May 8 – Anchorage Yard Birds

The Rufous Hummingbird made a brief appearance at 6:20 this morning but has not been seen since – probably on his way elsewhere. These pictures are from late yesterday. He was seen periodically until 7:45 pm last night.

I spent time today looking for the hummingbird, and in the process, in addition to the everyday Black-capped and Boreal Chickadees, Steller’s Jays and Black-billed Magpies, saw a small flock (about 8) of White-winged Crossbills eating buds up in our birch trees.

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A Downy Woodpecker came to the peanut butter log.

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A pair of Pine Siskins, the first in our yard this year, came to the seed feeders.

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All in all, it was a birdy day but mostly without a hummingbird – so far.


May 7 – Rufous Hummingbird in Our Yard!

About 2:00 this afternoon my husband noticed movement on the porch and was the first to see the beautiful male Rufous Hummingbird that since then has been coming to our feeders for almost two hours! The hummer has come multiple times to each of 3 of our 4 feeders. In between he sits in a birch tree, and sometimes disappears for a while, once chased off by a Steller’s Jay that dove at the hummingbird, and eventually he again returns to feed very briefly at a feeder. He also fluttered for a while midair eating insects. I am posting a few of the zillion photos that I have taken of him. One of these just shows the spectacular color of his throat in an otherwise out-of-focus shot. I hope he stays around, but I don’t believe the habitat here is particularly good for him, and of course, he needs a mate.

May 6 – Ever-present Eagles and Dippers

Although I am regularly seeing new migrants, I am also glad to be regularly seeing the good old standby Alaskan birds, Bald Eagles and American Dippers. The weather has been wonderful, mornings in the 30s and afternoons in the 50s, and no precipitation recently.

Yesterday at Potter Marsh where most of the ice is gone, one of the Bald Eagles was perched near the boardwalk, as every passing photographer was able to document.

Today along the BLM/Campbell Creek Science Center trails most of the ice was gone although there still was ice on the creek itself and of course there is still snow in the mountains.

A pair of American Dippers was easily visible from the bridge. It was difficult to pull myself away but eventually after I shot three video clips the dippers flew up the stream and I walked back down the road to my car.

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In the last few days I’ve made the rounds of most of my favorite Anchorage birding spots so I guess I’ll start over again in the next day or so to see what new birds have arrived in each of the places.


May 4 – Springing Along

Signs of spring are everywhere. Just the length of the days, over 16 hours (!), makes every day better than the day before. Yesterday I saw my first Sandhill Cranes (I understand that some have been around for a few days) on the mudflats at the Campbell Creek Estuary Natural Area in Anchorage. Also, a young Bald Eagle sat unmoving out on a stump on the flats.


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Lincoln’s and Fox Sparrows are popping up in many places, and today at Point Woronzoff I saw my first Anchorage White-crowned Sparrow for the year.

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Today at Westchester Lagoon, there were a couple of Northern Shovelers, in addition to the Gadwalls, Common Goldeneyes, Buffleheads, Northern Pintails, American Wigeon, Mallards, Greater Scaup, Canada Geese, Mew Gulls and Arctic Terns that have been around.


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The previously reported Common Loon at Westchester was close to the sidewalk due to ice covering most of the lake, a photographer’s delight.

Also at Point Woronzoff was a munching moose next to the road totally ignoring me as he ripped hunks off bark an already well-munched shrub.

May 2 – Duck-u-drama and Trip to Portage

I’m not sure what the Mallards are up to. I had thought a single pair was coming to our yard, but now I’m not so sure. A first pair was there for about 15 minutes last night when another pair tried to land. The first male took off from our yard, maybe to chase them away or maybe to join them, leaving the first female alone. After about 20 minutes another female arrived and the two females munched on the food mostly ignoring each other. Then the original female flew away after quacking loudly and looking around, and then after about 10 minutes the second-arriving female flew away. About half an hour later a pair arrived, and then quickly left, and after 15 minutes a single male arrived and left 3 minutes later. It occurred to me that one could write an adult novel about these ducks, weaving a tale around their intrigues, or maybe not.

Today I drove to Portage, about 50 miles south of Anchorage, birding on the way down and back.  Potter marsh was full of Mew Gulls plus a handful of Arctic Terns.

At the Bird Creek campground I found a sparrow hotspot with both singing Lincoln’s and Fox Sparrows.

At Girdwood just after I pulled to the side of the road, five Greater White-fronted Geese arrived, but they were gone later when I came back past there. Among the 20 or so Canada Geese there were at least three very small Cackling Geese (not much different in body size from the nearby American Wigeon and Northern Pintails; too distant to photograph well). Nearby were a couple of Barrow’s Goldeneyes (one went down just before the photo).

At the Moose Flats area on the Trail of Blue Ice (although the first part of the trail was clear, there was still much snow on a later part of the trail) there were many singing Varied Thrushes, as well as a noisy Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a couple of calling Wilson’s Snipe (no photo), and singing Fox Sparrows (a couple of short videos included here so the beautiful song of the Fox Sparrow can be heard).




May 1 – May Day – Spring Is Not Really Here Yet

The birds seem to think spring should be here. Many of them are pairing up, such as the Mallard pair that is still regularly coming to our back yard. Today I finally bought some duck food for them so they have something more nutritious than the bread crumbs and cracked corn.

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Although many birds seem ready to nest, there is still a lot of ice on most lakes and water birds are often limited to the small open areas of the lakes. The island at the Lagoon is surrounded by ice. It had over 80 Mew Gulls that seem to have settled in anyway.

Birds at Westchester Lagoon in Anchorage that I photographed (in addition to the dowitchers and Red-necked Grebes discussed below) were Green-winged Teal (appearing headless), Gadwall, American Wigeons, Greater Yellowlegs and Arctic Terns.

The Red-necked Grebes at Westchester Lagoon (Anchorage) are paired up in the areas of open water. I watched one of the pairs today courting and then piling wet vegetation from underwater on top of the ice, seemingly trying to put a nest there before they rested from their efforts. This nest will not be very useful when the ice finally melts.

Two Short-billed Dowitchers (I’m sure someone will tell me if they are not Short-billed) were chasing each other and one of them was calling in what I assume was a breeding display. They are probably just practicing for when they finally reach their breeding area.

A very short video follows: