I’m back in Texas to give my talk on my Alaska big year tonight in Fort Worth. I arrived late yesterday after a full day of flying and airports. This morning I went to one of my favorite Metroplex birding areas, Village Creek Drying Beds and the adjacent River Legacy Park. Most of the common birds here are birds not seen ever or very much in Alaska. The weather of course was mild for here (maybe 65) but really warm compared to Alaska’s 25 degrees when we left yesterday.
The redpolls are about gone. We’ve had two at most lately in our yard, although I did see eight at Government Hill yesterday. Presumably most of them are on their way to somewhere else in Alaska where they will breed.
Our still very snowy yard has now become a regular stopping place for a 1-7 or sometimes more Mallards at what seem to be random times, anywhere from predawn to after dark and anywhere between.
At Spenard Crossing, the water is flowing but there still is much ice.
I only saw one Trumpeter Swan there, but there were ten Northern Pintails, as well as the numerous Mallards and Common Goldeneyes.
At Government Hill a mama moose and yearling walked straight at my car and then past it. If I had been sitting in the passenger seat I could have reached out the window and touched the two of them as they walked by intent on wherever they were going.
The redpolls are almost all gone, just two were around today. Many other birders are also reporting the same mass redpoll exodus, presumably off to the north. Although we have much snow remaining on the ground, the days have been warm. There has been much melting but much more is needed.
Yesterday, after a quick trip to Potter Marsh where snow still covers everything, among other places I went to Cuddy Pond. Between the pond area and the library someone had thrown out some kind of feed, which had attracted a huge flock of magpies, some Mallards and a single gull. The gull (my first Mew Gull of the year) left soon after apparently stuffing itself, but the rest stayed and ate and squabbled.
On my way to bird elsewhere I came across a moose nibbling in the snow along the road and could not resist stopping for photos. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to them being so everywhere.
Mallards continue to arrive in our yard periodically. Last night a pair stayed until after dark, but left sometime before this morning. Right now there’s a male munching something in the snow.
That’s what the two Mallards found when they arrived in our back yard in the half light at 6:30 this morning and looked around for food. They preferred the cracked corn however.
The day was filled with ducks and new birds. At Spenard Crossing this morning, in addition to the Mallards and Common Goldeneyes, there were a couple of Northern Pintails, at least four Common Mergansers, a Ring-necked Duck and a couple of Gadwalls.
The Trumpeter Swans reported yesterday were not at Spenard Crossing this morning but came back later today and I saw them tonight.
Just before noon I walked the Coastal Trail north of Westchester Lagoon and saw the Glaucous Gull reported the last couple of days by Peter Scully, but after it and a raven had a little battle, it disappeared and I did not get a photo.
At Ship Creek I had a single fly-by Glaucous-winged Gull and many hybrid gulls. Bohemian Waxwings were everywhere, over the creek, and later over our house, apparently catching airborne insects so there must have been some kind of hatch.
About 10 this morning I looked out to see if there were any Mallards, and there were 9 of them. I thought I’d get a picture, but all of a sudden I realized that there were only 8 Mallards and one of the ducks was a male Green-winged Teal! See if you can see the little guy in this photo.
He stayed around about 5 minutes and then left with some of the Mallards.
After that a couple of Mallards came back a couple of times during the afternoon, but the Green-winged Teal has not reappeared.
Those were the main birds today. The Mallards were around some this morning, again this afternoon and then this evening. Sometimes they seemed to be fully paired up. Other times there was much fighting going on and uneven numbers of males and females. Each time they arrived they mostly just wandered around the yard and ate and poked their beaks at each other, and then they flew off.
This morning there were not many redpolls around and they were not very hungry. About suppertime, however, more arrived. Their food was mostly gone that I had spread out so I thought I’d try again to see if they were hungry enough to land on my hand to get some seeds. At first they just flew off when I got close to where they sat on the porch, but when I went out again later they apparently decided that food was more important than their concern about me. At times I had 6 or 7 sitting on my hands, my jacket, and a couple of times, on my head. What fun! I had asked my husband to try for a few pictures, and he did. It’s just too hard for me to hold the camera steady with one hand while there are birds on the other hand.
…in our yard! Since we moved here about 2.5 years ago, we have periodically seen Mallards flying overhead, often in the evening, presumably going between open water areas, which are few now. Sometimes we’ve seen them a few blocks away descending into someone’s yard and disappearing behind a fence and taking off again. Never, until yesterday, had they landed in our yard. I’m sure the cracked corn that I threw on the ground since the last snow might have been visible as they flew over. In any case, about 9 pm last night there were 17 Mallards wandering down our shoveled paths, eating fallen birdseed and some of the cracked corn. Most of them stayed around until it was nearly dark, about 45 minutes. Today they arrived about 1:45 pm, 15 of them and stayed about 1/2 an hour waddling over the snow, sliding down the snow banks, eating, eating, and being perching birds for a while. I expect they will be back. We had Mallard pets as kids and I have a soft spot for them, but I will probably live to regret it if we get 100 of them in our yard. We shall see.
On the much smaller side, for the second day I was able to feed a Common Redpoll on my hand. In fact, they were landing on my hand, up to three at a time, and chasing each other away for a while this morning. No pictures yet.
Note: for some reason two copies of one of the duck videos were inserted in this blog post and they are impossible to remove or edit. Sorry.
I birded a couple of sites in Anchorage today. Potter Marsh is still a big field of snow, the only activity that I noted while driving along the marsh being a small flock of Bohemian Waxwings flitting low over the snow.
At Campbell Creek Estuary Natural Area the birds were very talkative including a Common Redpoll, Black-capped Chickadee, Brown Creeper, and Steller’s Jay that I photographed, and not photographed Red-breasted Nuthatches, Black-billed Magpies, Boreal Chickadee, distant Mallards and unidentified unseen gulls calling on the snow-covered mudflats.
My final stop was at Cuddy Pond to see if there were gulls there, and there were, the first I’ve seen this year. There were about five that appeared to be Anchorage’s typical Glaucous-winged/Herring Gull hybrids. As my attention drifted from the gulls to the ducks and I started to scan the ducks to see what was around beside the zillion Mallards and the single Barrow’s Goldeneye (nothing different noted), a car drove in and Peter Scully leaped out to photograph one of the gulls, which he pointed out to me as being a Thayer’s Gull that was probably the returning one that had been there last year. My photograph shows it next to one of the presumed hybrid gulls.