June 21 – Townsend’s’ Time

I drove up Arctic Valley Road today. The usual birds were around. I got a somewhat better view of a Townsend’s Warbler than I usually get and even a partial photo.

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As I was driving down the road, just after I had turned around at the foggy top, a bird darted across the road and landed on a power line – a Townsend’s Solitaire – a bird that is usually very difficult to find in Alaska. It sat for a while and even sang its gentle song and then darted off into the mist.

Other birds photographed along the road were Violet-green Swallow, American Robin, and Yellow-rumped Warbler.

June 19 – ‘Tis the Season…

…for baby things to appear.

The biggest of these today was a baby moose at Potter Marsh, apparently the second day it has been seen there without an obvious mother. So far it seems to be okay, munching and splashing across the water. It was making a few little bleats every now and then.

The Common Yellowthroat male is still at Potter Marsh regularly singing when I got there, but mostly hidden in the brush out off the boardwalk.

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Other babies included many young Mew Gulls in the marsh.

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There was at least one family of Canada Geese along Potter Marsh.IMG_0126 (2).JPG

Very near the goslings there was also a baby Arctic Tern on the edge of one of the parking lots along Potter Marsh, right beneath a parent tern that seemed to be ignoring both us and its mostly motionless baby as it preened.

At Lake Spenard a family of newly hatched Mallards hustled away when I drove up.

At Lake Hood, very near three Red-necked Phalaropes there was a baby Lesser Yellowlegs (puffball on stilts) along the water’s edge not far from a noisy parent.

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There were of course other adult birds. Shown are an Alder Flycatcher and Lincoln’s Sparrow.

And there were beautiful flowers and greenness everywhere.

Finally, we still have a couple of Mallards coming to our backyard. As I write this, there is a female there now.

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It sure is hard to do anything else but bird!

June 15 – Birdy Lakes Hood and Spenard

Today I just had time to check out Lakes Hood and Spenard to see what if anything was around. Although numbers of each species were not huge, there was quite a bit of bird activity.

Swallows were very evident – Violet-green Swallows flying about Lake Spenard (not photographed), Tree Swallows flying and sitting on various rooftops and plane parts on both lakes, and Bank Swallows on Lake Hood flying, sitting on buildings and fighting each other.

Shorebirds included both Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs (at least one each), a Spotted Sandpiper heard flying out over the lake, and a Red-necked Phalarope sitting and preening and stretching and swimming near where they have been for weeks now on Lake Hood. Be careful you don’t get seasick as you watch the two videos. Also note the phalarope’s reaction in the first video to a magpie flying over (magpie is not visible in the video but you can tell when it flies over). I was hoping to catch the phalarope spinning in the water, but perhaps the water was too deep and too wavy for that to be of much use in finding food.

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There were a few ducks: Mallards and Greater Scaup, two of the latter photographed as they looked up, possibly at a plane going over.

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The only sparrows that I saw and heard by the lakes were Savannah Sparrows, some singing from building-tops and others out in the grassy edges. I also heard a White-crowned Sparrow singing along the road as I left.

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There were a couple of Red-necked Grebes but too far away to try to photograph. The Red-throated Loon was dozing in a less busy part of Lake Hood than where I have usually seen it, only waking up for a short time before tucking its beak under its wing again.

Other birds seen included a couple of Bonaparte’s Gulls, a Mew Gull, starlings and an American Robin.

June 14 – Thrushes and Blackbirds

I did bird the last couple of days but did not get many pictures or see any new birds for the year. I did finally see and photograph a Western Wood-Pewee (heard previous days).

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Today I drove south past Girdwood and turned off the main highway on to the road to Portage Glacier where I walked on the Trail of Blue Ice beginning at the roadside pulloff area that is about 2.5 miles down the road from the highway intersection. Everything was beautiful, the mountains, the trees, the understory vegetation and the birds when I could see them.

Most of the sound was of warblers and thrushes. Mostly the warblers were Yellow, Wilson’s and Orange-crowned Warblers and Northern Waterthrush. The thrushes were Varied Thrushes and Hermit Thrushes (photos), many of which were carrying food, as well as unseen Swainson’s Thrushes.

On my walk back to my car, I heard but did not see a very loud Gray-cheeked thrush with its thin reedy song.

On the drive back to Anchorage I spent some time along the road south of Girdwood where the I had seen the male Red-winged Blackbird earlier. My conclusion that there actually were two blackbirds was documented as I was photographing a male and a female flew by and was caught in one of the photos.

PS. For those of you not in Alaska, you might be interested to know that today we have 19 hours and 17 minutes between sunrise and sunset, which is about a minute longer than yesterday.

 

June 10 – Marsh and Mountain Birds, and BearS

On June 8th I wandered around Anchorage, birding at Campbell Estuary Natural Area, Hood Lake and Point Woronzoff out by the airport.

At the Natural Area were the usual warblers, mostly unseen but just heard, and a couple of noisy, visible Alder Flycatchers.

At Lake Hood there were five Red-necked Phalaropes in the area where the Red-throated Loon hangs out but the loon was not around.

Beyond Point Woronzoff I had a good view of a bull moose that is getting his antlers.

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At the pond at the big parking lot out there I was startled to hear the chirp of a Common Yellowthroat, which then started singing – my first for in-Anchorage itself.

The next day I went to Potter Marsh, where there were the usual Tree Swallows flying about and more Alder Flycatchers. Toward the south end of the marsh there was a Red-necked Grebe still on the nest, a preening dowitcher (plumage appeared to indicate Long-billed to me) and another Red-necked Phalarope. There were also some very cute goslings along the board walk.

 

On the Old Seward Highway behind the marsh a Wilson’s Snipe was calling and calling.

Today I joined nearly 20 others for Alaska Audubon’s Arctic Valley mountain walk for plants and birds, a long and windy, but great walk. Scenes and plants and birds were great, but as the distance between the plant people and the bird people increased I missed some of the plant information.

The usual summer birds that I find down in Anchorage were there plus when we got high enough there was a perched Golden Eagle.

Others saw and I heard an American Pipit, and we all got to hear and see a singing Horned Lark.

On the drive down the road after the walk, I noticed a bunch of cars pulled over. When I got near I saw that they were watching a mother bear and her three (!) cubs at the side of the road. I got a few pictures through my front window, and then as I sat there the whole family came past my car on the right side, giving me wonderful views.

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What a cool thing it is to live and bird in Anchorage!!

 

June 7 – Birds, Bunnies and a Bear

The birding was great on my drive up Arctic Valley Road this morning, but I did not get very many good bird pictures. New year-birds for the trip were two distant calling Olive-sided Flycatchers and two soaring Golden Eagles over a mountain to the south of the road as I drove back down the road (about 11 am).

I did get a video of a singing Golden-crowned Sparrow at the top parking lot.

There also was a ground squired that posed while it munched for a short while before scampering off.

As was the case a couple of days ago, there were arctic hares all along the drive, at least five on the drive up. Without exception, they were all nibbling at the road itself! There must be some essential nutrients in the dirt.

The most exciting nonbird thing, however, was a black bear. About three miles up the road from the highway I briefly saw a black bear leave the road and disappear into the roadside brush. I drove up to the spot where it had been on the road and turned off my car and waited. After about ten minutes, the bear reappeared ahead of me walking down the road away from me. I took a couple of pictures through the windshield and drove slowly ahead, hoping for better pictures. The bear glanced back over its shoulder every now and then but did not leave the road at first. Then it gradually went toward the right side of the road, and then up on to the raised shoulder area, just as I reached the bear. The bear continued along the shoulder, so I inched forward and stopped the car and took a video of the bear beside me. Eventually the bear left the roadside and disappeared into the brush. I am very glad that I was not walking up the road away from my car.

Sometimes mammals are just as much fun to watch as birds (or maybe more).

June 6 – Moose and Goshawk Sightings

The last couple of days, especially today, have given me some unexpected, wonderful sightings, some of which were birds. On June 5, although it was raining steadily I decided to go out and drive around the Potter Marsh area. Birding was average, with the highlight being my first view of the year of a very small baby moose in the wooded hills above Potter Marsh. Unfortunately the baby scampered off into the woods without allowing me to photograph it and I just got a partial view of the mama.

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It was interesting to note that the single Trumpeter Swan is still at the marsh.

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Today I decided to go to Kincaid park, a place that I usually don’t go because I don’t really know my way around it and it is huge. It was a beautiful cool morning.

The first excitement there (and another “awwww” moment) was another wobbly baby moose and its mother, which stayed along the roadside on the way into the park, allowing me to take zillions of photos and a video:

After I felt glutted with moose-photos I drove on and parked in the lot at the end of the road. I began to walk down the ski-trail, but then turned around to get something out of my car and noticed a bird I had missed near the parking lot, a large raptor perched on a dead branch on a hill beyond the lot. It was a juvenile-plumaged Northern Goshawk, which I photographed then as it perched and as it flew off to hunt.

Much later as I returned to my car I saw the Goshawk again, still hunting. It flew past and landed quite near me allowing even closer photos.

The other new year-bird was a very brief view of a calling Western Wood-Pewee. I also heard an Alder Flycatcher on my walk, and most of the usual summering warblers: Yellow-rumped, Orange-crowned, Yellow and Wilson’s, as well as sparrows, Lincoln’s, Savannah, Fox, and White-crowned.

It was a very rewarding morning!

June 3 – More Wandering Around Anchorage

Yesterday I birded with Carolyn Noble and Susan Roy before their scheduled birding trip to Nome. We visited some of my favorite spots, including Hood Lake, where the well-known and often-photographed Red-throated Loon came within a couple of feet of me. It is a very odd experience to be standing on shore and look down at a loon and then be splashed when the loon dives.

We also went to an area along the lake where there were five Spotted Sandpipers all displaying and calling (not all are shown in the picture), while a Savannah Sparrow steadfastly kept up his song.

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We also went to Westchester Lagoon and the nearby coastal trail, where there were five Sandhill Cranes very near the trail.

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Today I drove up Arctic Valley Road nearly becoming part of the Arctic Valley Run that I had not known was going to be there. There were five arctic hares spaced out along the road, a couple of which stayed on the road as I drove by.

I also was able to get my first-of-the-year photo of a distant Townsend’s Warbler and another of a perched up Fox Sparrow.

I did have time before the run was to occur to walk along the trail at the top of the road, where a few flowers were in bloom.

Back at Hood Lake, which is becoming nearly a daily destination for me, there were at least four Red-necked Phalaropes, one of which tamely swam right next to me on the shore and another one of which seemed to be keeping company with a Least Sandpiper.

I really enjoy just going out and birding wherever sounds like an interesting place to bird without worrying (very much) about whether any “new” birds will be around.

June 2 – South of Anchorage

Yesterday, a gorgeous sunny day, I drove south of Anchorage to Girdwood and ultimately walked for a while along the Trail of Blue Ice that goes out of the Moose Flats Day Use Area on the Portage Highway. The photos (yes, they all are right-side-up) show scenes along the way including two Trumpeter Swans at the foot of an avalanche from last winter.

At the Girdwood gas station, a Northwestern Crow was sunning itself on the roof.

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In the marshy area just south of Girdwood I pulled over to see what was around and immediately heard a Red-winged Blackbird. It appears to be a young male, and I may also have seen a female dart into the grasses.

There were also Cliff Swallows dipping down to the water and flying low around me.

On the Trail of Blue Ice, warblers were singing everywhere – Northern Waterthrush (photo) and Yellow-rumped, Orange-crowned, Wilson’s and Yellow Warblers as were both Varied, Hermit and Swainson’s Thrushes. There also was a Rusty Blackbird off in the marsh.

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On the way back I found a couple of singing Song Sparrows along the highway between the Portage Highway and Girdwood.

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I drove over to Alyeska and walked the trail (Winner trail?) for a while. There I found the usual Pine Siskins and White-winged Crossbills, and both of my goal birds, Townsend’s Warblers and Golden-crowned Kinglets (photos).

Back in Anchorage I checked out Hood Lake and found that the Red-throated Loon was more cooperative than it had been recently. The Red-necked Phalaropes were also still there hidden in the vegetation at the edge of the water, and of course Red-necked Grebes were around.

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Today I go birding in the Anchorage area with two birders from California.

June 1 – Awww

When birds are even more cute than cute, I just have to say “awww”. That was the case yesterday with my first ever view of baby Wilson’s Snipe. I was out on the Potter Marsh board walk, just having actually seen my first Alder Flycatcher of the year (I heard one some days ago).

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All of a sudden as I walked along the board walk, a Wilson’s Snipe flew up from one side of the board walk, flew almost over my head, and dropped down to the other side. I snapped a few photos looking straight down on the snipe and walked on. When I came back the snipe was still there, and then out of the grasses popped two snipe youngsters that proceeded to follow the adult until they disappeared into the grass.

Other sightings there were the usual Tree Swallows flying around and sitting tamely along the board walk.

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Earlier in the morning at Campbell Creek Estuary Natural Area in addition to seeing Sandhill Cranes out on the mudflats, I spotted the head of another crane out in the grassy edge of the flats, presumably a nesting crane.

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After Potter Marsh, I joined Jim Hailey (who was in Anchorage from Texas, prior to heading to Nome for a TOS bird trip) to bird at a couple of other spots, including the coastal trail, where there was more cuteness in the form of a couple of two families of newly hatched Mallard ducklings.

We also went to Hood Lake, where the Red-necked Phalaropes were still around, and saw a Lesser Scaup in addition to the many Greater Scaup.

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We went to Glen Alps, where spectacular views could be had of Anchorage below and the mountains beyond.

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I will do another post about today’s birding. The birds were not so cute as yesterday but it was a very rewarding day anyway.