January 13 – Short-eared Owl!

I saw my first ever Anchorage Short-eared Owl, tonight out at the airport. Last year in my AK big year, after many early morning and late evening tries for the Anchorage Short-eared Owl, I gave up and got my first one for the year in Kenai (and many more, later in Nome). This year, this was my third try out at the airport. A report on the Akbirding listserv earlier in the week had said that at 4:30 pm one day there were multiple owls out there in a couple different areas. I had tried in the morning the first two times, including a very chilly walk along the fence beyond the end of the road.

Today, beginning at about 3:00 I drove slowly back and forth hoping to see a Short-eared Owl from my car as the snow started coming down steadily. At about my fourth  drive from Point Woronzoff to the end of the road and back again, as I rounded the corner with the yellow barricades (at precisely 4:02 pm), a beautiful Short-eared Owl flew by very near me quite high just over the nearby fence. I pulled over and screeched to a stop, but by the time I got my camera out, the owl was far down in the field. With my binoculars I could see that it had landed on a distance fence, but when I tried to photograph it through the nearby fence, the camera just focused on the nearby fence. So I got out of the car and walked to where I could see over the nearby fence and got some pictures. The owl flew out from the fence and back again to the far fence a couple of times, then flew out and back and landed on a yellow post, then flew out and landed in the snow, where it stayed for about 10 minutes. It was getting too dark and the owl was too far away to see if it had gotten something to eat. Two other birders arrived and got to see the owl too. Just before 4:30 the owl flew out to the field again and landed in a patch of brown grass protruding through the snow and I could not longer see it. I was getting cold anyway so decided to call it a day, a wonderful day!

My photos of course are not crisp due to the darkness and distance but at least one see that it is indeed a Short-eared owl.

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Other noteworthy birding things of the day – I had my first Black-capped Chickadee with a deformed bill on our porch today eating seeds and suet. Many such birds have been reported in the area, and Anchorage Audubon had a program on it recently. The cause appears to be virus-related, and is mostly, but not completely, found in Black-capped Chickadees. This one did not appear to be having much trouble eating, just turning its head sideways to pick up food, and looked quite healthy.

I also got short videos of our Hairy Woodpecker eating suet at one of our feeders, peanut butter at another feeder, and sunflower seeds at a third feeder. She is either a very fussy bird that doesn’t like the usual suet all of the time, or a bird that will just eat anything, or both. I’m hoping to show the videos to my class, where one of the students yesterday asked about how to get these woodpeckers to a yard. I am just posting one of the still photos here now.

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