My birding day began just after dawn, walking up the hill with Aaron Lang to his house. The roads leading to his house were quite icy and it is unlikely my rental truck would have been able to negotiate them. From his porch we watched a host of White-crowned and Golden-crowned Sparrows, a couple of Lincoln’s Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, and my first AMERICAN TREE SPARROW of the year eating seed near a brush pile in his back yard. His wintering Anna’s Hummingbird (which I first saw last fall at his house) repeatedly visited a feeder hanging over my head. Black-capped Chickadees and Common Redpolls zipped around the yard as we waited for our g0al bird to appear.
We took a break from our vigil and wandered up his driveway to see birds near a neighbor’s feeder, and then returned to Aaron’s porch. After a little while we went into the house and peered out a window at the same brush pile. Finally our goal bird, his wintering WHITE-THROATED SPARROW appeared right where it has been seen 90% of the time when it has appeared, near the brush pile.
We then drove around the local areas that were good habitat for, and/or were places where Townsend’s Solitaires have been seen. But not today. After giving me some ideas of where to bird, Aaron then went off to his afternoon commitment and I drove down to the Homer Spit. I had a number of possible goals. The weather was good and I decided to do some scope-scanning for loons out at the end of the spit. There were loons, but all I could see were Common Loons. There were plenty of Black Scoters, a few White-winged Scoters and many Long-tailed Ducks. As I was staring at the flock of Glaucous-winged and Mew Gulls, a small bird flitted over my head. My first thought was that it must be a Song Sparrow (one of which I had just seen toward the beginning of the spit), but more little birds followed, my first GRAY-CROWNED ROSY-FINCHES of the year.
I decided to go explore other Homer areas, but then I received a text and then a phone call from Martin Renner, who volunteered to help me look for Snow Bunting flocks, and maybe find a McKay’s Bunting among them. We did find some Snow Buntings, but they mostly stayed down in the grass and were difficult to view. We explored a couple of grassy areas, and I had my first grim encounter with some of the many dead Common Murres that litter many Alaskan shores and other areas. My birding day ended when it got too dark to see anything. I hope to be birding shortly after dawn tomorrow for my last day of this trip to Homer.
98 species so far
What is causing the deaths of the Common Murres?
There are lots of theories that I have heard about the Common Murres, such as warmer water causing feed-fish to go lower, or causing toxic algal growth, but I don’t think anyone knows. I’m sure many wise people are studying this.