August 31 – Nome, Day 1

I enjoyed being in Nome so much earlier this summer, I thought I’d see what it was like in late August/early September. I arrived today about noon and spent the day out on Council Road.

I saw three loon species – Red-throated (1 only), Pacific (2) and Common (3)(no photo).



For ducks, there were a few Greater Scaup and a few Northern Pintails (no photo), plus eiders (Common and Steller’s (s)).



There were about 80-plus Tundra Swans.


For shorebirds, I saw many Long-billed Dowitchers, a couple of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, zillions of Dunlin, and Black-bellied and Pacific Golden-Plovers. If anyone sees some other species in these photos, let me know please.

IMG_0150There also were about 40 Sandhill Cranes.


Tomorrow I’ll explore another road.

August 26 – A Sunny Day!

Although there was always the threat of rain, it didn’t happen today, and I went out to Campbell Creek Estuary Natural Area. The tide was coming in, and had about an hour to go before high tide.

Three Mallards floated by on the rising waters.

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There was a distant Merlin out on the flats.

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There were still Sandhill Cranes around, eight that I could see. Some of them were periodically calling, but mostly they were silent.

There were a couple of Orange-crowned Warblers, a few Lincoln’s Sparrows, a couple of White-crowned Sparrows and a Fox Sparrow in the brushy areas.

Not photographed were a Downy Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches, a fly-by Bald Eagle and Greater Yellowlegs, a Common Raven, a Spotted Sandpiper and a Golden-crowned Kinglet. A very nice day to be birding.



August 25 – Mostly Housebound

A couple of days ago I was hit out of the blue with a cold, the symptoms of which I am medicating so I am more or less functional. This cold in combination with nearly unceasing rain (nothing like the horrible amount of rain Texas is beginning to get now) and the need for me to work on revising my book manuscript have limited my birding to occasional backyard birding. I am happy to say that I have edited and re-edited the manuscript so it may be getting close to being ready to return to the publisher. There’s lots more to be done as I make a final selection of the photos and paintings to be used in the book. I also have plans to do a painting specifically for the cover, which hopefully will be good enough to be used for that purpose. Though ultimately satisfying, the process of getting a book published can be painful.

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The birds, ‘tho wet, have been hungry. Following are pictures of a Downy Woodpecker, and various Steller’s Jays and Black-billed Magpies, many of which are looking rather messy nowadays. The jays spend much of their time sitting on the porch next to the door waiting for me to come it to feed them peanuts. Although a couple of them are tame and feed happily on my hand, when I had a camera in one hand to try for a video of them, they were quite spooked and only briefly came to my hand after much hesitation and bouncing around on the handle of the weed-whacker.

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August 22 – Rain, Rain and Birds

There have been mostly rainy days lately. Most of my birding has been in my backyard, where the usual juncos and siskins have predominated. I was able to see a first-for-our-yard Savannah Sparrow briefly in the area of our lawn that I am allowing to go wild, but it disappeared soon after.

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The snow is gone from the nearby mountaintops where it made it look like winter was here, and today it actually got to near 70 degrees at our house. Maybe we will have more non-winter days for awhile.

On August 18th I went to Spenard Crossing to see if there were any interesting woodland birds around. A highlight was two Northern Waterthrushes.

I also photographed a distant Belted Kingfisher and a Glaucous-winged Gull eating a dead salmon.

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Today I went to the Potter Marsh boardwalk. The water was very high, probably due both to the recent rains and it being near high tide. Although at first it looked like the sun would appear, for most of the time I was there the clouds were coming in.


Both the Wilson’s Snipe and the Greater Yellowlegs were having difficulty finding a place to stand in the deep water, but it was fine for the ducks, the Belted Kingfisher on a snag and the Yellow-rumped Warblers in the brush along the boardwalk.




August 17 – Warblers, Sparrow, Rain, and SNOW

The first snow of the season (“termination dust”) is just newly arrived on the mountain peaks as viewed out our window this morning, and hasn’t come down to our level – so far. Down here it’s been raining much of the time.

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In between rains, I have birded some away from home, but mostly at home. At Campbell Creek Estuary Natural Area a couple of days ago, there were representatives of most expected warbler and sparrow species – Wilson’s, Orange-crowned, Yellow, Yellow-rumped Warblers (see if you can guess which 3 are in the photos), and White-crowned, Lincoln’s and Fox Sparrows.

At our house we have a single immature White-crowned Sparrow that’s been hanging around and this morning, a first-for-the-yard Fox Sparrow. Not photographed was a first-for-the-yard Pacific Wren scolding and lightly singing this morning, but completely invisible in our thicket of fireweeds.

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Steller’s Jays are also around most of the time, up to five at any one time, but it is unclear whether there are multiple flocks or shifting numbers of the same flock. There’s one scruffy adult that is very tame and if present it immediately flies to peanuts in my hand. Usually they take the unshelled peanuts, fly off and quickly bury them out in the yard, but sometimes they pause on the porch and crack open the shell, stuff their gullets with shelled peanuts and then take the nuts away, probably to bury most of them too.

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August 14 – South and North Anchorage and Home

I’ve not birded as much as usual lately due to rain and manuscript rewriting and other commitments. On Saturday (8/12) I did spend some time at Potter Marsh, where Great Yellowlegs were the predominant bird. There were also a number of Wilson’s Snipe flying around and sitting down next to the water every now and then.


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Although they were not doing anything spectacular, I took a video of a few Green-winged Teal that were dabbling in the water.

Today I drove up Arctic Valley Road. Although it started out quite cloudy, by the time I got to the top there was some blue sky.

For the first couple of miles the number of bears equaled the number of birds (2 each), but eventually there was a small number of each of 17 species. Highlights along the road were a Varied Thrush hidden in a berry bush and a small flock of Gray Jays.

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I walked up the trail at the end of the road for a while. There were about ten berry pickers up there. I munched a few blueberries too and got pictures of a Fox Sparrow, a Wilson’s Warbler, and a White-crowned Sparrow before heading back to my car.


I also spent some time photographing flowers and other vegetation along the path.

At home the Pine Siskins are becoming more numerous, with over 20 around much of the time now, eating at my numerous feeding areas. There are up to 10 Dark-eyed Juncos eating feed too, and of course always Steller’s Jays. Most of the jays are either scruffy-looking juveniles or scruffy-looking molting adults. At least three of the jays are becoming quite accustomed to eating out of my hand but they prefer to get peanuts out of the jar that we have fastened to the porch (note: all that stuff in the background of the jay video is in our neighbors’ yard, not ours).

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The highlight this afternoon was Sandhill Cranes calling as they flew high over our house. I believe that I hadn’t had any for our Anchorage yard list before these.

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August 9 – Yard and Lakes

The last couple of days Black-billed Magpie youngsters are making our yard very noisy. One of the two is very tame, hopping to about six inches of my hand when I hold out a goody such as part of a strawberry or a dried mealworm. But so far that’s the closest it comes, waiting until I give up and drop the treat before quickly eating it. Mostly they just squawk at everything.

Yesterday there were two Wilson’s Warblers in our yard, possibly the first time I’ve seen them there.

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About an hour after a spectacular sunrise this morning I went to Westchester Lagoon to see what the rising tide might bring in. At first there wasn’t much happening other than the Red-necked Grebes still feeding their nearly grown-up youngsters, and puddle ducks and the usual gulls and yellowlegs. I have not seen any of the young grebes dive yet, but one of them seemed to be trying (second video) every now and then while preening, or maybe it was just doing a sort of bath.



Way out on the flats along the coastal trail there were also a single Hudsonian Godwit, a Spotted Sandpiper, a Wilson’s Snipe and a flyby Killdeer. On the walk back, the dowitchers in the pond along the trail had roused themselves from their usual sleepy pose and were busily eating.

I had a bit of a start when it appeared that a Mourning Dove was perched in a distant tree – a grayish bird with a long pointed tail. But when I got closer it turned out to be somebody’s lost escaped cockatiel.

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While I was trying to get a decent picture of the cockatiel, my first-of-the-year Osprey flew over.

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At Lakes Spenard and Hood, the Red-throated Loon was again not present. There was a small family of Northern Shovelers and both Horned Grebes there amid the scaup and goldeneyes and more Red-necked Grebes.

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Back at home, the magpies greeted me, only slightly disturbing the busily eating Downy Woodpecker.



August 7 – Coast and Cranes

I birded three west Anchorage coastal and wetland areas today: Westchester Lagoon/coastal trail; the floatplane lakes (Lakes Spenard and Hood); and Campbell Creek Estuary Natural Area.

It was just before high tide a bit before 7 a.m. when I got to the coastal trail. There were many ducks (mostly Mallards) and gulls (Bonaparte’s and Mew), a single Hudsonian Godwit, two Least Sandpipers, about ten Greater Yellowelegs and two Lesser Yellowlegs, a single Arctic Tern, a single Wilson’s Snipe, about 15 Short-billed Dowitchers, and about 30 Greater Scaup and at least four Red-necked Grebes on the lake (including a large chick still begging from its parent).



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At the two floatplane lakes, there was no sign of the Red-throated Loon, and only one Horned Grebe was visible (silhouetted photo). Other birds were the usual Greater Scaup and various puddle ducks, and a single Red-necked Grebe.

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The most excitement was at the Natural Area where cranes were loud and active out on the mudflats and grassy areas along the water. Close to the observing area a single parent and a single chick were feeding in the grass, and then welcomed a second chick that flew in. At one point there were about 20 Sandhill Cranes stalking the flats and flying about and calling. The young ones were about the size of the parents but could easily be distinguished by their more mottle plumage and fuzzy heads.

There was also a Northern Harrier working the flats, interacting periodically with a Common Raven (that also was worrying the flying cranes sometimes), and then being dive-bombed by what I believe was a very fast-moving Merlin. There also was what appeared to be a coyote (or whatever comparable mammal lives in Anchorage) out on the flats, which can be seen very briefly at the end of the last video as it is dive-bombed.




August 4 – Anchorage Sampler

For the past few days, I’ve wandered around some of my favorite places in Anchorage, birding and taking pictures. Samples of my sampling follow.

At the coastal trail south of Westchester Lagoon on 8/1 I again saw the Sabine’s Gull, floating on the water beyond the mudflats, but did not photograph it. I did photograph my first-for-the-year Anchorage Peregrine Falcon perched high on the radio tower at the Lagoon.

On the mud there were the usual Canada Geese, and at Fish Creek a rock-walking Greater Yellowlegs.

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On 8/2 I drove up Arctic Valley Road. For most of the drive there were no birds. There was a single hare munching dandelions. I did see what I finally decided must be a young American Pipit running along the roadside, periodically wagging its tail, as I drove slowly along beside it.

I then went to Lakes Spenard and Hood to check on the Red-throated Loon, which was still there, still mostly sleeping. Oddly, while it had its head tucked under its wing, it had one eye exposed and open, and while still appearing to sleep, motored its way unerringly over to me. When it got near, it untucked its head, looked at me, said a few words and went back to sleep.

There were about ten Red-necked Grebes, and the two Horned Grebes were still there, close to where they first were seen days ago.

I next went to Potter Marsh, where I also went today on my way farther south. Today I photographed one of the Orange-crowned Warblers and one of the five Wilson’s Snipe. A Merlin kept diving the marsh, spooking the numerous Greater Yellowlegs, and once went after one of the four Belted Kingfishers. It moved too fast for me to even begin to try to photograph it.

My final birding today was on the Trail of Blue Ice off the Moose Flats roadside area (on the way to Portage). Again, it was mostly silent, but at the boardwalk at the small lake were a couple each of Greater Yellowlegs and Solitary Sandpipers.

I finally found a few Yellow-rumped Warblers, two Fox Sparrows, fly-over Common Redpolls, a Swainson’s Thrush  and a scolding Varied Thrush, the photos of the latter a bit bleached in the very welcome sun.