Hoonah, Alaska is a small community on Chichagof Island which is west of Juneau. I would not probably have known of it, except for Amy Courtney’s posts on the Facebook rare bird site and on eBird late in 2015 regarding a Brewer’s Blackbird being seen in her yard. Brewer’s Blackbirds being extremely rare in Alaska I kept track of hers through eBird and was very pleased, to say the least, that it stayed into the new year. As a possible added bonus for going to Hoonah was the Rusty Blackbird (not nearly as rare but not common) that was also coming to her feeder area. Therefore, when I made my plans for where to go in early January, Hoonah was right up there with Juneau and Ketchikan. I was dismayed when my flight to Juneau on Jan. 3rd was cancelled due to fog, which required me to delay my flight from Juneau to Hoonah by 4 days. Would the blackbird stay around?
Today I learned the answer to that. My first-ever flight on a seaplane, from Juneau to Hoonah this morning, was uneventful, very scenic, and quick (about 20 minutes).
When I landed Amy picked me up and we drove to her house. Almost immediately her female RUSTY BLACKBIRD joined the numerous Dark-eyed Juncos (Oregon), the Northwestern Crows, White-crowned Sparrow, GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW, Fox Sparrow, and relatively newly arrived in her yard SAVANNAH SPARROW. But no Brewer’s Blackbird. We anxiously scanned the brushy areas between her yard and the water, looked out at the Common Mergansers and Barrow’s Goldeneyes, and fretted.
About half an hour after my arrival (seemed like more), the female BREWER’S BLACKBIRD joined the others. She had a minor tussle with the Rusty Blackbird and then both of them exited stage right. It is always so good when a trip yields the goal bird!
Amy and I then went birding both north and south of the Hoonah center. I learned of her enthusiasm for and knowledge of birding sites and birds in the area and her plans to start offering short birding tours to this summer’s cruise ship visitors when the ships come into port for their 8-hour visits.
An excellent, worthwhile trip. Maybe Amy will find another good bird there to give me an excuse to take another seaplane trip to Hoonah. Or I guess I could take a cruise.