March 31 – Birds Other Than Redpolls

The snow has stopped for a couple of days but I understand that there may be more. We’ve probably got a month or more of possible snow days I guess before real spring can arrive.

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Today there were almost as many redpolls as in recent days, but I decided to try to pay attention to the other regulars for a change. In particular, the Steller’s Jays (at least 3) and Black-billed Magpies (2 or more) were around as usual and I even got pictures of them in which there were no redpolls. The jays split their time between the peanut feeder and the dried mealworms, shown in the photos.

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The magpies also love the mealworms but because of their size they cannot easily sit on the feeder. Instead, they fly at the feeder scattering mealworms everywhere and then hop down to the snow beneath the feeder to eat. I would love to get a video of them flying at the feeder but it’s an unpredictable event.

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Sometimes I get so caught up in the fun of watching yard birds and other local birds that I almost don’t miss doing a big year!

March 29 – Snow, Redpolls, Snow, Redpolls…

Today was a stunning day, both in the amount of snow that came down (over 10 inches and it’s snowing again) and the number of Common Redpolls (estimate of 450-500 at the peak times) that swarmed everywhere. The snow kept covering the feeders and the seeds, I kept removing snow from the feeders and adding seeds, and the redpolls swarmed in to eat the seeds — over and over again. The redpolls mostly ignored me when I went out in the yard, only flying off when I was a couple of feet away, and one of them even landed briefly on my head. To give them something to eat all of the time, I spread seed on the porch floor that did not get covered quite so quickly with snow. Although the Steller’s Jays and Black-billed Magpies came by a couple of times and a Boreal Chickadee went to the suet, it was mostly a redpoll day.

The videos of the redpolls that I have shown before are of the main feeder on the porch, which was equally if not more active today than I have seen it before. Out in the yard today it was clearly much more active than I have ever seen it before. I am inserting a couple of short videos showing a bit of the frenetic activity out in the yard.


During a lull in the snowstorm, Dave arrived home from work and we cleared the driveway. He was on the snowblower and I was on the shovel. Maybe we are nearing the end of the snow season?


March 28 – More Snow and Redpolls

Deja vu all over again, as they say. We woke up this morning to new snow coming down, not much now, but something like 4-6 inches more are forecast for tonight! It had seemed so much like spring there for a while. The clear blue skies that we have had for a few days started becoming cloudy yesterday and yesterday’s beautiful sunset was all about the clouds. It is all cloudy now.

The Common Redpolls were even more enthusiastic for food this morning than they have been recently. I estimated something over 150 hungry birds, on the porch feeders, on the porch floor, on the feeders out in the yard, on the snow banks and in the trees.

There were also a few Steller’s Jays and Black-billed Magpies and flyover Common Ravens, but the redpolls still are the main attraction at our house.

March 24-25 – 2017 Big Anchorage Birding Day

Anchorage Audubon’s Big Anchorage Birding Day just finished, going from 5 pm on 3/24 to 5 pm on 3/25. I participated as part of the Twisted Lister team for the third year in a row. Four of us – Louann Feldmann, Kenna Sue Trickey, Sue Westervelt and I spent all of the daylight hours and many of the dark hours in that period going from Anchorage south to Portage and back yesterday, then today all around Anchorage, then to Girdwood (for a very rare to the area House Finch that was reported midday today) and back to Anchorage. Temperatures ranged from about zero degrees this morning, which was a bit nippy, to the mid-20s, which in the sun was great!


Highlights of our 27 species for me: the many Common Redpolls, Pine Grosbeaks and Pine Siskins, a Merlin dashing through a bird feeder area in Girdwood, a Belted Kingfisher (and maybe 2) near Girdwood, a singing American Dipper, the Hawfinch that is continuing in Anchorage, Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches in the hills above south Anchorage (distant photo of one), the Common Goldeneye that has wintered here, the first American Wigeon of the year among the Mallards at Cuddy Pond and the Girdwood House Finch, which was singing loudly when we arrived.

We also had a few moose the last two days and gorgeous scenery.

It was a great 24 hours, finished by a Tex-Mex dinner where we learned what everyone else and seen and missed, had fun talking to the other birders who participated, and also learned that we tied for third place, not as good as hoped and not as bad as feared.

March 23 – Moose

Our neighborhood moose (or one of them) was back yesterday morning, first nibbling on our neighbor’s bushes and trimming them back to where they emerge from the snowbank, and then eating on another neighbor’s pine tree. We have had regular moose tracks through the snow in our yard, but usually the moose has gone by the time it is light out. The news media have reported that the moose population is more ornery than usual, probably due to the fact that the snow is covering most of what they want to eat, so we need to be careful when we go outside so we can avoid an encounter with a moose.

Birds have been as usual, with no noticeable reduction in the Common Redpolls.

March 21 – Redpolls Remain (for now)

Common Redpolls are still the most numerous birds by far in our yard, and in many places around town. When they first arrived months ago, their little tweets and zeeps were gentle, but lately their sounds have escalated in volume and persistence. Oddly they often sound much like Dickcissels and not much like they did earlier. Maybe they are getting into breeding mode, with all this sunlight and temperatures in the 20s above (not below). I have taken their being around for granted in the last weeks, but I will really miss them when they depart to go wherever they go in the summer (north I assume).

The only other flocking birds in our neighborhood are the Bohemian Waxwing that come though every couple of days looking for berries probably, which our neighborhood mostly lacks.

Yesterday I went to west Anchorage to see if other neighborhoods had anything around that we don’t have. Other than Rock Pigeons and Starlings (not found in our neighborhood), birds there were similar to ours, but I think we have cornered the market on redpolls. I also drove out to Point Woronzoff to see what the view was on such a sunny day.


Then it was back home to watch the squabbling, feeding redpolls —

and back to writing, writing, writing…



March 18 – Beyond Redpolls

I have not posted for a while, because it’s mainly been redpolls, redpolls and more redpolls, and I have been writing and writing and writing on my book, rarely leaving the house except for scheduled (non-bird) events.

Today, another sunny cold day, I decided to seek something else and headed south to Girdwood this morning.

Along the way there was lovely scenery, a few Common Ravens and an immature Bald Eagle.

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My first goal was Northwestern Crow, seen last week in Juneau, but not yet seen in the Anchorage Borough this year. As expected, the usual pair was at the Girdwood gas station.

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I then went to Alyeska, and in addition to many Common Redpolls everywhere and a handful of White-winged Crossbills, I added two more birds to this year’s Anchorage list – a single Song Sparrow in an Alyeska parking lot and Pine Siskins flitting about and coming down to a sidewalk near the parking lot where I could finally see them well.

Time to get back to work…

March 11 – Juneau, Day 3 and Home

This morning I birded with Bev Agler, one of the Juneau birders that helped me with my Alaska big year last year.


We walked much of the Mendenhall Wetlands dike trail, braving the stretches that were not protected from the wind. Early on our walk amidst many Mallards, we found two male Northern Shovelers, and when I looked at my photos just now I realized there also was a female shoveler there. Further on we saw a couple of Hooded Mergansers and a Common Merganser as well as American Wigeons.

Although much of the water on the flats was frozen there was a small area of open water, at which there were shorebirds. We first saw the Wilson’s Snipe which flew a few short flights, sliding on the ice when it landed. Nearby were three Killdeer, one of which flew off and was seen again later. There also was a single Dunlin, and for a while there were four shorebirds all together in the small area of open water.

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After leaving the wetlands, we went over to Bev’s office to add Dark-eyed Junco to my non-big-year year-list. Later we walked on the Brotherhood Bridge trail but only saw Bald Eagles there.

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This afternoon I flew back to Anchorage and just could not stop myself from photographing the spectacular mountain views along the way. A gorgeous day!

March 10 – Juneau, Day 2

Today I birded again with Brenda Wright and we went to a couple of places I had not birded before, including the Auke Recreation Area (and Auk Village area), as well as near the Juneau ferry dock and Auke Bay. Although it was sunny and not really cold, the wind was strong and noticeable and it was much nicer to be in a sheltered area like the woods.



New for the year birds included, in order seen, an early Varied Thrush (not photographed), Surf Scoters, Barrow’s Goldeneyes,  Harlequin Ducks, an early (or overwintering) Red-breasted Sapsucker, a Song Sparrow and a Long-tailed Duck.

Tomorrow there should be time for a little birding before I head back to Anchorage. I’m glad I had an excuse to come to Juneau again to bird after my big year.

March 9 – Juneau, Day 1

There was a bit of a mix-up the night of March 8, when I arrived at my reserved Juneau motel to find that it was unexpectedly closed for repairs! It ended well when I found a different motel. It was beautiful on the morning of March 9th and I went birding at one of my favorite Juneau sites, the Mendenhall Wetlands. Although it was considerably warmer (9 degrees above zero) than Anchorage in the morning, the wind made birding quite uncomfortable, so after I’d seen five Hooded Mergansers and a couple of other more usual species, I got in my car and did some land birding. I added a few birds to my year list, which of course is not my big goal this year. Included were: Northwestern Crow, Common Merganser, Glaucous-winged and Mew Gulls and Belted Kingfisher.

In the afternoon after doing a short radio interview about my upcoming big year talk I birded with Brenda Wright at Fish Creek. It was a very enjoyable walk, which although there were windy portions, was often sheltered from the wind. There I added American Wigeon (many), Killdeer (3) and Pacific Wren to my year list. This non-big year I do not even know how many species I have seen this year in Alaska, but of course I can figure it out.

I ended the day giving my big year talk to a good-sized crowd at Juneau Audubon, a very enjoyable experience with a great group!