October 26 – Anchorage Woodland and Estuary

It was a bit warmer today – starting at 19 degrees instead of 9. After a beautiful sunrise at about 9 am as seen from our living room, more clouds rolled in by the time in late morning when I went on my walk at the Campbell Creek Estuary Natural Area and the sun had a bit of difficulty coming through.






By the time I was finished with my walk , the temperature was up to 28 degrees, but it felt a little colder due to the wind. Birds seen included four Black-capped Chickadees, a Red-breasted Nuthatch, a noisily tapping Hairy Woodpecker and a Steller’s Jay quietly hopping about and investigating the tree branches.




302 species so far

October 25 – Anchorage

Today was another beautiful sunny crisp day in Anchorage, very much like yesterday. The mountains viewed from our living room windows at the front of our house were just as lovely, today’s picture being taken slightly to the north of yesterday’s view. The other pictures are taken out our back window. The lovely spruce trees in the bottom picture are our neighbor’s trees. My birding was even more limited today than yesterday, being primarily backyard birds and birds seen as I drove from one meeting or appointment to another. So, my bird sightings today consisted mainly of Black-capped Chickadees, Steller’s Jays and Black-billed Magpies, none of which I took the time to photograph.




302 species so far

October 24 – Crispy Cold in Anchorage

When I woke up this morning, the temperature outside was 8 degrees, but by mid-afternoon it was up to 32 degrees. The only open water at Potter Marsh was the stream flowing a pathway through the snow-covered grass and then across the open area surrounded by ice. The light and the snow were beautiful and the air crisp – very nice for half an hour or so before my fingers started to get cold. I had three species at the marsh – a Black-capped Chickadee heard on the drive in, two Common Ravens flying by and two Bald Eagles flying by.








Later, when I got home and looked outside our living room window it was still beautiful, with the view of the Chugach Mountains and Flat Top Mountain reminding me why we bought this house and moved in exactly two years ago today.


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October 22-23 – From Sitka to Anchorage

This blog post has mostly additional information about my day in Sitka. Although the Tropical Kingbird (more pictures in yesterday’s post) was the undoubted highlight yesterday, there were quite a few other good bird sightings in Sitka.


Yesterday began (before the kingbird) with Louann and I walking over to Swan Lake where I had seen my year Wood Duck very early in this year. Unbelievably the Wood Duck is still in Sitka, still hanging out with the Mallards and still stunning in appearance.






There were other welcome birds at the lake, including a Pied-billed Grebe way out on the lake, my third Pied-billed Grebe of the year in Alaska (the others were in Ketchikan and Palmer). It is my understanding that Pied-billed Grebes nested in Sitka this year.


Also on the lake were numerous other ducks (Greater Scaup, Ring-necked, Bufflehead) and a single Canvasback (shown with one of the Ring-necked Ducks), first seen late in the day when we were looking for (but not finding) the Swamp Sparrow that we possibly, but not certainly had seen earlier in the swampy edge of the lake. During the day we also saw a White-throated Sparrow, my second for the year (this one not photographed).


After we finished daylight birding and taking pictures of ducks and of the lake area, we went downtown in Sitka where we saw a spectacular sunset before taping our interview by Matt Goff for his radio show and then we had an excellent dinner.




After dinner, Louann and I drove around looking for various nighttime birds that we were told might be possible (Western Screech-Owl and Leach’s Storm-Petrel were mentioned), but we did not hear or see either of these.

Early this morning we boarded our flight back to Anchorage. The sun was finally showing, tinting everything as we arrived there.




At our house the snow is mostly exactly as we left it a couple of days ago, clinging to branches and continuing the winter wonderland. As I typed this message on the afternoon of the 23rd, a Steller’s Jay was peering in my downstairs office window and hopping about among the scattered peanut shells left there earlier by the jays.




I’m not sure when my next out-of-town trip will be. Earlier in the year I had thought that October would be slow and had made commitments for various non-birding scheduled events, so if some bird that I still need for my list shows up somewhere, I’m hoping it does so at a time when I can hop on another plane and try to see the bird before it departs.

302 species so far

October 22 – Sitka – 302!!

Just a brief report tonight. I’ll try to tell more about Sitka tomorrow. Suffice it to say that Matt Goff picked us (Louann Feldmann and I) up this morning after she and I had found the Wood Duck that has been in Sitka since last winter. We spent the morning looking for but not seeing the Tropical Kingbird that had been in Sitka at least 6 days. After lunch Matt returned to the area while Louann and I looked unsuccessfully for the Swamp Sparrow that we thought we might have seen earlier. Then Matt called us to say he’d refound the kingbird. So Louann and I drove over there and we all saw the TROPICAL KINGBIRD. I never thought I’d see a named tropical bird in Alaska but apparently there are previous records. I also never thought I’d get to be interviewed for a radio show by Matt a second time (along with Louann) about birding.






Tomorrow we return to Anchorage.

302 species so far

October 21 – Snowy Anchorage

My first snow of this winter season was quite a big one earlier this week in Juneau but today’s in Anchorage was even bigger. We woke up at 5 am to a winter wonderland and by mid-morning we had about 7 inches in the driveway of heavy wet snow. Not good for the back. I had all sorts of activities today, including a midday talk about St. Paul Island (and its birds of course) at the Univ. of Alaska and a client deadline and more snow shoveling when I got back from my talk. So due to my schedule and the snowy roads I did not go somewhere away from home to bird today.

The snow was and still is beautiful. It hangs on the branches wetly. It will probably require a brisk wind to dislodge it or continuing warm weather.







Two of the Steller’s Jays came by when I was home, one of which fed from my hand and the other ate mealworms. I call the latter “beaky” because of its missing upper beak. It has been coming around for over a year and appears otherwise quite healthy and eats peanuts and mealworms regularly. I expect if the snow stays around the birds at the feeders will become more numerous.




Tonight I fly to Sitka. More on that tomorrow.

301 species so far


October 20 – Anchorage Lake and Stream Birding

I went to Spenard Crossing today, thinking fondly of the appearance there during the winter of 2014-15 of Purple and Cassin’s Finches. They would nice to add to the House Finch on my list for this year, but it did not happen today.


At Spenard Crossing were the usual chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches in the woods. The Black-billed Magpies, as usual, were bathing in the stream and preening after their baths.



On the lake at Spenard Crossing I was surprised to see big white butts up in the air among the Mallards – 20 swans, probably all Trumpeter but they were quite a ways out from where I was so Tundra might be possible.



At Spenard Crossing and at Westchester Lagoon there were also Common Goldeneyes. At the Lagoon, there were also Buffleheads and a Common Merganser (or so it seemed – I never saw it’s full head or beak). Most of the diving ducks were far out and mostly they were diving, but every now and then I was able to get a picture of one before it dove.






One more day of local birding and then I head out for a couple of days. More later.

301 species so far


October 19 – Palmer Birding

I spent a couple of hours wandering the Palmer area today to see if I could find any geese, such as the flock that a few days ago held a possible Ross’s Goose. I did not see any geese at all, so they may all have gone farther south.


I did see quite a few eagles, including four of them sitting on the ground in an area near the fairgrounds where I had seen a large flock of Canada Geese a couple of weeks ago.



Another young eagle sat in a tree at the Matanusksa Townsite road.

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All that I saw in addition to eagles were Common Ravens, European Starlings, a Black-billed Magpie, a Black-capped Chickadee and fly-over Mallards.


Unfortunately I need to stay in the Anchorage area for a few days due to prior commitments and client work and cannot chase any rarities for now.

301 species so far

October 18 – No. 301 – House Finch in Ketchikan

Yesterday afternoon after walking the Mendenall wetlands dike trail the second time that day,  I was planning to visit a couple of other areas in Juneau. When I checked my phone, however, I had an email from Stevel Heinl telling me that a House Finch had appeared yesterday at Jerry Koerner’s yard, a wonderful Ketchikan hotspot that has produced quite a few wonderful birds over the years and in particular, has been a major help to my Alaska big year. I changed my birding plans and went back to my Juneau motel to look at airline schedules. The Alaska Airline reservation system was down, and I was in a panic trying to get on the only flights that would fit my schedule (one of which only had 5 seats available). Finally the airline system was up and running and I made my reservation.

So, this morning bright and early I turned in my rental car and boarded a plane in Juneau to go to Ketchikan. For those who are not familiar with Ketchikan, to get there one needs to take a ferry from the Ketchikan airport to get to Ketchikan itself. It was a beautiful sunrise as I took the brief ferry trip.

Steve picked me up at the ferry dock and we drove immediately to Jerry Koerner’s house. About 8:50, very soon after we arrived, the HOUSE FINCH joined the 30 or more Dark-eyed Juncos dining on seed in Jerry’s yard.


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In addition to the juncos and House Finch, which only stayed around 15 minutes or so, Jerry’s yard had two Eurasian Collared-Doves, a few Steller’s Jays, a Golden-crowned Kinglet, at least one Song Sparrow and a Northern Flicker.

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Thanks to Jerry and Steve, shown in the photo below, for another big year bird!

Steve and I left Jerry’s yard to do more birding, but the rain then started in earnest and we mostly stayed in his car to wander around Ketchikan and check out the various gull flocks. We did leave the car to pish for little birds (such as a Swamp Sparrow) but mostly the result was nothing or just more juncos.

I am now back in Anchorage delighted with my two new birds for this trip! What’s next?
301 species so far

October 17 – Juneau Birding at Mendenhall Wetlands

The Mendenhall Wetlands dike trail was slushy this morning but by afternoon it was full of puddles and the snow was mostly melted. Photographed this morning were one of five Bald Eagles, one of four Song Sparrows, a red squirrel, a young Northern Shrike, a Sharp-shinned Hawk and a Common Raven chasing each other, and three flyover swans too high to guess at their identity. I also saw a young Northern Goshawk and heard a Belted Kingfisher.



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The tide this afternoon was a very, very high tide in Juneau, flooding the wetlands nearly completely (compare the picture below to the wetlands picture above). Gulls and ravens were snarfing up little flooded-out mammals, and many ducks moved in closer than usual, including a Hooded Merganser.



Tomorrow I take a last-minute trip to Ketchikan before heading back to Anchorage.

300 species so far