I was lucky enough to spend the entire day birding with Steve Heinl and as a result the number of new year-birds far exceeded my wildest imaginings.
He picked me up in the wee hours (before 8 am) and we drove south to check out some of the best spots for Brandt’s Cormorants. At Rotary Beach where he’d last seen one, on our second try, we found two BRANDT’S CORMORANTS, one of which was close enough for a crummy photo. Excellent! We also had a couple of WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS.
We headed north to an area where meadowlarks had been seen earlier but were not able to find one. In the same area (North Point Higgins), we visited a local birder’s feeders and just kept getting new birds – a YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER visiting a suet feeder, a WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW, a few VARIED THRUSHES, a NORTHERN FLICKER and a LINCOLN’S SPARROW in addition to Song Sparrows, Pine Siskins, Dark-eyed Juncos, Steller’s Jays, European Starlings, Chestnut-backed Chickadees, and an Anna’s Hummingbird (plus a Fox Sparrow which I only just barely saw and decided not to count yet).
We stopped along the road a few places as we went back south to Ketchikan, had lunch and then continued south again. In a roadside yard where there were bushes and feeders, we saw another Lincoln’s Sparrow, and a FOX SPARROW that I actually saw well.
We again stopped periodically along the road as we went south, and I was delighted when Steve spotted two male HOODED MERGANSERS in the water along the road in Saxman. On our way north back to Ketchikan, we took a walk along Ketchikan Creek, looking for and finding an AMERICAN DIPPER, plus Mallards and Green-winged Teal.
About 3:00 in a final attempt for another bird before darkness fell, we went to a Safeway and bought some Cheerios to bring in a few gulls in town. It worked and among all the Glaucous-winged Gulls there was a single Thayer’s Gull! Eleven new species for the day and a wonderful day of birding!
After Ketchikan, I will spend another couple of days in the Juneau area, and if the weather allows, take a quick flight to Hoonah, another place I’ve never been. Those following Alaska rarities will know why to go to Hoonah. For others, wait and see.