Early this morning I drove south of Anchorage to the Girdwood area. On the way, I was delighted to find numerous Dall sheep on the mountain sides (not, I understand, mountain goats, which have black horns). Just another of the reasons that Alaska birding is made special by non-bird occurrences.
Two of them played follow-the-leader, and my camera followed them.
The friendly Red-throated Loon is around again this year, still responding vocally when a plane takes off, flies over or lands on the lake near the loon. I could not resist taking yet another video of it this morning. The increasing and decreasing background noise in the video is one of the taking off floatplanes.
Yippee! My books have arrived, and were awaiting me on my doorstep yesterday. So, if you want a signed copy sent to you, please email me to let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org). Cost: $32, which includes shipping to a US address. The book is about my birding big years in Texas and Alaska, and includes many of my photos and paintings. It is published by Texas A&M University Press, as were my other two books (Extreme Birder: One Woman’s Big Year; Birds in Trouble). And thanks so much if you do order a copy.
Assuming the world holds together and books are still being shipped by then, my new book, entitled Big Years, Biggest States (about birding of course!) is expected to arrive at the publisher (Texas A&M University Press) by mid-April or so. I received the cover (first photo below) a couple of weeks ago and just received my author’s advance copy of the full book this week. I am pleased with how it has turned out. Email me at email@example.com or call me at 682-365-6531 if you have questions.
If you wish to order a copy from me, I would be happy to mail you a signed copy of the book (unless you will be in Alaska and wish to pick one up from me). The cost per book, including postage is $32 (it is the same price for my other two books if you wish to get them also). Checks can be sent to 645 G St., Ste. 100-688, Anchorage, AK 99501. If you want something written in the book in addition to my signature, let me know, and of course, I need to know the address to which the book should be sent.
FYI, the titles of my three books are:
Big Years, Biggest States — Birds in Trouble — Extreme Birder: One Woman’s Big Year
It’s been a long, long time since I wrote in my blog, but I’m back. I just had to come back to tell everybody the exciting news that my third book will be published and available about early April. It is about my adventures birding in my Texas and Alaska big years (2005 and 2016, respectively) and has lots of photos and paintings to illustrate some of the bird finds. I would love to sign copies and send them to any interested people. I might even come up with special deals if people wanted the new book and a copy of one or both of my earlier books. People can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if they are interested, or call me at 682-365-6531.
My main reason for returning to Nome in late May/early June this year was to see Bluethroats again, and of course, to photograph them. So, on my first full day there, May 30, I drove slowly down Kougarok Road where I’d had the most luck seeing them last year. I recalled that about mile 21-24 or so was the best but I listened intently wherever there was brush. I heard my first singing Bluethroat at about mile 14, followed by another 0.2 mile later and others at miles 23 (after the baby moose adventure reported in my previous blog post), 32 (at twigs protruding from a snowy expanse), 41 (just after Salmon Lake), 49 and 50.5. Two days later I drove Teller Road and had sightings about at miles 14, 22 and 48.
The sound of a Bluethroat is both unlike any other bird sound and also similar sometimes as the singing bird periodically imitates other birds. Sounds just pour forth, musical, staccato, hurried, all over the place, even when the bird is flying up, fluttering in the sky, and coming back down (usually to the same perch as before). Unfortunately, for now I am unable to put videos on my blog, so cannot illustrate this further.
Below are samples of Bluethroat photographs from Nome.
Although my recent (May 29-June 5) trip to Nome was to see birds, some of the most memorable parts of the trip were the moose sightings. If you have been to Alaska, you probably are aware that it is common to see moose, sometimes only dimly, yet most Alaskans just want to see moose even more. than they do.
At this time of the year, however, it is the babies that make moose sightings special. Toward the end of the Nome trip, we were able to see a mother and newborn across the river from us. Even at that distance, the mother appeared ready to charge if we made a move in her direction.
The most memorable moose sighting of the trip came earlier, however. I was driving along Kougarok Road, which runs along a wide river (the Nome River, as I recall). Way off to my left I noticed a moose in the brush. Oddly, she seemed to be slowly turning in circles. Was she tethered or somehow caught in the brush? I stopped to watch, and then realized that mostly hidden beneath her was a youngster.
For some reason, the mother decided it was time to head across the river, aiming apparently for a spot in front of me. I watched them cross the first section of the river, which seemed to go okay. And so did a second section of the river.
But then they came to the main part of the river, clearly much deeper, and the youngster could not quite make it and they turned back. The mother was so intent on this journey, so I was sure they were going to try again, but it was so scary I could not watch anymore.
So I don’t know the end of the story. Go ahead and write a happy ending for yourself, which I hope there was. When I returned later on my way to Nome itself, I did not have any moose sightings.
Note: my computer was not happy today to work with my blog host, and I had much difficulty making progress for a long time. Therefore, I’m not sure what will actually show once I publish this post. Let me know if much seems to be missing or garbled.
Also, I do plan to publish some photos of birds and scenes soon from this Nome trip, assuming I can get my blog stuff to work.
The big news in the Anchorage birding world (and beyond) has been the Falcated Duck that was first reported at Potter Marsh on May 3rd, when I was lucky enough to see it after I raced over there immediately upon hearing about it. Since then, the bird has been seen daily but is not as easily viewable as when originally found. This is the first Falcated Duck that I have ever seen, as their normal range is in Asia and Japan.
Other ducks that I have seen and photographed recently in Anchorage include (in order shown below) a Surf Scoter at Spenard Lake, Buffleheads, Gadwalls, Green-winged Teal, and a mixture of ducks including Gadwalls, Green-winged Teal and Northern Shovelers at Potter Marsh.
There are three loon species around now that I have photographed: Common Loon photographed at Spenard Lake, the tame Red-throated Loon at Hood Lake (which usually calls when float planes take off or fly by as in the video below) and two Pacific Loons at Goose Lake:
The two grebe species now in the area are Red-necked Grebe, which is a common breeder at Anchorage Lakes, and Horned Grebe, which I usually only see on migration, although it does breed in the area.
Although the above loon and grebe species are the only ones now in Anchorage of which I am aware, there are many other ducks around, including Mallards, American Wigeons, Northern Pintails, Ring-necked Ducks, and Greater Scaup, and there are migrating Trumpeter Swans and zillions of Canada Geese as well.
It’s really beginning to seem like spring in Anchorage! Even before May began, as I began to be able to find time again to bird, I found that things were looking up.
On April 29th, I went to Hood and Spenard Lakes and Westchester Lagoon and found that the water was all open, with only a bit of ice along the shore. Bird highlights included Trumpeter Swans, Arctic Terns, Red-necked Grebes, and a very tame Bald Eagle. The noise in the background of the grebe video is gulls squabbling on the island at Westchester Lagoon.
On May 1st I went back to Hood and Spenard Lakes, looking for the very tame Red-throated Loon that I have seen there the last couple of summers, and was delighted to find it was back, still amazingly tame (I learned from one of the plane owners that it had returned a couple of days earlier, and he believes it has been coming back for about 5 years, never with a mate).
On May 2nd I drove up Arctic Valley Road, hearing American Robins, Dark-eyed Juncos and Ruby-crowned Kinglets at regular intervals as I drove up the road. The road was clear of snow, although there were remnants of snow along the road and on the nearby hillsides.
As I turned around at road’s end to head back down the road, I heard the unmistakable clucking sound of a Willow Ptarmigan, so I got out to look around. Very near me, on the snow near the rippling creek was a pair of ptarmigan, more interested in each other than in me.
Today’s highlight was along Ship Creek, where there was a resting, preening Harlequin Duck, a bird I have only rarely seen in the Anchorage area, much less downtown.
May has always been my favorite month, even when I was not living in Alaska, and I am planning to get out birding as much as possible. Near the end of the month I’ll be back birding in Nome.
The second half of our trip to Spain was spent in Andalucia in southernmost Spain. Much of the trip was near and around the off-limits central portion of Donana National Park. This area is much flatter and lower than the Extremadura portion of our trip, with many wetlands with a wide variety of waterfowl and other water-loving birds.
A major highlight of this portion of the trip was the flamingos. A small selection of my flamingo photos follows.
Other long-legged wading birds included Black-winged Stilts, Eurasian Spoonbills, Pied Avocets, Glossy Ibises, Black-crowned Night-Herons and a Squacco Heron. Not shown are photos of the Gray and Purple Herons.
Ducks seen include Common Pochard, Crested Pochard, Northern Shovelers, Garganey, Ferruginous Ducks, White-headed Ducks, and Common Shelducks.
Also seen were Great Crested Grebes, Eurasian Coots and Red-knobbed Coots, and Purple Swamphens.
While we saw Hoopoes many days and heard them even more often, only rarely did they allow more than a rapid, fly-by view.
On three different days a bit farther away from the water we saw Little Owls, and on one day got to see two Barn Owls in a next box.
Some of the best sightings, however, were the members of our birding group. A selection of photos of some of them follows taken in both portions of the trip.
I also took many photos of scenes, plus more bird pictures of course, and will try for one more post about the trip.