feeder, and sunflower seeds at a third feeder. She is either a very fussy bird that doesn’t like the usual suet all of the time, or a bird that will just eat anything, or both. I’m hoping to show the videos to my class, where one of the students yesterday asked about how to get these woodpeckers to a yard. I am just posting one of the still photos here now.

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January 12 – Ravin’ Ravens

After my bird-class this morning (which I very much enjoyed doing!), I birded in the Airport Heights area of Anchorage for about a half hour. Due to the heavy fog that we have had the past couple of days, the trees were coated even more fully than I had seen them earlier this winter, and everything was beautiful.

The American Robins and European Starlings were busy either eating frost covered fruit or resting in the fruit trees.

Common Ravens were everywhere, mostly perched on high trees and poles. I counted about 13 of them in about 10 minutes, scattered around the neighborhood. Two of them flew down to the stop of plowed snowbank just ahead of me. I stopped and watched as they proceeded to chortle to each other, nuzzling each other’s bills, and just carrying on with a little conversation. I have never seen them acting this way. I did a short video of them that I plan to show my class next week. Only a passing car finally caused them to fly up to a nearby tree.

At home, there wasn’t too much activity, at least while I was around. I took pictures of a Hairy Woodpecker pounding at the frozen peanut butter in the log on the porch and Common Redpolls flitting among the frosty trees.

It is forecast to be very cold this weekend, not getting above zero degrees, so I made another batch of my homemade peanut butter “suet” mix so I don’t run out.

January 11 – Classes on Birding Places in Alaska

Tomorrow I will give my first class on places to bird in Alaska, and my PowerPoint on places to bird in Anchorage is finally now done. It is huge with many, many pictures, because I know so many places to bird here. Nearly all of the pictures are those taken during my Alaska big year last year. Probably I won’t get through it all tomorrow and will need to finish it in other weeks where I have less material. This is an 8-week class at Ole! (Opportunities for Lifelong Education). Next week’s class will be on the Kenai Peninsula area (will include Homer, Kenai and Soldotna, Seward). Other classes will be on western Alaska (1 class each on St. Paul Island and Nome/Gambell), southern/western islands (Adak, Kodiak, Dutch Harbor), central/eastern Alaska, southeastern Alaska (Juneau, Ketchikan and much more) and Utqiagvik (Barrow)/North Slope.

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Now that I have the first of the 8 PowerPoints done, and most of the second one done, I should have time to put together another presentation on my ABA big year as a whole so I can do my scheduled talks at the various Audubon and other birding groups in the coming months. It is clear that I could spend at least 8 hours doing that talk, so I will need to condense and rearrange things, concentrating more on the birds seen last year and less on where to bird in Alaska. In preparing for these talks it has been very helpful to me that I have been posting my birds on eBird, so when I am in doubt about where a picture was taken or when I saw a particular bird, I routinely have been checking my own eBird posts from last year. They are much more organized and much more readable than my old birding notes.

So, once again, not much birding today. Out in the yard a few birds came in, but it was frosty-foggy and quite quiet.

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Tomorrow, who knows what I will do, except I know I will be at the computer much of the day after my class is over (begins at 9:15 and goes until 10:30).