The day of birding began at 9:45 when Rich MacIntosh arrived and led me through the rain in my rental car out to Lake Louise. After the first (of many) Bald Eagles, the first bird we saw on the lake in the rainy, windy half-light appeared to be the much-wanted Common Pochard but flew away before we could see it well. When we got around to the south side of the lake, we found what was certainly the Pochard, swimming with a Common Goldeneye.
We then wended our way southish along Rezanof Drive (the Chiniak Highway), which mostly goes along the west side of the Gulf of Alaska and various small bays off of Chiniak Bay (Womens, Middle and Kalsin Bays). Periodically we pulled over to scan the water. I was especially looking for Emperor Geese, which I understood to be quite common here in winter and they definitely were. There were also scattered duck sightings (both Goldeneyes, Long-tailed Ducks, Mallards) plus Mew and Glaucous-winged Gulls.
Near where the Chiniak Highway turns right, we drove on a rough side road along Kalsin Bay, where we saw a few (apparently rare here) Crested Auklets fly by. There were also Common Murres out on the water and a couple of Northwestern Crows and Black-billed Magpies scattered about. We had actually seen a dead one of these on the road before seeing the living ones. A small flock of Snow Buntings zipped off quickly, not giving us a chance to check for McKay’s Buntings. In addition to the usual winter ducks (Buffleheads, Harlequin Ducks, Black Scoters, Red-breasted Merganser), we had a mixed flock of shorebirds (Black Turnstones, 15; Rock Sandpipers, 150; and Surfbird, 1).
We then headed out Pasagshak Bay Road to the bay itself, adding Common Merganser, a huge mixed flock of Gadwalls and Greater Scaup, two Trumpeter Swans, an American Wigeon, Canada Geese (“Vancouver”), a Common Loon, Steller’s Eiders and Surf Scoters.
On our way back, near Kalsin Bay we saw a couple of Red Crossbills and a Black-capped Chickadee at a bird feeder, while a Belted Kingfisher watched from a nearby powerline. After Rich headed back, I wandered back a bit more slowly and saw a Common Raven (probably seen earlier but ignored in the chase for the Pochard). In addition to more sightings of the birds seen earlier, I finally had a close-up Horned Grebe (Rich had seen some distant ones earlier).
Although the nearly gale-force winds continued most of the day, the heavy rain let up considerably, sometimes actually stopping when we were at our southernmost point and allowing an almost-glimpse of the sun. On the way back the rain came down periodically in little showers, but was much less difficult to see through.
All in all, an excellent day of birding. Great thanks to Rich!
38 species so far
Nice strategy – starting out with Rich M. and the Common Pochard. Have a great year!
Nice get on the Pochard. Emperor Geese, Steller’s Eiders, Red Crossbills and Surfbird! You’re off to a good start Lynn