February 15 – Sharp Birding (back in Anchorage)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The hawk went up to the nearest birch tree for awhile.

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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.

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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.

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I love the unexpected among the expected in birding!

February 7 – Not in Alaska

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.

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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.