October 20 – Fall/Nearly Winter in Anchorage

For the last week or so, my only birding has been to two trips to Potter Marsh, in our yard, and to various Anchorage lakes today on an Anchorage Audubon field trip.

Potter Marsh, still open since we have had few days even close to freezing, still hosts various ducks and about 20 Trumpeter Swans. Shown here are scenes (some leaves still on trees on October 11) and Common Mergansers and Trumpeter Swans.

At home, the yard is usually empty of birds except for the usually-present Steller’s Jays and Black-billed Magpies. The skies are now wintery, often cloudy but sometimes the sun does show.

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The home birding highlight is that Mallards (up to 22 at a time, so far this fall) have started to drop into our yard once or twice a day to scavenge under the bird feeders and eat the little bit of cracked corn that I periodically strew in the grass and put in a dog dish. Often a magpie hops close to them, apparently trying to figure what they are finding to eat. This is more than two weeks earlier than they began to come last fall. If they behave as in the past couple of winters, they will become more and more regular and more and more numerous in our yard until the snow disappears in spring.

Today I joined about 12 other birders on the annual fall field trip, led by Andrew Fisher, sponsored by Anchorage Audubon to Anchorage lakes. It was a nice day, low 40s, but the chilly wind across the lakes made me realize how close we are to cold weather.

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While there were plenty of ducks (both goldeneyes, Common Mergansers, Buffleheads, a few Canvasbacks, a few Northern Shovelers, American Wigeons, Gadwalls, scaup (mostly Greater), the clear highlight of the trip was two (!) Northern Goshawks, an adult and an immature, hunting the lakes. The latter almost got to keep the gull it caught and tried to take off the lake. The adult sat high in a large tree far across the lake after we saw it hunting.

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The immature (gull hunter) perched in a closer tree at another part of Westchester Lagoon at Spenard Crossing.

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At Spenard and Hood Lakes there were mainly Common Goldeneyes and two White-winged Scoters far across the lake. Instead of trying for pictures of them, I took some pictures of the recently whiter mountains.

I  finished the trip by taking a short video of a plane taking off. Soon the lakes will be frozen and they will need to put on skis on the plane.

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