July 21 – Woodland Walk and Potter Marsh

I walked the woods and coastal trail at Campbell Creek Estuary Natural Area this afternoon in Anchorage and then took a brief trip to Potter Marsh.

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In order to let people get a feel for the very nice trail at the Natural Area, I took a few pictures of it. Also, at first there were not too many birds around so I had plenty of time to take the non-bird pictures.

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When I got out in the open area at the Natural Area there were mainly Black-capped Chickadees, Orange-crowned Warblers, and Lincoln’s and White-crowned Sparrows in the tall weedy area.

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At Potter Marsh, the air was very smoky from the wildfire burning less than 10 miles away, but traffic seemed to be going by as usual. In addition to the usual yellowlegs, there were a couple of Wilson’s Snipe and Rusty Backbirds. One dark-eyed, presumably juvenile blackbird was on the ground for a few seconds, and then later three of them flew by.

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Late July is sort of like February and March in Alaska in that very few new birds are arriving. So, I’m taking it easy and just enjoying birding. Of course, I am hoping I might stumble on a new bird, or maybe someone else will. Time will tell.

288 species so far

July 20 – Anchorage, Arctic Valley Road

My early morning drive to Arctic Valley Road (north-east Anchorage) began with a coyote running up the road ahead of me. As usual the view of Anchorage far below was picturesque.

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Many, but not all, of the roadside fireweeds seemed to be nearly done blossoming. Black-capped and Boreal Chickadees were calling nearby. Early on the drive there was a young colorful bird being fed by another bird on the side of the road. To my surprise they were Pine Grosbeaks, which I have not seen in our area for months. The photos though the front windshield were too blurry to use.

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My next surprise was a pair of White-winged Crossbills, apparently eating dirt, or something in the dirt, as they hung at odd angles on sod at the edge of the road. The male was very visible but the female stayed mostly hidden behind vegetation. Maybe this will be a winter like the winter of 2014-15 when White-winged Crossbills were easily found in Anchorage.

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All along the road there were little groups of Dark-eyed Juncos, mostly only heard.

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Toward the top/end of the road there were a number of American Robins feeding young, as well as adult and young Golden-crowned Sparrows. Yellow-rumped Warblers were easily seen and heard, flitting in and around the roadside trees.

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It was another good morning to bird, with most of the species seen being very different than those seen yesterday at the lower elevations.

288 species so far

 

July 19 – Palmer Birding

This morning I visited a few Palmer areas, including the old Matanuska town site road, a few lakes, and fields southeast of Palmer, and then stopped at and hiked around Reflection Lake on the way back to Anchorage.

As I arrived at the town site road, a single Sandhill Crane flew by, called a couple of times and was not seen or heard again.

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Reflection Lake clearly lived up to its name today.

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The only waterfowl that I saw at the lake was a single Common Loon, mostly motionless, but periodically dipping its head underwater.

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Everywhere I went today there were families of warblers and sparrows, often with begging fleglings. Birds seen included Orange-crowned, Yellow-rumped and Blackpoll Warblers (1) and Savannah, Lincoln and White-crowned Sparrows. Many of the birds were scruffy-looking and sometimes difficult to identify because of the disarray and incompleteness of their plumage. Especially on the far side of Reflection Lake the bushes and ground and trees were full of birds, and it came the closest I have seen in Alaska to a southern fall-out of birds, at least in the number of birds all around me. Really nice.

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I’m not sure of my plans for tomorrow. I had hoped to go south a bit, but the McHugh forest fire south of Anchorage has become quite severe, and the highway has periodically been closed, or if open, heavily backed up in traffic.

288 species so far

July 18 – More Anchorage Birding

I took about an hour this morning to check out Westchester Lagoon and part of the nearby trail area. The number of dowitchers was substantially less than a few days ago. There were  a couple of Lesser Yellowlegs and a few more than that of Greater Yellowlegs.

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There were more Mallard families evident out on the lake as well as a resting mama Mallard.

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Wildflowers that appear to have been planted around the lagoon were still beautiful, as were the fireweeds.

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Tomorrow I’m expecting to venture a bit outside of Anchorage.

288 species so far

July 17 – Anchorage

Not much time today, but I did make it out to Potter Marsh for awhile. I went with our long-time friend, Mike Schafale, who is staying with us briefly in the middle of his month of Alaska hiking and botanical explorations.

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The main birds of the day were a handful each of Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs. A couple of the Greater Yellowlegs apparently found that sitting down on the mudflat in a shallow depression was pleasant, possibly cooler on this hot-for-Anchorage day. I have never seen them do that before.

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There were only a couple swallows (Violet-green and Tree) around, as most of the seem to have already left. One of the Bald Eagles’ young has fledged and flew from one tree to another, while the other one was in the nest, at least for today.

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A very pleasant day to be a birder. No new birds expected and none seen.

288 species so far

July 16 – Haines and Home to Anchorage

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Above are pictures taken on my flight from Juneau to Haines yesterday morning as well as a picture of the plane in which we travelled.

After yesterday morning’s wonderful find of a Sora, I took a midday break and then spent until nearly midnight not seeing or hearing any new birds. Below is a scene of the marsh where the Sora was found. Also below is a picture of a little 2-inch long marsh critter (one of a couple) that were scurrying around in the water when I went back to he marsh later in the day.

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My main goal was Common Nighthawk, but apparently if they are still around Haines, they have a different spot than last year. It was beautiful while I listened and watched the mountains change with the setting sun, sometimes taking a little drive one way or the other to change observation area. Only part of the time was there a rain shower. Other than a few Bald Eagles, a Northern Flicker and a few redpolls were the main birds that I saw.

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Today, bright and early I took a plane to Juneau, and after a bit of a wait, another milk-run plane to Yakutat (saw a Barn Swallow from the open door of the plane), Cordova and then Anchorage.

I don’t have any immediate birding-travel plans, but after I do laundry, I’ll be ready for what may appear somewhere. In the meantime, I plan to bird in the greater Anchorage area for awhile.

288 species

July 15 – Interim Report, Haines

It is midday and a bit slow, so I’m taking a break and willl be going back out later today. Meanwhile, I saw a SORA today!! I first heard it at a very large marsh 15.5 miles away from Haines on highway 7. Eventually I saw it, twice, tiny bird with a little bright yellow bill and flicking upturned tail, as it picked its way across the mud through the stems. It called a couple of times and then all was silent. I may look again for it this evening. I did get pictures of the marsh and beautiful pictures on the flight from Juneau to Haines this morning, but my hotel connection here is a bit weak, so I’ll wait on posting pictures.

288 species so far

July 14 – Yes! Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Ketchikan

Talks about a beautiful bird! I flew to Ketchikan this morning from Juneau, and picked up Steve Heinl. He and Andy Piston had discovered a Rose-breasted Grosbeak 4 days ago, and I had been yearning to get to Ketchikan since then to look for it. I understand that although Rose-breasted Grosbeaks do regularly appear in the state, it is not a species that I could expect to get in Alaska. We drove to the area, where he told me the bird has been singing every time anyone when to look for it since it was originally found. But when we got there, there was no sound of a grosbeak! We walked the road, we drove the area, we got out, we listened. Thrushes, Pacific Wrens, Fox Sparrows, lots of singing, but no grosbeak. We drove until the road makes a sharp uphill turn, turned around and slowly drove back down the road, listening.

When we got to the main area where it had been originally found, we were delighted to hear it, and then we saw it – a beautiful male ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK! What a wonderful bird to be the bird that ties what is believed to be the big year record for Alaska! Number 287.

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We celebrated by having lunch out (sandwiches). I decided to change my reservations back to Juneau to an earlier flight, and then I went to Ward Lake to relax and take a walk around the lake before it was time to go the airport. The scenic trail around the lake is one of my favorite spots in Ketchikan. An interesting sighting on my walk was a very large white slug apparently eating, or eating something on, a white mushroom.

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Tomorrow, some more southeast Alaska birding….

287 species so far

July 13 – Anchorage Birding

I went to Potter Marsh this morning to see if any new shorebirds had arrived. There were about 15 Greater Yellowlegs, a few Lesser Yellowlegs, a Least Sandpiper and two Wilson’s Snipe.

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An Alder Flycatcher was calling constantly, the first I had seen at the marsh itself this year, although they have been around.

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Lincoln’s Sparrow young were calling and adults were frantically scolding and finding food for their young.

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As an aside, I had a quick fly-by sighting of an unknown finch-sized bird with a very red rump, which I saw as it flew away, never to be seen again. I’m hoping someone sees it again and can figure out what it is.

I’m taking a 3-day trip to southeastern Alaska, beginning this afternoon, and hoping for more new birds. Stay tuned.

286 species so far

July 12 – More Pictures

I am back in Anchorage and can post a few more pictures from July 12. The highlight, of course, was the Eastern Phoebes, a pair feeding young in their nest.

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At the same area (Hastings Creek Bridge) were a couple of juvenile birds begging loudly on rocks near the creek. I think they were young Bluethroats, although I never saw a parent sufficiently well to identify it.

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Along Council Road there were also many Red-throated Loon families (as well as Common Eider families).

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All in all – a beautiful, enjoyable day!

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286 species so far