Jan. 30 – Success South of Anchorage

My plan today was to check out Potter Marsh south of Anchorage, one of my most favorite birding spots in the Anchorage area, and then try to figure out where to bird next. I knew Potter Marsh would be mostly frozen and I did not expect much to be around, but you never know. I thought maybe a Merlin might cruise by or something else good (=”new”) might appear.

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It was a beautiful morning, with the sun just beginning to clear the southeastern mountains (about 10 am). The Black-billed Magpies were out in force, and I heard the sound of Black-capped Chickadees as I walked to the far eastern end of the boardwalk.

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As I approached the end, I saw a bird-shaped lump in a tree silhouetted against the snowy slopes. It really looked like a large raptor. My heart started to pound as I realized it really looked like a goshawk-shaped raptor. My scope was in the car, so rather than risk the bird leaving as I raced back to the car, I cranked up the magnification on my camera and fired off a zillion photos. It was a NORTHERN GOSHAWK, apparently a young bird, which I happily showed to a non-birder photographer who was sort of interested in it. The goshawk then dove downward and disappeared from view.

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On my walk along the boardwalk back to my car, I saw a female Common Merganser diving and resurfacing in the narrow patch of unfrozen water, the only duck of the day.

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I decided to drive farther south and try for Townsend’s Solitaire in the Windy Point area along the highway. It was a beautiful drive and the water was unusually flat and there was no wind. I understand that Dick Prentki was the first to find and report solitaires there in other years, and that others had also seen them there. I tried to find solitaires there last winter, but was completely unsuccessful, despite multiple short hikes up the hill and multiple scope-scannings from down on the highway. Part of my problem in my tries last year was that the trail was very icy and I did not go far.

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Today the trail was absolutely ice-free and I was free to clamber over rocks and walk the mostly easy trail farther than before. I actually did not need to go very far because almost immediately I saw a perched-up TOWNSEND’S SOLITAIRE on a spruce. But it dove down and I did not get a picture so I walked on. hoping for a better, photographable view.

I soon heard a solitaire calling and then had two of them squabbling and singing in the wooded area about 0.3 mile from my car. Although they were rarely still, I was able to get some photos when they occasionally landed on a branch. I walked a bit farther and then turned around. On the walk back another solitaire flew over my head going downhill.

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A great morning!

105 species so far

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