June 30 – Moose, Loon, Goose

It was a busy morning of birding before I went to downtown Anchorage for the big rally. I first went to Potter Marsh, where birding was modest. I did get a picture of a photogenic Mew Gull.


The highlight for me, however, was again the mother moose and calf. I first saw them out in the marsh toward the highway when I was at the opposite end of the boardwalk. At the same time as I rapidly walked the boardwalk toward them, they came toward me. The mother kept up a more or less steady pace, but the youngster kept pausing and then had to hurry to catch up. I have posted a few still shots below and then four short videos because if anything, they were cuter in action.






After Potter Marsh, I went over to Lake Hood to see what the Red-throated Loon situation was after last week’s excitement. I was relieved that the tame loon was still there, although for a few minutes the loon showed little interest in coming over to greet me, dozing mostly but slowly drifting toward me. Eventually the loon did its normal dive and resurfacing right next to me, so all was well. No other loons were seen.

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Also photographed at Lake Hood was one of the five Red-necked Phalaropes, and a group of Bank Swallows on a float plane along the lake.


As I left the area I was intending to go directly downtown. I was contemplating what I might write today, and was thinking how cool it was that the highlight critters both had “oo” in their name (I know, some people love words as well as birds). As I approached Spenard  Crossing I realized that I might add another “oo” bird, and I did, first one adult Canada Goose and then a small flock of Canada Geese with at least one family of goslings.


My last photos before I went downtown were of one of the Green-winged Teal at Spenard Crossing and some flowers along the parking lot.

This morning was one of the mornings – cool, sunny, quite calm, and invigorating – that make Anchorage such a great place to live.

June 23 – Loon-land Lather

The excitement on June 23rd was all about loons.

But first I went to calm, birdy Campbell Creek Estuary Natural Area, where I walked rather rapidly to escape mosquitos, periodically making quick stops to photograph flowers, and of course, watch birds.

There were a few pairs of Sandhill Cranes out on the flats, mostly quiet, but making much noise every now and then as the lifted off to go to another place across the flats.

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I also photographed one of the noisy Alder Flycatchers, a Yellow Warbler and one of the Lincoln’s Sparrows that I saw at the Natural Area.

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That was going to be it for my morning birding, but the lure of the continuing Red-throated Loon at Lake Hood pulled me over there. The loon was at one of its favorite spots along Floatplane Drive. As usual, the loon came over to investigate me and then calmly drifted off.

Thinking that was the end of it I drove along the road, but then noticed two loons flying in and landing south of where I was. I couldn’t be sure which loon species they were, so I drove in that direction, pulled over and found out that there were two more Red-throated Loons, not far from where I had seen the solo loon (the regular bird, I assumed). Since when I began observing the solo bird a couple of summers ago, I had not before seen more than one Red-throated Loon in the same area-probably with good reason. The two birds of the pair were now talking to each other loudly, flying short distances and landing again. I couldn’t see the other one and was wondering whether they all were going to interact.

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They did. Suddenly, all three birds were together, heads held high, swimming rapidly and making quite a racket, including sounds I had not heard before from the regular loon.

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The pair flew off after a couple of exciting minutes, as did the solo bird. It remains to be seen whether the lake will go back to having one loon, two loons, three loons or none. I will of course be back.

Although I did not do much other birding there, I did notice that there were other birds around the lake, including at least five Red-necked Phalaropes and a similar number of Red-necked Grebes, and lots of littler birds that I did not photograph (including Tree and Bank Swallows, Savannah Sparrows, Spotted Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs). It’s amazing how birdy these lakes can be in spite of the heavy plane, car and jogger traffic, especially on a Saturday morning.

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June 22 – Mostly Moose

This morning I birded south of the city of Anchorage, but still in the Anchorage Borough. At Potter Marsh, it was bright but overcast. Birds were singing but were mostly hidden in the summer leaves.


Soon after I started walking down the boardwalk, a sleek yearling moose came tripping down the stream toward me, and then swerved to go under the boardwalk just ahead of me and disappeared into the heavy underbrush.

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When I got toward the eastern end of the boardwalk, I saw a large shaggy moose browsing some 75 feet from me, slowly sloshing through the water it grazed.

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Hoping that maybe it was a mother and that maybe there was a young moose nearby, I scanned all around. I was happy to find two rusty-colored ears just showing above the marsh grass about 30 feet from the larger moose. The youngster eventually stood up and went nearer to its mother. Both eventually faded away into the brush, and I went back to birding.

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I then drove south along Potter Marsh, where I photographed some of the Canada Geese, and an Arctic Tern at one of the pullouts.

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Although the weather was somewhat drizzly I decided to go down toward Portage, with the goal of walking one of the trails along the road. By the time I got there, however, the rain was coming down heavily (as seems to be the usual case when I go there), so I headed back north. I stopped in Girdwood just long enough to find a Northwestern Crow. I was about to leave when I heard the unmistakable sound of baby crows. In a large tree near me were two crow youngsters which I saw be fed first by one crow and then another. Northwestern Crows are only rarely found in the city of Anchorage itself. Girdwood is about as far north as this species usually gets (as far as I know), and is where Anchorage birders go to see a Northwestern Crow in the Anchorage Borough. The only other large black bird in most of Alaska is the Common Raven. The American Crow is found far in southern Alaska in the Hyder area.

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June 20 – Dirt & Dandelion Eaters, and More

This morning I first drove up Arctic Valley Road northeast of downtown Anchorage. Although we had a few drops of rain before I left home, on my drive up the road only the skies showed signs of rain and everything around me was sunlit and gorgeous. Along the road I saw many dandelions, as well as a few other flowers.

Birds at first were scarce, but the road was hopping with hares, as usual munching on dirt.

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I drove slowly past the usual singing warblers, thrushes and Alder Flycatchers. About two miles from the road end, I was delighted to find a bear along the edge of the road, digging in the dirt and munching on dandelions. Although I am no expert on bears, it appeared to be rather leggy, perhaps last year’s teenage youngster. After feeding for a short time ahead to my left, it crossed the road ahead of me and munched some more. Eventually I drove on. When I came back down the road, the bear was still munching.

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At the upper end of the road a Wilson’s Snipe was calling and calling from the top of a pole.

Along the road below the snipe were a couple of arctic ground squirrels appearing and disappearing from roadside holes, and also munching on vegetation. I couldn’t tell if they also ate dandelions.

I next drove to Lake Hood. I haven’t been out there recently to see my favorite loon, the oh-so-tame Red-throated Loon that has been coming to the lake for a few years at least. The loon was at one of its two apparently favorite spots. As usual it dove as I got out of my car, walked over to the edge of the water, and said “hello”. It came up to within two feet of where I stood. Eventually it started calling while a nearby seaplane was revving up, and then slowly swam away. Sometimes it seems that this loon becomes more vocal in reaction to nearby planes, but maybe that’s my imagination.

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Also at Lake Hood were three Red-necked Phalaropes, at least one Red-necked Grebe and many buzzily trilling Savannah Sparrows.

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There are so many neat things to see in the Anchorage area!






June 17 – Quiet times in Anchorage and a few Nome photos

I haven’t been birding too much since I returned from my early June Nome visit. I finally made a quick visit out to Potter Marsh, primarily to remind myself of whether the boardwalk is completely handicapped-accessible, as I am hoping to gather some non-birders out there sometime this summer. After I ascertained that it is indeed quite accessible, I birded a bit, even though I had forgotten to take my binoculars (clear a major sin for a nutty birder). It was a very windy day, and most birds were staying out of a sight, but I did manage to see and photograph my first Alder Flycatcher for the year. I also hope to find them in Nome in early July when I return to Nome.

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Although I probably will never get around to putting many more Nome pictures from early June on my blog, I have added a few below of a very cooperative Arctic Tern and very tame Red Phalaropes and a Red-necked Phalarope.

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Less common, and a very welcome sighting in Nome was the waggle-tailed Common Sandpiper that hung around the Safety Sound Bridge.

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I am very much looking forward to seeing what’s around Nome in early July.




June 2-7 – Nome again

On this trip to Nome I took too many pictures and saw too many birds (as if there is any such thing as too many birds) and have decided not to do a detailed discussion of the trip. There’s just too little time to even begin to tell a coherent story about the trip any time soon. So, for now, I’m going to try to content myself with showing a few highlights. Perhaps I’ll periodically show a few more as the days go by. We were delayed in departing Anchorage for a day, due to not enough visibility in Nome. I spent the first three (it should have been four) days as part of a Wilderness Birding Adventures group wonderfully led by Scott Hauser and Aaron Bowman.

The last three days I birded mostly on my own, taking time to try to nail down a few decent shots of a Bluethroat, which we had seen from a distance on the first day. I now have become very familiar with the unbelievably variable, yet still repetitive song of the Bluethroat. Following are few of the many photos of one of three Bluethroats that I found on Kougarok Road on June 7th, concluding with a song sampling. All three birds were singing and doing their aerial displays as I drove slowly by. Two of them didn’t sing for long, but the first one kept going energetically for about at least two hours, as I photographed it. It flew up and then landed on a couple of prominent shrubs and sang, over and over, sometimes quite near me, where I stood as motionless as I could (should you be interested I did NOT ever play a tape to start or prolong their singing).

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