June 23 – Solitary and Ruddy

Although my birding has been solitary lately and my face is getting ruddy from all the exposure to sun, that’s not what the title is about. It refers of course to birds.

My first new bird of the day was a SOLITARY SANDPIPER. I had gotten up very early to look for Great Gray Owls, without success, and then headed northwest to Creamer’s Field in Fairbanks. On the drive there were beautiful mountain views. Along the way I watched an American Robin attacking an Amerian Kestrel but otherwise did not see very many birds as I drove rapidly along. My goal was a Solitary Sandpiper, which I had read nested there (at least in the past). I went first to the wetland, not being quite sure where to look. At the wetland were numerous duck families – Mallard, American Wigeon and Bufflehead (shown). Warblers, including Yellow Warblers, were singing around the wetland, but no sandpipers.

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I checked one of my bird-guide apps and learned that I should be looking in boreal forest wetlands for the sandpiper. And then I noticed that Creamer’s Field has a trail that it states goes into a boreal forest. I began walking on that trail and immediately on the wet mud near a little bridge found a Solitary Sandpiper! I spent a bit more time there litening to the woodland birds and then decided to continued birding elsewhere.

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My plan was to go to Kenny Lake, but on the way there I received a text from Steve Heinl (who knew I’d been up in Fairbanks) reminding me that I was near an area where Smith’s Longspurs are found. So I spent some time on the first 20 miles of the Denali highway, hearing many Arctic Warblers and White-crowned Sparrows, seeing a single American Tree Sparrow, and walking upper tundra areas, but no longspurs. I plan to go back tomorrow.

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I was feeling tired, however, and decided quit birding to go to my motel in Glennallen (relatively near Kenny Lake where I had intended to go during the day as I knew that it was sometimes possible to find Ruddy Ducks there). After checking in, I felt a bit revived so headed to Kenny Lake in the early evening. After a drive of about 40 miles, I reached Kenny Lake, got out my scope, walked to the lake edge, scanned around and found two RUDDY DUCKS! There were quite a few other ducks there, some with young, and Horned Grebes and their young.

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Today was my third day in a row driving over 4o0 miles – today about 475 miles. Seems a bit like my Texas big year lately with all the driving.

276 species so far (see lynnbarber.com for the complete year list)

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