Apr. 13 – Of Ptarmigans and Yellowlegs

Although I had seen the ebird posts on Greater Yellowlegs that were found in Anchorage yesterday, I decided to first try one more time for White-tailed Ptarmigan by going up Arctic Valley Road this morning. I went about an hour earlier than we had gone a week or so ago hoping the birds might be around the lower slopes. Much more snow had melted but there still were large patches in the search area (where others had previously seen these birds). The temperature was about 35 degrees and it was not too windy, so the hike was quite pleasant.

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I went up to the area we had explored before, but the only ptarmigan I found were two Willow Ptarmigan. The first one flew off in a hurry from nearly underfoot, but a bit later, the second one stayed around nervously watching me take photographs. The first picture below has a ptarmigan in it, which you can see if you look carefully. The fourth ptarmigan picture below shows a close-up of the tail and definitively shows that it is not a White-tailed Ptarmigan even though most of the tail is white.

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There also were a couple of mammals around. First there were two ground squirrels (someone I’m sure will tell me their proper name) sitting up on the woody plants and munching vegetation high on the slope.

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On my way driving out the road there was a male moose munching on bark and branches. At first I thought he had light-colored eyes until I realized that I was seeing the places where his antlers had been.

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After that I went to Potter March, hoping for yellowlegs there but not seeing any. So, I went to where the yellowlegs had been reported yesterday. Between Westchester Lagoon and the inlet, I found two GREATER YELLOWLEGS working the stream edge. At first they were quite far apart but as they approached each other the closer one fanned his tail and watched the other one. Both yellowlegs are in the fourth picture below. Unfortunately a Black-billed Magpie dropped down and disturbed them both. I saw and heard the two yellowlegs again later a bit farther south along the coastal trail.

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There were also the usual Mallards, Canada Geese, two Green-winged Teal, Black-capped Chickadees, and gulls around the still mostly frozen lagoon.

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130 species so far

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