June 18 – If at First You Don’t Succeed…

I guess I’ll have to try, try again. Today I was not successful in locating a Wilson’s Phalarope north of Anchorage, past Wasilla, where one had been reported. My main problem was high water, water too high for my boots. After nearly filling my boots with water at the area I had been told was good for the phalaropes, I tried other means of accessing the wetlands but was not able to reach them. It looks like I’ll need to get hip boots or find another place to go.

It was a beautiful day and I did have a very nice woodland walk through lush vegetation and wildflowers, which almost got me to the marsh/lake area. My only Wilson’s bird, however, was a calling and winnowing Wilson’s Snipe. The woods held Dark-eyed Juncos, in addition to Yellow-rumped and Orange-crowned Warblers and many noisy Alder Flycatchers.

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I’m not sure what my birding plans are for tomorrow and the next few days. Stay tuned.

272 species so far

 

June 17 – Juneau

I did not really have any ideas for places to find new year-birds today. I had already explored all the spots that I knew about in the Juneau area that seemed to have potential the last couple of days. Last night I listened for rails a few places until quite late but I did not hear any.

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So this morning I just went back to the Mendenhall Wetlands for starters. I had been there this week shortly after high tide and a couple of hours after high tide, so this morning I went shortly after low tide. The same birds were around each time. Today, in addition to those there was a single Bonaparte’s Gull (imm.). I also wandered about taking pictures of flowers (goat’s beard and fireweed in picture below), a red squirrel and another one of the many Savannah Sparrows.

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This evening I am due to fly back to Anchorage. All sorts of interesting birds have been reported around the state. I haven’t decided exactly on where to go and when, and I do have client work to do right away. As always, a bit of juggling and a lot of decision-making.

272 species so far

 

June 16 – Bird Seeking and Just Birding

I started the day just birding at the Brotherhood Bridge trail in Juneau. The two Red-eyed Vireos were still singing (I wonder if they sing all night long) but as usual they were difficult to see. What were easier to see (and photograph) were the common summer birds – Song Sparrow and Yellow-rumped and Yellow Warblers. Also around were an Alder Flycatcher, both Kinglet species, about six Bank Swallows, Lincoln’s Sparrows, Orange-crowned and Townsend’s Warblers, two Red-breasted Sapsuckers, a Rufous Hummingbird and a Belted Kingfisher.

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I was about to go the Mendenhall Wetlands when Gus Van Vliet called and asked if I wanted to check out some ponds and wetlands for rails. Although Virginia Rail and Sora are possible to get in Alaskan some years, they are unlikely. Nevertheless if I don’t go looking for them I definitely will not get them. So we went to the Nancy Street Wetland, the Mendenhall Glacier campground, and the Community Garden wetland, but no rails.

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As the day got hotter and hotter, I spent two hours in the early afternoon slowly walking the Mendenhall Wetland dike trail. Again, no new birds but I decided to take my time and just bird and take pictures. I was of course open to the possibility of a new bird or two but none appeared. I added photos of a Belted Kingfisher, a Spotted Sandpiper, a Lesser Yellowlegs and a Savannah Sparrow to my day’s photo list.

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Tonight when it cools off I plan to spend a little time listening for rails at another site (as I did last night too) and will report tomorrow if I have any luck.

Throughout this year so far I’ve gotten nervous if too many days passed without me getting any new birds. Now that I’m reaching the previously known maximum number of bird species seen in one year by any one person in Alaska, I need to realize that there are way more days left in the year (more than half a year!) than there are birds that it would be possible for me to add to my year list. Bottom line: there will be many days to come without any new birds for me so I need to get used to it!

272 species so far

 

 

June 15 – Good Birding in Juneau

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Yesterday before I flew from Ketchikan to Juneau, I learned that Gus Van Vliet had posted that he’d found Red-eyed Vireo (multiple) and  a Tennessee Warbler in Juneau, so my plan today was to try for these two species. Early this morning I went to the Brotherhood Bridge area, and within about 5 minutes had found the first of two RED-EYED VIREOS. Although finding that they were around was easy because they sing loudly nonstop, seeing them well and getting a picture took a while. Other birds that were there were a Red-breasted Sapsucker, multiple Bank Swallows, Alder Flycatchers, American Robins including a few fledged youngsters peering out of the green leaves, Northern Waterthrushes and Song and Lincoln’s Sparrows.

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As I was about to leave the area, Patty Rose arrived so the two of us went back to find one of the still-singing Red-eyed Vireos. Then we went to the Moose Lake Trail where Gus had found the Tennessee Warbler. At first all we could find in the area was a Northern Waterthrush which seemed to be trying to sound like a Tennessee Warbler. We explored a bit and then came back to find that the TENNESSEE WARBLER was there and was singing. Gus Van Vliet arrived and we birded more of the area and saw the Tennessee Warbler again.

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Gus also pointed out the mountain goats on Mt. McGuiness overlooking the Moose Lake area.

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After lunch Patty and I went to the Mendenhall Wetlands dike trail. It was getting quite hot out and birding was slow, but we did see a small flock of Greater Yellowlegs, a single Short-billed Dowitcher and various sparrows and warblers.

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This evening I went to Eagle Beach, but the incoming tide did not bring closer any new birds. Tomorrow I’ll probably bird most of the same areas as today as well as additional areas in Juneau.

272 species so far

June 14 – Birding and Touristing in Ketchikan

Louann Feldmann and I birded the Ketchikan area today, our main birding being in the morning on the road to Brown Mountain and nearby roads. It was a beautiful morning begun with what I understand is a Sitka black-tailed deer watching us for awhile. Birds included singing and calling American Robins, Varied, Hermit and Swainson’s Thrushes, Orange-crowned, Yellow-rumped, Wilson’s and Townsend’s Warblers, Brown Creepers, Chestnut-backed Chickadees, a Hairy Woodpecker, Vaux’s Swifts, Rufous Hummingbirds, Fox Sparrows, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and Pacific Wrens.

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After lunch we birded and touristed at Totem Bight State Park, which I had never explored before. Very interesting area with moss-laden trees, fascinating totem poles, and a great spot to visit if one is willing to take a break from birding. And of course, even there there were birds – those on the totem poles, and Bald Eagles, Killdeers, Pacific Wrens, Swainson’s Thrushes and American Robins, and a Song Sparrow.

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Louann is on her way to Anchorage now, and in a few hours I will depart for Juneau where I will spend a few more days birding before heading home

270 species so far

June 13 – Back in Ketchikan

This morning Steve, Louann and I walked around the town of Hyder and were able to see again a few of the rarities that we had seen earlier in the trip, including the Black-throated Gray Warbler and the Willow Flycatcher(s). We added a new bird to our trip list (total of about 82 species for the trip) when we found a very out-of-range Black-backed Woodpecker. The bird was not interested in letting us get good photographs but you can see part of it in the photo below hidden behind the leaves.

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Other photos today: an American Redstart, Barn Swallows perched together, an interestingly plumaged Northern Flicker (2 photos) and a black bear rummaging at the Hyder dump.

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Just before noon we departed Hyder in a seaplane as we had arrived. This one had more of its space for passengers (7 instead of 4) and less space for cargo than when we came to Hyder 4 days ago.

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I will bird tomorrow in Ketchikan with Louann and then head to Juneau for a few days of birding, hoping that there is something around to add to my year-list.

270 species so far

 

June 12 – Hyder: The Birds Keep Coming

Yesterday evening after I wrote my blog post we had great views finally of a Pacific-slope Flycatcher, and this morning great views of a Least Flycatcher. This has definitely been a flycatcher trip and a veery trip (heard again this morning).

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On one of our walks today, we got wonderful views of a Ruffed Grouse that flew past us and landed in a nearby sapling.

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We also had additional views of the apparently more than one Veery, one of which came out to the road.

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I really did not think that I would get a new bird today. It’s been a spectacular trip and only so much is possible. But mid-morning in the light rain, Steve heard the distant sound of a possible Magnolia Warbler, and after we crashed and slid down a slope through the underbrush, there was a beautiful MAGNOLIA WARBLER! First I got a view of its distinctive undertail and then the whole bird. The trip is “inconceivable”.

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We had an amazing birding session after lunch! While my photos are crummy at best, the views that we had of a BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER were very good (apparently never before photographed in AK, and maybe only seen once before in AK). It flitted around in the midst of a small flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers and disappeared. We refound it later in the day and will probably look for it tomorrow before we head back to Ketchikan.

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As we were walking along in the light rain this afternoon, we noticed a Common Raven circling high above with a hawk of some kind. We had been bemoaning the lack of raptors and there was one right above us. But what was it? After reviewing the shape and what we could see on the distant hawk, and looking at Steve’s pictures showing the typical bicolored wing (my pictures are basically silhouettes), we concluded that it was a SWAINSON’S HAWK, also extremely rare in AK!!

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What next?

270 species so far

June 11 – Another Veery Good Day

Today we re-explored the same roads and trails as before. The picture shows Louann and Steve at a lovely marsh near Hyder.

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Highlights on Hyder today included two different Black-headed Grosbeaks.

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We also got a better view of a MacGillivray’s Warbler today, even though it was mostly not visible and we could just track its progress by seeing wiggling leaves.

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We also got a better view of Cedar Waxwings, birds difficult to find up in Anchorage.

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In addition to seeing common birds and seeing again some of the birds that were new for my year since we’ve arrived in Hyder, I saw my first CASSIN’S VIREO today. Steve got good pictures of it but I did not.

Probably the best birding today included a better view and photos of the earlier seen Veery, as we heard and saw it sing.

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267 species so far

June 10 – Another Amazing Day in Hyder

Steve, Louann and I birded basically the same areas in Hyder as yesterday and added even more bird species. Hightlights today, in addition to the Veery that was again seen and heard and today was photographed and audio-recorded by Steve, we had many other “good” birds. The picture shows Steve pointing to the Veery spot.

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As can be seen by the photos of us (Louann & Steve; Lynn & Steve), we are all very pleased with this trip to Hyder.

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By about 9:00 today (8:00 am our time), we had finally seen an AMERICAN CROW (about the only place in Alaska where they are); a young male BULLOCK’S ORIOLE (seen periodically in SE Alaska, but not seen by me before in AK); a singing BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK (silhouetted in the picture); my first ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOWS (seen yesterday by the others); and about four high-flying BLACK SWIFTS (Hyder is about the only place in AK for them).

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In the afternoon, it looked we weren’t going to see anything new, but then we were very surpriused to hear and then see a a very close YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER. Steve got very good photos but mine were just a blur.

A non-new bird for me since I had heard but not seen them in Delta Junction earlier this year was the wonderful sighting for me of a drumming Ruffed Grouse. We heard both him and a more distant Sooty Grouse for much of one of our afternoon walks. We could see him well between the branches, and he was only about 40 feet away from us! He seemed to ignore us and was still there when we left.

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266 species so far

June 9 – Absolutely Amazing Hyder!

Steve Heinl, Louann Feldmann and I took the mail-plane (has 4 passenger seats) from Ketchikan to Hyder today. Hyder is about as far south as one can go in Alaska on the mainland and is right next to Stewart, British Columbia. An Alaskan birder goes there to get Canadian and lower 48 birds that are rare in the rest of Alaska.

We arrived about 12:30 pm (Alaska time) and birded most of the time until 9:30 Alaska time (10:30 in British Columbia). Today’s birding added 10 (!!) new birds to my year list. Especial thanks to Steve without whom it is unlikely we would have seen many of these birds!!

They include the following birds in order of being added to the list: Chipping Sparrow (first heard and finally seen); MacGillivray’s Warbler (only the rear shows in the photo); Western Tanager; Willow Flycatcher; American Redstart (not photographed); Alder Flycatcher;  Eastern Kingbird; Western Wood-Pewee; an astounding Veery seen late in the day after we heard it calling and then singing (very poorly photographed but seen well and heard often; we will hope for better pictures tomorrow); and Least Flycatcher (not photographed).

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Tomorrow more Hyder birding. What is next?

260 species seen so far