March 3 – Ceremonial and Other Starts

First, before I talk about three different starts, are photos of a very fluffy Common Redpoll that has been around our yard lately, for at least a week. The fact that it is all puffed up, as well as being very tame, makes me think it is sick, but it seems to be hanging in there.

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I have a few pictures of the start of a full moon evening recently as the moon rose over mountains east of our house:

Most of this blog post is on the ceremonial start of the Iditarod in downtown Anchorage this morning. Tomorrow the real race, which I understand goes for about 1050 miles, begins north of Anchorage, ending in Nome on Anchorage’s west coast. While there are what I understand to be valid concerns associated with the race and about the dogs about dog treatment issues, it still is exciting to watch the action. The crowd was huge, much larger than when I went to last week’s Fur Rendezvous race. They are kept from the dogs by ropes on both sides of the downtown Anchorage track, and by vigilant police and other officials, but the officials and the official press are allowed much closer to the action.

You will see from these photos that there are multiple people and sometimes two sleds being towed by the dog teams (all teams seemed to have 12 dogs on today’s ceremonial start). The real race only has the one “musher”. Today’s extra people got to ride in the ceremonial start race only, some paying to do so, some winning raffles, some as part of a “make a wish”. In the real race, the single sled is piled high with provisions for the cross-country trek.”

The first two videos below are dogs waiting for the action to begin (teams go one-by-one, with dogs, sleds, handlers, mushers all waiting impatiently, spread out for blocks, the teams advancing slowly as the teams ahead of them reach the starting line and are given the signal by the announcer to take off).


The other thing starting soon is my Nome birding for the year. Tomorrow evening I will fly there for a one-day stop, aimed at seeing what birds are around at this time of the year, which hopefully will include McKay’s and Snow Buntings, but probably not much more. On the way back to Anchorage on Monday evening I probably won’t fly over the Iditarod dogs, which will probably be north of where we fly, and it will be dark so I wouldn’t see them anyway. But I’ll be thinking about the rigors, for both mushers and dogs, in this grueling race. I won’t be in Nome when they end the race, which I think takes at least about 8 days. But I’ll be back each month through the summer and into the fall, to see what the birding and the birds are like there as the year progresses.

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