It really is winter now, if anyone had any doubts about it. Last night we got about 6 more inches of snow on top of the 3 or so we had yesterday, which was on top of what was already on the ground. Even while shoveling it, I admired its beauty.
The birds, of course, were starved, and have been regular at our various feeders. Lately, the Mallards come prior to dawn and after sunset only, probably due to being scared off by the Goshawk weeks ago, so I rarely can get photos of them. Photographs below are of: Bohemian Waxwings (they come to our yard to rest only; we don’t have any food they like), a Downy Woodpecker, Pine Grosbeaks (there were 13 around today for awhile, one of which landed in the piled-up snow on top of a bird feeder)), Common Redpolls, a Red-breasted Nuthatch, Steller’s Jay, and Black-billed Magpies.
Caster also loves the snow, and particularly loves racing through it after a magpie, which drive him nuts by flying low over the yard, and barking at tiny redpolls high above his head in the birch trees.
…not the normal meaning of the phrase, however. By “dog days” I mean what happens in Alaska every year, beginning often in Anchorage, in February and March – dog sled races. Today was day 1 of the Fur Rendezvous, which is a big annual celebration that is about much more than dogs, but it does have a dog race each of three days, starting downtown and wending its way out around the edge of town and back. Today, (there not being much bird activity) after living here for three years, I finally made it downtown to watch them start the races. It was a beautiful crisp sunny day.
Downtown, near the start of the race, the streets were closed off, trucks full of noisy dogs were parked up and down the snowy street, and people were wandering everywhere. Due to our recent snow, I expect they did not have to haul in snow onto the streets as is sometimes the case so that the dogs can haul the sleds. I was there about an hour early and wandered around looking at and listening to the dogs that sound very much like our husky-mix, Caster. The dogs were all leaner however, clearly fine-tuned machines.
As the noon hour start time approached, I found a sunny spot down the race-route a half a block away from the starting point, and watched the various teams approach, one-by-one. It was wonderful to watch them – I love dogs!
Yesterday I spent a few minutes between meetings checking to see if I could again see the Sharp-tailed Grouse that was the wonder of the Anchorage Christmas Bird Count in December. No luck. Later in the day, I took a few pictures of a very fluffy snowfall that eventually added a couple of inches to the yard.
Today after lunch I was trying to keep our dog quiet so my husband could nap before heading off to his evening work-shift, and was periodically looking out over the yard.
Suddenly I realized that there was a bird on the backyard feeders that was substantially bigger than the Common Redpolls and Pine Grosbeaks and smaller than the Black-billed Magpies that had just been there.
It was a Sharp-shinned Hawk investigating the bird feeders, one by one. Of course there were no other birds around anymore. It was fascinating to watch the hawk carefully peer at each feeder and at the remaining seeds as if expecting something to emerge.
The hawk went up to the nearest birch tree for awhile.
The hawk next went down to the feeder below its perch and pecked at seeds from the feeder that hangs beneath a suet feeder, where I photographed it. Sadly, I was unable to get a photo as the hawk hovered next to the suet feeder before it returned to a birch-tree perch.
For the next half hour, the Sharpie perched in the birch tree, looking around, and periodically preening. The only other bird that I saw in the yard during that time was a Red-breasted Nuthatch that briefly landed above the Sharpie and then raced away out of sight of me and the hawk.
After the hawk zoomed away to find a more productive site, about 40 Common Redpolls returned for a quick gobbling down of food before also leaving for parts unknown.
I love the unexpected among the expected in birding!
I’m back for a few days in Raleigh (where I lived from 1979-2000) for a Poor People’s Campaign training session, but I came early so I would have time to see some friends and some southern birds. I am staying with my friend, Lena, whose yard is a bird magnet. The pictures below were taken this morning in her yard, and include pictures of birds (and a couple of mammals) not generally, or ever, found in Alaska.
Shown below: Baltimore Oriole (Lena has over the years had up to 14 of them winter in her yard), Northern Cardinal, White-throated Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, Yellow-rumped Warbler (is in AK to breed, and sometimes to winter), Mourning Dove and Brown Thrasher.
And the mammals in her yard: chipmunk and gray squirrel.
We drove east midday today to Tarboro where my friend Christina gave an excellent talk on gardening for birds with native plants (and where I, incidentally, sold 2 of my books). I also got to see, but not photograph, Turkey and Black Vultures on the drive there.
Tomorrow morning we will bird nearby, and then my training will begin.