Today was Anchorage Audubon’s day to come to the Gunsight Mountain hawk watch. It was an astoundingly beautiful day (the picture below was taken from the hawk watch site), and it was not windy and it was not freezing.
I did not count, but there seemed to be 40-50 or more people there at any one time. For some it was a time to catch up with old birding friends, and incidentally to look for hawks. I arrived about 10:20 am as hawks were just beginning to appear. Since I had been at the hawk watch site on April 8th, I knew there was not much chance of a new hawk for the year, but you never know.
For the beginners or those who wished to refresh their memories, Bob Dittrick provided a crash course in hawk identification, very much appreciated.
Hawks (nearly always Harlan’s Red-tailed Hawks, Rough-legged Hawks, or Northern Harriers) and eagles (Bald, Golden) came by sporadically in ones, twos and sometimes five at a time. Sometimes they were very high and hard to spot and other times they gave us very good looks.
The two Hawk Watch International women (Caitlin Davis and Rya Rubenthaler) probably were glad to have a day with others to help in the spotting as I expect it periodically gets rather tiring to be there on duty day after day. They will be doing the count every day until May 15th.
In addition to the raptors there were also Black-billed Magpies and Common Ravens. We also had two flocks of swans fly by high over our heads.
Early in the day we heard passing Lapland Longspurs and I obsessed over whether I should count them even though I did not see them. I expect to see very many of them when I go west this year, such as to St. Paul Island, and I knew I could wait until then. Still, every bird I can count now is a bird no longer in the bush, but in the hand for the year. In the early afternoon, however, a flock of about 21 LAPLAND LONGSPURS landed along the roadside near us. Definitely countable, and I wanted pictures. A couple of us headed out toward the longspurs, which flitted up and landed back very near to us. Over the next half hour or so, the longspurs stayed and many other hawk watchers walked out along the roadside to watch longspurs instead of hawks for a while (one picture shows Andrew Fisher and how near we could get to the longspurs).
132 species so far
Wonderful scenery, wonderful birds! What is the soaring bird with the white underside and black wing tips, please?
The bottom picture of a white bird with black wing tips is a male Northern Harrier, aka Marsh Hawk, aka “Mr. Smokey”. He looks particularly white because of the snow down below him.