August 30 – North of Anchorage

Lena and I birded this morning in the Palmer area and at Reflections Lake between Palmer and Anchorage. On the road to Palmer, we were startled to see a family of 8 Trumpeter Swans at the edge of the road, looking like they were trying to cross the very busy, fast-moving highway. We took pictures and drove right alongside them and made shooing sounds but they just watched us warily and refused to move away. On our way back later, we were glad that we did not see any dead birds on the road and that the swans had disappeared and no longer were near the road.

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In Palmer, we briefly visited the Old Matanuska Townsite Road, the highlights there being a young Northern Shrike that I was only able to photograph blurrily through the windshield, and a distant perched Osprey.

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At the site on Inner Springer Loop where Sandhill Cranes regularly stage, we found them again, an estimated 350 or so, some of which were clearly young of the year. They were mostly unmoving, although every now and then a few would fly away and others poked a bit at the earth.



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Our final stop was at Reflections Lake where a Red-necked Grebe dozed far out on the lake. There still were quite a few warblers moving around, primarily Yellow-rumped and a few Wilson’s as well as a few Black-capped Chickadees and a couple of Downy Woodpeckers.



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This evening back at our house Lena took another opportunity to hand-feed our Steller’s Jays before our trip tomorrow to Gambell on St. Lawrence Island. Because the wifi there may not always be accessible, my blog will at best probably not be posted daily but only be posted every couple of days or so for the next 10 days.

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291 species so far

August 29 – Yet Another Sunny Anchorage Day

A person could get used to this sunny mild weather. Louann, Lena and I birded two  neighborhood areas in west Anchorage this morning – the R Street Alley and streets in the Turnagain area.


The main highlight of the first place was a Merlin that dove down, looped around and landed on a tree top for us to photograph it.

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Also of extreme interest for a while and which was studied intently until we just gave up was a silent dove/pigeon, first thought to be a Rock Pigeon, then firmly believed to be a Eurasian Collared-Dove, and then concluded to probably be just a strange, probable Rock Pigeon. It flew in with a couple of Rock Pigeons, landing near us. I leave it for blog readers to make guesses/pronouncements if it is deemed to be anything other than a Rock Pigeon.



Other birds in the alley area were a Black-billed Magpie and Red-breasted Nuthatch (mostly just heard and only briefly seen on a distant treetop) that were photographed, as well as Common Redpolls, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Downy Woodpeckers and Dark-eyed Juncos.

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At the second area (near Susitna) we heard a Varied Thrush, saw Dark-eyed Juncos, many Yellow-rumped and a few each Wilson’s and Orange-crowned Warblers, and a few American Robins, as well as basically the same little birds seen in the alley area.

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The highlight of the second area, however, was six Rusty Blackbirds that, mostly hidden, silently worked the treetops and preened.

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Of course, always a highlight is the chance to see Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley), which is some 150 miles away from Anchorage and usually not visible, even from much nearer by.


291 species so far



August 28 – Sunny Anchorage Birding

Lena and I birded a trail for about 1.5 miles each way beginning about 4 blocks from our house and going parallel to the road to the Campbell Creek Science Center along the creek to a bridge across the creek itself. It was warm for Anchorage (72 degrees) with a gentle breeze.



Along the way were a few Dark-eyed Juncos, a few small flocks of Boreal and Black-capped Chickadees (latter photographed), at least one Downy Woodpecker, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Brown Creepers and a couple of Yellow-rumped Warblers.

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The last flock also included about five Golden-crowned Kinglets (golden crown only shows slightly in photo).

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The most interesting non-bird part of the walk was the abundance and variety of mushrooms, presumably due to the lengthy rain period that we have had. Of course, not being familiar with them we did not even consider thinking about eating any of them.



291 species so far

August 27 – White-tailed Ptarmigan!

As promised by his owner Bob Bird, Vino a Brittany was the “star of the show”. The show was presented to Ellen Schwenne, Louann Feldman, my friend Lena and me, as well as to Bob, who volunteered his time and expertise to help us toward our goal. The four of us stayed overnight in a campground near Summit Lake (between Anchorage and Kenai) and met Bob about 6:30 am to begin the hike.



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While we worked our way up the 2.5 mile climb, Vino bounded across the hills along the trail.



About where Bob, our guide, had said we were likely to find White-tailed Ptarmigan, Vino went on point and held it until we got closer and he was verbally released and bounded toward the WHITE-TAILED PTARMIGAN. All in all we had about seven birds, much grayer than Willow Ptarmigan at this time of the year with white outer tail feathers seen when they flew. Unfortunately I did not get any close-up pictures as the birds that we saw were across a stream on the opposite hillside.

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Vino eventually came back to us after he was called away from the fun of finding the ptarmigan and was showered with praise (as was Bob) for finding the birds for us.

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We just rested and rejoiced before our trek back down the trail.



Other birds seen were sparrows, White-crowned and Golden-crowned, as well as Varied Thrushes. We heard Orange-crowned and Yellow Warblers, as well as a Dark-eyed Junco.

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We had spectacular scenery along the entire walk, which we were better able to appreciate after we had seen the ptarmigan and were walking back. We were back at the cars just after noon.




My next major birding adventure is a trip to Gambell on St. Lawrence Island, beginning on August 31. Before then I will continue to bird the Anchorage area.

291 species so far

August 26 – Brief Anchorage Birding

Just a quick birding trip to the Westchester Lagoon area this morning after the rain mostly stopped. Nothing much to report, except Red-necked Grebes and ducks (vigilant mama Greater Scaup with half-grown young (not shown), a few American Wigeons and Mallards (not shown)) and magpies were around.

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I’m writing early today because four of us are heading south in an hour or so to do a mountain hike. Stay tuned to see if we find anything new for my year.

290 species so far


August 23-25 – Ferry Trip from Juneau to Whittier

The good news is: there are over 4 months left in this year. The not-so-good news is: in spite of an excellent leader (Aaron Lang of Wilderness Birding Adventures) and a great group of seven birders and lots of hours spent, there were very few birds seen on the foggy, rainy ferry trip and there were NO new birds for my big year.


Before the ferry trip on August 23rd, we birded in misty-rainy Juneau at Brotherhood Bridge and other nearby areas. Highlights included two Killdeer photographed through the wet windshield-wipered front windshield, a Warbling Vireo among the warblers (Wilson’s, Orange-crowned, Yellow-rumped), as well as the usual Lincoln’s and Savannah Sparrows.


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We left the Juneau ferry dock midday on Tuesday, August 23. At the dock, the Glaucous-winged Gulls appeared to be nibbling at the encrustations on the dock.

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It was a bit rainy, which turned out to be the best weather of the trip. Every now and then the rain would seem to cease but it wasn’t long until fog on the water and/or serious rain cut visibility. Nevertheless we hardy birders persevered and kept watch during almost all daylight hours, although a few times, the scopes kept watch alone.








Birds seen on the ferry that day included Sooty and Short-tailed Shearwaters (usually just grouped together in the identification of fog-shrouded distant birds), as well as ducks (Harlequin and Surf and Black Scoters), Pomarine and Parasitic Jaegers, Common Murres, Marbled Murrelets, and Black-legged Kittiwakes.

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We docked in early morning on August 24 at Yakutat and did a bit of land birding before setting out on the ferry again. Land-birds included Eurasian Collared-Doves, a Fox Sparrow, Bald Eagle, Northwestern Crows, Hooded Merganser (probably young of the year), Common Yellowthroat and a Barn Swallow (latter two not photographed).


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On the second day on the ferry we added quite a few Black-footed Albatross and Northern Fulmars as well as Cassin’s Auklets, Ancient Murrelets and Tufted Puffins to our trip-list.

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The ferry portion of our trip ended about 6 am in Whittier on August 25th, where we boarded a van and were driven back to Anchorage. It rained most of the way but when we arrived in mid-morning at Potter Marsh just south of Anchorage the rain had stopped and we got to bird some more before arrival back in Anchorage.


290 species so far



August 22 – Gulf of Alaska Trip – Juneau Portion

Eight of us birded the Juneau area today, going to Brotherhood Bridge and the Mendenhall Wetlands dike trail in the morning.


Birds seen and photographed included Song and Fox Sparrows and Yellow-rumped Warblers at the first site and Long-billed Dowitchers, Brown Creeper and Bald Eagle at the second. The full list will eventually appear on eBird.

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In the afternoon we went to Eagle Beach where in addition to the birds photographed (Thayer’s and California Gulls) there were Glaucous-winged, Glaucous (1), Mew and Bonaparte’s Gulls, as well as distant Surf Scoters and Common Mergansers.

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Along the road in the Auke Bay area we had a little family group of Red-breasted Sapsuckers .

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We added Vaux’s Swift (not photographed) to the trip list out past the Community Garden, and in the “dredge pond area” we saw an Olive-sided Flycatcher as well as two Western Wood-Pewees (not photographed).

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For the next two days we will be mostly on the ferry and I will not be able to work on my blog posts, but I hope that I will be able to update things on Friday the 26th. It is possible that I will be able to update my year list on my web site ( using my phone at some time before that, and if so, I will do so.

290 species so far

August 21 -Juneau Birding

Lena and I birded the Mendenhall wetlands this morning, checked into our new hotel and after lunch birded with Aaron Lang (Wilderness Birding Adventures owner) and Dave Porter, trip participant with us.


Birds seen today include a few Northwestern Crows, a Mew Gull, Lincoln’s Sparrows and both kinglets at the wetlands.

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In the afternoon we went to the Montana Creek area, Eagle Beach and trails near the “dredge ponds”. Photographed were scenery, a reclining Wilson’s Warbler (I think), an assortment of gulls at Eagle Beach,  my first AK porcupine, and a female-plumaged Hooded Merganser.



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Tomorrow more Juneau birding with the group – I am looking forward to it!

290 species so far

August 20 – Great Day in Ketchikan

290! The goal in going to Ketchikan today was to get Ring-billed Gull on my year list, and the wonderful news is that RING-BILLED GULL is now on my year list.



Lena and I arrived in Ketchikan about 8:45, were picked up by Steve Heinl, and by a little after 9:00 we were seeing three of them amid the multitudes of Glaucous-winged (bottom gull photo), Herring, Mew and California Gulls. Although none of the Ring-billed Gulls were adults with actual ringed bills, their size (larger than Mew and smaller than the others) helped a lot.

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When the excitement abated a bit, we birded first south of the town and then north, covering the waterfront so to speak. Other birds seen (in order of photos below) included Belted Kingfisher, Least Sandpiper, Common Loon (came very near the fishermen), and Common Yellowthroat. Birds not photographed included Red and White-winged Crossbills, Yellow and Orange-crowned Warblers, Lincoln’s and Song Sparrows, Bald Eagles, Barn Swallows, Common Ravens, Warbling Vireo, and Common Merganser.

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We ended the birding at Jerry Koerner’s beautiful yard. The trees were alive with Pine Siskins, and there were Rufous Hummingbirds (difficult to see one in the flower photo below) and an Anna’s Hummingbird, Eurasian Collared-Doves and Chestnut-backed Chickadees.

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Tomorrow we join the other participants for Juneau birding at the beginning of the Wilderness Birding Adventures’ Gulf of Alaska trip.

290 species so far

August 19 – Juneau

The original plan was to come to Juneau a couple of days before the Wilderness Birding Adventures Gulf of Alaska trip, which starts on Sunday. So this morning, my friend Lena and I flew to Juneau from Anchorage after a very short night of sleep because her late flight into Anchorage had gotten there after midnight.


Although we did not have a lot of energy, we did walk most of the Mendenhall Wetlands dike trail, looking for little birds (sparrows and warblers) and shorebirds.


A very vocal Common Raven welcomed us at the beginning of the spruce portion of the trail.

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Out where the wetlands were flooded were many Green-winged Teal, fewer Mallards and a handful of Northern Shovelers. There were not too many shorebirds – just a few peeps that took off never to reappear and five Greater Yellowlegs. We did see one of the latter bite off more that it could chew.


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We had quick glimpses of an Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warblers and a handsome female Common Yellowthroat.

Sparrows were much more numerous and many of them were scruffy splotchy confusingly-plumaged youngsters. Sometimes we just had to guess at their identity or just give up. Sparrows seen included Savannah, Song, Lincoln’s and a White-crowned (not photographed).

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After an afternoon rest we went to the Brotherhood Bridge trail where we got more beautiful views of the Mendenhall Glacier. We added Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Steller’s Jay and Wilson’s Warbler to our day list.


Tomorrow we head out to Ketchikan for the day. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s account of what I hope will be a birdy day.

289 species so far