Feb. 29 – Sunny Juneau Day

Today was a beautiful day with no rain. Although I did enjoy birding in the rain yesterday, the blue skies today  were very welcome and I did not miss the rain.


Because my Snow Goose pictures yesterday were so distant and unclear, I received a number of questions as to the goose’s identity. I was pretty sure there was only one white goose around, a previously confirmed Snow Goose, but maybe there were two? So, I went back today, hoping the goose would be closer. It was, so I took more pictures of the Snow Goose. I also scanned the distant marsh to be sure there were no other white geese around, none of which I found.



I next went to the Twin Lakes via a quick stop at the marsh next to Juneau Pioneers’ Home, where there were many Mallards and a hunting Great Blue Heron.


At Twin Lakes I was mainly seeking a Lesser Scaup. Birders in Juneau had told me I should find them there. The nine scaup that I saw were very far out and seemed to be all Greater. There were also many Buffleheads on the lakes. I went back in the late afternoon, after I had found my first LESSER SCAUP earlier in the afternoon near the end of the dike trail at the Mendenhall Wetlands (n0 photo), and I could tell that there was at least one Lesser Scaup at the lakes. I watched the seven scaup that were there in the afternoon for over an hour, changing my mind every few sec0nds as t0 how many of each scaup there were. They were constantly diving so it was hard to keep track of them, but at least one had the somewhat “squarer” head and smaller beak and was smaller than the others. As with the Snow Goose, the angle of the bird’s head kept being a problem, and the photos do not really help.



I also visited the Community Garden and Brotherhood Bridge. At the latter area, there were numerous Common Ravens and Bald Eagles soaring overhead, probably enjoying the sunny day.


IMG_5240 (2)

[Note: this post was published on March 1, because I had trouble getting a good signal at the Juneau airport while I was waiting for my flight back to Anchorage, where I now am.]

118 species so far



Feb. 28 – Juneau in the Rain

Throughout this trip to southeast Alaska, rain has threatened every day and periodically briefly happened and mostly not been too noticeable, until today. Today it just rained. Still, I was out there birding for most of the day. I began at the Mendenhall wetlands a little before 8 am. I did not have any particular goal, but it did seem like it would be a good time and place to get my first snipe of the year. Those of you who have read my first book (Extreme Birder: One Woman’s Big Year) know that I like to write doggerel “poetry”. Please skip to the next paragraph now if you do not like to read it. As I walked along I was happily singing (to myself), “Just walking in the rain, getting (not quite) soaking wet, wish for a snipe, the next bird I should get.” There were very few birds along the trail, but there were a couple of Common Goldeneyes, Northwestern Crows, Bald Eagles, Canada Geese, Buffleheads, American Wigeons and Song Sparrows.


IMG_5098A  IMG_5102A

I did not see a snipe today. Instead I saw another long-beaked bird. Bev Agler and Patty Rose had arranged to meet me at the wetlands about 9:15. The three of us hiked out across the wetlands, where I not yet gone before. Eventually we reached an area where Patty had seen the earlier reported Long-billed Dowitchers. Without two much effort we spotted the two LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS again today, feeding side-by-side along a little rivulet.



Mission accomplished, we hiked back, unsuccessfully scanning the Mallard-Wigeon flocks for something other than an American Wigeon.

After lunch, we headed over to Sunset Point where a Snow Goose has been hanging out with the Canada Geese. Normally (apparently) it has been visible from where one can park a car, but today many of the Canada Geese and the SNOW GOOSE were way out across the grassy puddle-full field. Having nothing else in mind to seek, I decided to slog out toward the geese and attempt a picture. Although I could not get very near the geese because of slippery mud ahead of me and because I needed to go back to avoid high tide, I did get a couple of distant photos.

IMG_5127Aa (2)  IMG_5128A (2).jpg

Late in the afternoon I visited the Brotherhood Bridge area, which is a good birding site during migration and just pretty and not birdy on a rainy February day.


117 species so far


Feb. 27 – Killdeer and California Gull – Ketchikan

The forecast was for rain all day, and it did rain some, but not enough to discourage birding. Much of today I birded with Steve Heinl and Jim Lewis. We basically drove the length of Ketchikan, first north and then south of town.


Our first goal was KILLDEER and we found six of them at Mud Bight north of town, and later another one at Bayview Cemetery.


Nearly everywhere along the water were flocks of gulls, often wildly scrambling for herring. Among all the Glaucous-winged Gulls were quite a few Thayer’s Gulls, a few CALIFORNIA GULLS, first for my year and for Ketchikan for the year, as well as a couple of Herring Gulls. We checked out Knudson Marina, saw the American Coot again, as well as close-up views of Marbled Murrelets. We also had many Common Murres, Surf Scoters, Red-necked Grebes, goldeneyes, six or more Great Blue Herons, and a couple of Song Sparrows.

IMG_4988  IMG_5037

IMG_4997  IMG_5053

IMG_4994  IMG_5002

South of town we saw many more gulls, Pelagic, Double-crested and Brandt’s Cormorants, and a Red-winged Blackbird and Varied Thrush together with five Song Sparrows. Along Ketchikan Creek, which was running high after all the rain there were 3-4 Amerian Dippers, at least one of which was singing loudly.


A great day of birding. Tomorrow I will be birding in Juneau.

115 species so far

Feb. 26 – American Coot – Ketchikan

I started my birding day with a quick walk to Swan Lake in Sitka to see the Wood Duck one more time. He was still there with the Mallards, Greater Scaup and American Wigeons.



After that I joined Matt Goff and his son, Connor, for a sometimes rainy walk at Totem Park along the beach area and in the woods. Highlights for me were about 10 Black Oystercatchers, a Great Blue Heron and two American Dippers.IMG_4918.JPG


At midday, I took a short flight from Sitka to Ketchikan. At the Ketchikan airport I picked up my rental car and headed north. My ultimate goal was the American Coot that had been reported almost all the way to the end of the North Tongass Highway, but before that I stopped to see if the Northern Saw-whet Owl seen earlier today was still around. Not seeing the owl, I went on to Knudsen Cove for the coot. When I arrived, I asked a young woman at the marina there about the coot. It turned out that she was Misty Pattison, marina manager and feeder of ducks and the coot. As we spoke the AMERICAN COOT appeared near us. Apparently there has been a coot (and sometimes two of them) at the marina for 3 winters now. She also told me about a Brown Pelican that she found and photographed there some years ago. I of course asked her to find another one this year.

IMG_4946  IMG_4954.JPGIMG_4950

For the rest of the afternoon I walked trails around Ward Lake. This is where on a cold icy day in January I saw the Pied-billed Grebe. Now the ice is all gone, as apparently is the grebe. Not too many birds there today, but it was a beautiful walk in the moss-covered forest. Tomorrow more Ketchikan birding.


113 species so far



Feb. 25 – Wood Duck!

I took a plane to Sitka this morning to try to get the reported Wood Duck.


Within 3 minutes of getting to Swan Lake, which is a couple of minutes from my motel, I saw the WOOD DUCK. As reported, he was hanging out with Mallards out on the lake. A little while later, a woman with a bag of bread crusts walked up and all the Mallards raced over to her. The Wood Duck stayed in the water for a while, but then hopped ashore and cautiously approached the Mallard feeding frenzy. Before he reached the bread crumbs, a loud noise nearby scared all the ducks back to the water.




In addition to these ducks, there were American Wigeon, distant scaup and RING-NECKED DUCKS, also new for the year.

Shortly after that, Matt Goff, a Sitka birder who had reported on the Wood Duck, arrived to take me birding.


We drove around Sitka, seeing beautiful forest and seaside views.


Birds seen included a Great Blue Heron, Common Murres, Common and Red-breasted Mergansers, Common and Barrow’s Goldeneyes, Harlequin and Long-tailed Ducks, Surf Scoters, Buffleheads, Common Ravens and Northwestern Crows.

But my favorite bird of the day was the beautiful Wood Duck!



112 species so far

Feb. 24 -Potter Marsh & Feeder Birds

I went to Potter Marsh south of Anchorage this morning to see if anything was happening out there. Mostly it was a frozen land, but after awhile the sun made an effort to appear.



The only action while I was there was Common Ravens harassing one of the two Bald Eagles that were soaring overhead.



At home, the feeders were being invaded in a big surge of my usual yard birds. One of the three Steller’s Jays that came in for peanuts was brave enough to eat from my hand as they do in the summer but have done less regularly this winter. The jay that is missing part of its beak also came it and grabbed some peanuts and some mealworms. Other birds in the surge were a Downy Woodpecker, one of the many local Black-billed Magpies, about 10 Common Redpolls and a Boreal Chickadee.





Tomorrow I begin a whirlwind trip to Sitka, Ketchikan and Juneau, hoping that the rarities that have been around continue until I get there and that maybe a few other new year birds might be found.

110 species so far

Feb. 23 – Saved by the Boreal Owl

I went to Kincaid Park again today and walked the trail down to the coastal viewpoints as I did yesterday. Today I stayed longer hoping that the Northern Harrier reported there previously would work its way past, but eventually I decided to look for birds elsewhere. Since I did have three species there today (Common Raven, Downy Woodpecker and Black-capped Chickadee), I tripled yesterday’s count.


001.JPG  009.JPG

007  005A

At Spenard Crossing (which can also be slow) things were a bit more lively today. As I walked into the park area just after noon, I at once heard a huge outcry by Steller’s Jays and Black-billed Magpies far down the trail. I ran the icy path toward the sounds and there met another woman running toward me from the other side of the sounds. Together we climbed over branches and uneven crunchy snow terrain toward a leaning-over dead spruce that was propped against a trunk where all the noisy action seemed to be centered. The jays and magpies were going crazy with agitation but all we could see was a dense tangle of dead spruce branches around a very dark area.


We circled the tree and with concentrated peering we could finally see a well-hidden Boreal Owl (first seen by my new friend, a visitor from Oregon).  If you look below the jay in the picture above, you can see the little lump that we eventually recognized as the cause of all the fuss.The jays kept up the noise, and were joined by a few scolding Black-capped Chickadees and a Red-breasted Nuthatch. Eventually the other birds wandered off, leaving the silent Boreal Owl. Its only movement had been a periodic turning of its head when the other birds were so “in its face”. This was probably the same owl that I saw earlier this month and has been seen at various places in the woods at Spenard Crossing.




Definitely a good way to end the birding on an otherwise slow February day!

Still at 110 species

Feb. 22 -Hawk Owl and Eagle But No Harrier

Today was about walking and nice scenery, and walking and more nice scenery, but not so much about birds as it turned out.


The two areas that I went to today are, as far as I can tell, both part of Point Campbell on the southwest side of Anchorage, but are reached from different roads. I first went to the area past the Anchorage airport at the end of the road that winds around the airport past Point Woronzof. It was my understanding that a Northern Harrier had been seen somewhere out there. After I checked it out, I learned that the harrier had actually been seen farther down the coast. It’s good that I saw the wintering Northern Hawk Owl along the road before I got there, because other than a Common Raven, that was the only bird for that area.




My second walk was at Kincaid Park out the main trail from the chalet toward the coast, a trail that I had not been on before. This was the area that the Northern Harrier had actually been seen. Again, there were no birds seen or heard until my return trip when I spotted a Bald Eagle perched up the hill from me. I plan to go back there to see if I can find the harrier and to see if there are other birds out there during the winter.





110 species so far

Feb. 21 – Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…

Sometimes I forget that backyard birding is real birding. Birding at someone else’s feeders as the Anchorage Audubon group did in Seward yesterday reminds me that birding at my own feeders “counts” as birding too. Today because of various commitments and because of rain and snow and sleet, I did not bird outside my yard. Instead I watched my feeders as the birds frantically filled up after the morning’s gentle snow and before and after the afternoon’s rain and sleet and driving snow.


Most of my usual yard birds came during that time (except for the usual Steller’s Jays), beginning with Dark-eyed Juncos at 2:40 and ending with flock after flock of overflying Mallards going to someone else’s yard for supper. In between, a few Pine Grosbeaks came to the platform feeders. A Downy Woodpecker came before the last snow and then reappeared during it, and just hung there, only eating sporadically. A single Black-capped Chickadee dined on mealworms, a Black-billed Magpie ate a few mealworms that had fallen on the ground, and a Common Raven just flew over on its way to its evening roost. The Common Redpolls came in a small flock of about 10 before the last snow, and then reappeared after the snow stopped.


006AA  033aA

011aA  015A.jpg


019aA.jpg  037aA.jpg

The yard was a busy place, and it was fun to just relax and let the birds come to me. Tomorrow though I hope to be more proactive and get out there and go find birds!

110 species so far

Feb. 20 – Herring Gull – Seward


The day began with a new fall of snow that made everything even more beautiful.

135.JPG  140

The Anchorage Audubon trip, about 30 birders led by Aaron Bowman and Carol Griswold, Seward’s excellent “Sporadic Bird Report Reporter”, began a little after 10 am, and visited sites along Nash Road to look for the Killdeer (not there) and to look at numerous ducks (including both Goldeneyes, Common and Red-breasted Mergansers, Surf Scoters, Harlequin Ducks, Buffleheads), Common Murres, Pigeon Guillemots, gulls (see below) and a Great Blue Heron. We also saw Sea Otters and Harbor Seals.

168.JPG  177.JPG


195a.jpg  189.JPG

Herring Gulls, particularly those brown non-adults, are not everybody’s favorite bird, except for big year birders who get their first one for the year and some larophiles. I am one of the former only. As part of Anchorage Audubon’s field trip in Seward today we had thousands of other gulls, primarily Glaucous-winged and Mew Gulls and Black-legged Kittiwakes, but there were a couple of handfuls of Herring Gulls. No photos though. One less gull to worry about finding this year.

We visited the magnificent feeder area of Ava Eads and were treated to close-up views of Downy Woodpeckers, a Hairy Woodpecker, numerous Pine Siskins and Common Redpolls (and one or more Hoary Redpolls), and Black-capped Chickadees. Prior to our arrival there had also been American Tree Sparrows there.

201.JPG  208

218a  205aA.jpg

I was unable to stay for the afternoon portion of the field trip, but I am sure that will be covered at various Anchorage Audubon venues. In the dead of winter, it is a treat to go to Seward with a group of birders and see such a variety of water and land birds, many of which are quite easy to see there and which are currently not found easily or at all in Anchorage.

My trip home was uneventful and I did not see many birds because I was busy trying to see through the snowflakes and watching the road to check its condition. The sun did try to make an appearance as I reached the Girdwood area. Next week I get to travel to other parts of the state, to bird of course. Stay tuned.


110 species so far