Apr. 30 – Rainy Birding Day in Juneau

Although my meteorologist husband had told me the chances of rain for every day this week in Juneau were very, very high, I was still not psychologically prepared for the reality of the chilly rainy day. I arrived in Juneau mid-morning and Bev Agler agreed to go birding with me. My first goal was the Cinnamon Teal that had been reported a couple of days ago, but in spite of serious tromping around the mudflats and sightings of numerous Green-winged Teal, no Cinnamon Teal was spotted. I don’t know if he is a gone bird or not.


We drove farther out toward the north to a very nice roadside bog-pond. While we stood out in the considerably lessened rainfall, we heard the very low hoots of a distant SOOTY GROUSE. Shortly after that we heard a RED-BREASTED SAPSUCKER, much closer but also invisible. I expect I will hear both of them again, and will see a sapsucker. Everywhere we went Ruby-crowned Kinglets were singing noisily. There were also a couple of singing Orange-crowned Warblers and Dark-eyed Juncos.



After I dropped Bev off at her car, I birded a couple of more spots in the rain. The golf course, which I have been repeatedly told can be a good spot for Mountain Bluebirds just had more kinglets and orange-crowns.

The Brotherhood Bridge trail was more productive. The greenery was particularly beautiful and lush.  In addition to a Northern Harrier, Steller’s Jay, Bald Eagle, and some singing Varied Thrushes, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and American Robins, over the river were two twittering gray-brown VAUX’S SWIFTS arcing high and back down. I tried to follow them with my camera but they moved too fast and then they then disappeared completely. After that I was entertained by a pair of very noisy Belted Kingfishers chasing each other up and down the river, over my head and back again. Only rarely did they sit.



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Tomorrow more Juneau birding. I am prepared for the rain but definitely would not mind if there were periods without it.

149 species so far

Apr. 29 – Usual and Recently Usual Birds

My birding today was very limited due to the time needed to do laundry and pack for my trip tomorrow, time needed for a client meeting, and time needed to serve as designated driver/fretter for my husband who had serious dental/sinus surgery today.


So, I opted at 6 am to go yet again to Potter Marsh. It was cloudy but as always beautiful there.


The usual birds (Mallards, Black-billed Magpies, Black-capped Chickadees, American Robins) were there plus the recently arrived, now usual birds (Canada Geese fighting each other, Gadwalls, American Wigeons, Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintail, calling Sandhill Cranes, Greater Yellowlegs, Mew Gulls, and singing Lincoln’s Sparrows). There were also two Wilson’s Snipe at the boggy area on the old Seward Highway behind the marsh, one of which was winnowing up high somewhere and one of which was calling from the ground and got spooked up when I came by.








146 species so far

Apr. 28 – Two More Shorebirds

I checked out a number of diverse areas around and in Anchorage today, hoping for newly arrived shorebirds and/or passerines. First I walked the Potter Marsh boardwalk and drove the highway along the marsh. Green-winged Teal were lurking everywhere, two Greater Yellowlegs were having a very noisy vigorous battle, at least three Lincoln’s Sparrows were singing near the boardwalk, and there were five Sandhill Cranes out in the marsh grass, periodically calling loudly. Arctic Terns and Mew Gulls were everywhere too.






Next I drove south down to Girdwood and then back toward Anchorage, stopping at Bird Creek Campground where Varied Thrushes dominated the sounds and Black-billed Magpies were hopping along the road.



I walked the loop at Campbell Creek Estuary Natural Area, listening to crane music and seeing a couple of them. I heard an Orange-crowned Warbler, a Dark-eyed Junco, a Wilson’s Snipe and a Yellow-rumped Warbler as I walked. Three Gray Jays arrived silently, which was interesting since I had only seen Steller’s Jays there before.



I timed my arrival at Westchester Lagoon to be near high tide late in the morning, hoping the rising water would force in some shorebirds so that they could be better seen. American Wigeons were the most numerous duck in the grassy areas near the coastal trail behind the lagoon. Apparently it was not a very high high tide so the shorebirds that I did see, except for two nearby Greater Yellowlegs, remained far out. They included three other Greater Yellowlegs, two SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHERS (photographs just show grayish-brown blurs against the gray mud) and a HUDSONIAN GODWIT (photograph a little better due to the larger, darker somewhat nearer bird). Mew Gulls, Bonaparte’s Gulls and Arctic Terns were the noisy common birds of the lagoon, and will undoubtedly continue to be so for weeks.






Recently-scheduled non-bird commitments will keep me in Anchorage tomorrow, but then Saturday I begin my week-long trip to southeast Alaska (Juneau, Ketchikan, Gustavus). I am really looking forward to this trip, which has great potential for new year birds, and even some new birds for the state for me.

146 species for the year so far

Apr. 27 – Canvasbacks and Lesser Yellowlegs, Anchorage

I started the day before dawn at the historical park that I visited yesterday. It was a birdy morning with drumming Ruffed Grouse, calling and singing Hammond’s Flycatchers, and over 20 White-crowned Sparrows scattered across the grounds and singing.



I then began the 350 mile drive back to Anchorage. Just south of Delta Junction two caribou crossed the road and stood looking at the car as I photographed one of them.


I stopped periodically at bogs and various overlooks as I drove. High in the mountains I encountered a couple of snowfalls but the temperature was above freezing and the roads were fine. I did not see very many birds as I zoomed along, other than Trumpeter Swans, Mallards and a pair of Ring-necked Ducks.





When I got to Palmer (about 40 miles away from Anchorage), I took a break from driving to check out the Matanuska Townsite road. I was delighted to finally be able to photograph a pair of Sandhill Cranes for the year.



In Anchorage I went to Westchester Lagoon where Canvasbacks and Short-billed Dowitchers had been reported. I easily found the CANVASBACKS, at least 5 of them far across the lake, but there were no dowitchers visible anywhere. In addition to a Greater Yellowlegs that was in the wetland adjacent to the lagoon, I did find a LESSER YELLOWLEGS where I expected the dowitchers to be at one of the islands in the lagoon. Bonaparte’s Gulls and Arctic Terns, recently new for my big year, were everywhere.





Tomorrow I plan to do some exploring around Anchorage to see what else has arrived.

144 species so far


Apr. 26 – Ruffed Grouse and Hammond’s Flycatcher

There were at least five displaying male RUFFED GROUSE near Bolio Lake this morning south of Delta Junction. It was a beautiful but cold morning. The temperature was 23 degrees when I arrived there about 5 am pre-sunrise, and I think they were drumming to keep themselves warm. They were spaced out along the road on both sides of the road, easy to hear, but not seen at all. I really tried, however, peering through the trees toward their drumming sounds. Because they were on off-limits military land, I could not go in any closer than the road. I stayed there until after 7 am when they seemed to have stopped drumming for the day. Dark-eyed Juncos kept singing the whole time.





I then hurried over to what I had been told was a Sharp-tailed Grouse lek spot in the Fort Greeley area. When I arrived at the lek, the Sharp-tails had pretty much stopped activity. There were still six on the lek, four of which periodically engaged in little cock-fights and then relaxed. One of them did a little pirouette and then started pecking at the ground.




After a brief stop at my room I drove about 20 miles toward Tok to the Barley Way area where I had gone yesterday. There were a couple of Sharp-tailed Grouse there, about three Northern Harriers, a Rough-legged Hawk (dark) and a Harlan’s Red-tailed Hawk all hunting the vast open spaces.

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By this time I was thinking about my lack of sleep and that it was time for a nap so I headed west to the Richardson Highway, intending to go back to my room. As I pulled off the road at the Tanana Bridge area, I heard the unmistakable sound of a HAMMOND’S FLYCATCHER. There were at least three there, but with the constant traffic and their flitting about in the trees, I could hardly find them much less get a good view. So I continued back on the highway until I found Big Delta State Historical Park with a good tree stand. There I heard another Hammond’s Flycatcher which I finally was able to see well and get a couple of silhouetted pictures.

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I learned this evening that Ruffed Grouse drum in the evening too. I drove the area near Bolio Lake where I had heard them this morning hoping to see one on or near the road. I did not see one, but there was drumming on and off from about 5:50-7:22 pm. A pair of Gray Jays and a moose filled out that part of my evening birding.



I finished the day back at Big Delta State Historical Park tonight on my way back to my room. The Hammond’s was still calling and there were also Ruffed Grouse drumming until almost 9 pm. At 9, a Great Horned Owl started calling.

Tomorrow I head back to Anchorage for a couple of days before a trip to southeastern Alaska, but first I plan to go back to Big Delta Historical Park to see what it is like in the morning

142 species so far


Apr. 25 – Drive to Delta Junction

Over 400 miles today. I am too tired to write much, so it will just be the basics. Many ponds and lakes along the way had at least a couple of Trumpeter Swans, and various ducks. At one partly frozen lake, I noticed one sleeping swan, and then the head of another one appeared, and I watched it moving vegetation toward it, apparently working on a nest.



About 50 miles south of Delta Junction, I saw a Northern Hawk Owl perched on top of a spruce. I made a U-turn to photograph it and it dove down and disappeared. The next thing I saw was a tiny falcon diving at a Common Raven. For a moment I thought that maybe there had been no hawk owl at all, just the falcon. Then the Hawk Owl appeared on top of a deciduous tree. The falcon was calling as it dove, and I finally saw enough to realize that it was an AMERICAN KESTREL. My pictures of it were fairly worthless, however.


In Delta Junction, I had a brief meeting with Jeff Mason who told me some sites to check out in the morning for my goal birds, Sharp-tailed Grouse and Ruffed Grouse. This afternoon I drove most of these roads to check out their locations, and flushed two AMERICAN PIPITS. My pictures were taken through the windshield so are a bit blurry.


On Barley Way, toward Tok, were three SHARP-TAILED GROUSE. Maybe I’ll see them display tomorrow, but at least I no longer need to worry whether I’ll find one.



As I continued to drive back toward Delta Junction on Barley Way, large numbers of geese were descending far out in a field. At first all I could see were Canada Geese, probably 600 or more. But when I used my camera as a telescope, I realized that there also were  GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE, at least 20 or so.



Tomorrow my main goal will be Ruffed Grouse.

140 species so far



Apr. 24 – Anchorage Additions


I arrived back in Alaska in the wee hours this morning, got almost 2 hours of sleep at home, then sang, played hand bells and recited a goofy recitation at our church’s April Aires celebration and then finally this afternoon got in some Alaskan birding.

The first new bird of the day was an ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER singing in trees along Northern Lights Blvd. Eventually I will probably get a picture of one but not today.


I went to Westchester Lagoon where the lake was ice-free. I was not studying the ducks very closely but I did notice that there were the usual ducks, including American Wigeons. A few Black-capped Chickadees were apparently eating overblown pussywillow buds.



I did easily get both my goal birds, ARCTIC TERN and BONAPARTE’S GULL, both of which had been reported while I was in Texas. There were about 8 Arctic Terns and about 40 Bonaparte’s Gulls on the lagoon itself and along the mudflats along the coastal trail near the lagoon.



Tomorrow the plan is to head north for a bit of interior Alaska birding.

136 species so far

Apr. 23 – TEXAS Birding Break, Day 5

I’m at the Austin airport, having given a second talk on my new book at BookPeople, sponsored in conjunction with Travis Audubon Society. The picture below, taken by Joan Marshall, Exec. Dir. of Travis Audubon, is of Shelia Hargis and Frances Cerbins of the Travis Audubon Board and me in the middle.

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My birding today was with Debra Corpora and was limited to a couple of spots in Rockport this morning, and fly-by birding as I drove from Rockport to Austin. The Rockport birding began at a new Aransas Pathways site, Tule Marsh West, where it turns out a couple of my photographs have been used in the signage (permission given of course).


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After that we went to another relatively new spot, the Linda S. Castro Nature Sanctuary that we’d visited before. We did not have time to see many birds but we did see a splotchy Summer Tanager. And that’s it for Texas for a while. Now it’s back to Alaska big year birding.



TEXAS only, but back soon in Alaska

Apr. 22 – TEXAS Birding Break, Day 4

Today’s birding began on the road to Sabine Pass, the road to and beyond Sabine Woods, and at Sabine Woods. It was a birdy morning, and by 10 am, my Texas total for the week was 22 warbler species, not bad for less than two days of birding (I drove over 300 miles each day for 3 of the 4 days so far). Debra Corpora and I ended the day birding in the Rockport area.

Shown below are some of my favorite pictures of birds seen today, plus a picture of Ben Horstmann and Debra Corpora. Ben found us the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. Birds shown are White Ibises, Willet, American Bittern, Blackburnian Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Palm Warbler, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Reddish Egret and Roseate Spoonbills.











And of course, a sunset to end the day – a pretty one, even if it lacks the mountains of Alaska.


Only in TEXAS; no new Alaska birds


Apr.21 – TEXAS Birding Break, Day 3

Today was a day of driving (about 330 miles) and rain, lots of it. If you have heard any news, you have probably heard about the flooding in the Houston area. It was again/still raining heavily as I passed through Houston on the way from Rockport to Beaumont. Although the rain stopped and gave me a few minutes to bird Sabine, Woods, one of my favorite Texas birding spots, it started up in earnest and I eventually raced to my car and drove to Beaumont (about 40 miles) where I’ve been removing shrink wrap from my books and signing them preparatory to my going to the Golden Triangle Audubon meeting tonight. There I will talk about Birds in Trouble (and maybe sell some books).

So my pictures today are just a few taken at Sabine Woods, including views of Lantana plants, a waterthrush (I’m thinking Northern, but my views were no better than my photos) and a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird at  coral bean flowers.





Tomorrow I’ll drive back to Rockport (maybe after a bit of birding at Sabine Woods if it’s not raining). Saturday morning I’ll head to Austin where I’m scheduled to give a talk at the Book People store at 3 pm.

TEXAS birding only; no new Alaska birds of course