July 31 – No Bird Sang…

…and very few even chirped, except chickadees (Boreal and Black-capped) and Yellow-rumped Warblers. I was at the Campbell Creek Science Center and nearby trails this afternoon.



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It was a cool afternoon in late July in Anchorage, so of course I did not expect singing birds. But it was so quiet! I saw a few Dark-eyed Juncos which were almost completely silent as were the two juvenile American Robins.

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The trail I was on much of the time goes along the creek, where bears are a real possibility as salmon spawning season is upon us, but I did not run into one (I had my bear spray can at the ready in some of the more brushy areas). A Belted Kingfisher was just seen along the creek but not heard (or photographed). Other silent birds today were a Wilson’s Warbler and a fly-over Glaucous-winged Gull.



So, I spent some time looking down at the plants instead of up at birds (but always listening for and looking around for bears), and took pictures of a yellow hawkweed blossom and fuzzy past-blossom hawkweeds, Cornus Canadensis (bunchberry) berries, one remaining wild rose rosebud and a few of the remaining fireweed blossoms.







288 species so far


July 30 – Palmer Birding

It was a very excellent morning of birding in Palmer. I first went to the place that I first explored during the past winter when I went looking for, but not finding, an Osprey, the Matanuska Townsite Road. Today I did see an Osprey. I might not have noticed it because it was very, very high overhead, but it was calling the entire time as it flew over. It was my second Osprey of the year (the first was in Anchorage).



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The brushy very short road was very birdy. There were four Belted Kingfishers, at least one adult (chasing magpies) and one juvenile Northern Shrike, five or more Alder Flycatchers, two Hairy Woodpeckers, a Downy Woodpecker, four Rusty Blackbirds, four Black-billed Magpies, two American Robins, at least two Savannah Sparrows, a White-winged Crossbill, a Common Redpoll, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and a Greater Yellowlegs.

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I then did a bit of exploration around Palmer fields and then drove back to Anchorage. On the way I stopped at Reflection Lake and walked around it. It was also very birdy but I mainly took pictures of the beautiful lake and the plants (including the fire-color-tinged fireweed leaves).




288 species so far

July 29 – Food Fight

My birding today began at the Potter Marsh boardwalk where four Common Ravens were fighting over a salmon carcass. Glaucous-winged Gulls came over to try to get in on the action but then left.


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Other birds were going about their business more calmly, including Greater Yellowlegs, Green-winged Teal, Mallards and Black-capped Chickadees.

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On the old Seward Highway behind the marsh I was delighted to find a Belted Kingfisher that did not leave but let me actually photograph her for awhile.

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I was also delighted to find yet another Solitary Sandpiper, solitary of course, which is a bird I went all the way to Fairbanks to be sure that I got for my Alaska year list. Since then, I’ve seen 2 or 3 more plus today’s bird.

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The last bird photographed today was one of the handful of Alder Flycatchers in the marsh area.

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Longtime Alaskans have told me that it is significant when the fireweeds have finished blossoming. It means something like summer is over. Some of them are still quite full of blossoms but not all of them…


288 species so far

July 28 – An Unexpected Day

The reason today was unexpected has nothing to do with birds. It was unexpected – and bad – because Mike, our botanizing good friend from North Carolina who has been exploring Alaskan wilderness places for nearly a month called me early this morning with bad news. He was not calling from the southwestern part of Alaska where he had planned to be until the coming weekend – he was calling me from an Anchorage hospital! It turns out that yesterday while he was hiking across a boulder field, a huge boulder rolled on to his foot and crushed it. After hours of agony, he was eventually found by emergency people due to his personal locator beacon and finally after much effort they managed to get the boulder off his foot and get him across a lot of boulders to a plane and then out of there to Anchorage. They got him here but not his belongings and not his ID nor insurance information. So getting him medical help turned out to be a problem but not impossible. The medical specialist consulted this afternoon apparently says things are not as serious as they could have been and we are very thankful for that! Many details remain about how to get him sufficient documents to enable him to fly home again. He will of course be unable to finish the rest of his planned explorations of Alaska, at least for now.

Meanwhile, I did not go out birding today. I did try to bird in our yard periodically, and it was quite birdy there. Birds seen included Yellow-rumped Warbler, Downy Woodpecker, Steller’s Jay, and a fly-over White-winged Crossbill, plus those shown in the pictures below: Black-capped Chickadee, Dark-eyed Junco, Black-billed Magpie (pictured on neighbor’s antenna) and American Robin youngster (not a very common species in our yard).

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288 species so far

July 27 – Just Birding in Anchorage

Today’s birding was one of my favorite kinds of birding – walking trails through brushy areas and near trees. I like looking for passerines – little birds like sparrows and warblers. I love listening for their chips and looking for their brief flittings from branch to branch and trying to figure them out.



That is why I like Campbell Creek Estuary Natural Area, particularly when birds are migrating and also when fledgling birds can be found. This morning the main birds there were many Lincoln’s Sparrows, including many young birds, and Orange-crowned and Wilson’s Warblers. The White-crowned Sparrows that I found there last week appear to have departed, or maybe they just were hiding better than the others.

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The wooded areas had Black-capped Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches. Far out on the mud flats were Canada Geese and Sandhill Cranes. Gulls (probably mostly Glaucous-winged) and Common Ravens flew overhead every now and then.

Just birding. Nice.

288 species so far

July 26 – Potter Marsh in the Morning


As is almost always the case, Potter Marsh was fun to bird this morning. So much so that I wandered around on that boardwalk over 2 hours. In addition to birds, a moose strolled near the boardwalk and then under it (beneath us) and out again, twice! Mostly it spent time munching on one of its favorite foods, fireweed blossoms.



Shorebirds kept arriving the whole time that I was out at Potter Marsh. At first it was just both species of yellowlegs. Then there were four Wilson’s Snipe there, sometimes all together. A single Solitary Sandpiper was joined by two Spotted Sandpipers. There were five Short-billed Dowitchers.

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A very larger Black-billed Magpie flock arrived on the mud, hopping about and fussing and squawking and then departed.

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In the alders were numerous Alder Flycatchers calling and flitting about.

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After Potter Marsh I went to Westchester Lagoon and the nearby trail for awhile. I did not take many pictures there as most of the birds were far out in the water or on the mudflats. My favorite birds there were the many Red-necked Grebes, some of which still had quite young youngsters.

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All in all, an excellent morning of Anchorage birding.

288 species so far

July 25 – More Rainy Day Birding

Today I did what I call “drive-by birding”, trying to see birds while driving slowly in the moving car (periodically stopping for awhile to scan the area). I chose to drive around Lakes Spenard and Hood in Anchorage and to drive along the west side of the international airport.

On the lakes there were many ducks including many ducklings. Most were quite far from shore and somewhat difficult to see in the rain. Some of them were clearly Mallards while others appeared to be scaup, probably Greater Scaup. Feel free to tell me what you think the ducks are in the pictures that I am including. There were also a few goldeneyes and Red-necked Grebes.

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On land there wereCommon Ravens, Black-capped Chickadees, American Robins, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Dark-eyed Juncos and Common Redpolls.

And rain obscuring the Anchorage downtown.


288 species so far

July 24 – Rainy Day in Anchorage

Because of the steady rain I decided to limit my birding today to at-home birding. It’s been awhile since I spent much time trying to tally our yard birds and I was pleased to find that the number of species that I had there today rivaled most any other place that I have birded lately in the Anchorage area, except maybe for areas with lakes or streams.

For a couple of hours I listened and watched to see what yard birds were around. There were seven species during that time period: Dark-eyed Juncos, a family of six or so mostly scruffy young ones around most of the time sampling various feeders in the yard and on the porch; Black-capped and Boreal Chickadees flitting about and calling; Black-billed Magpies, mostly squawking of young ones in the bushes; Red-breasted Nuthatch at a couple of the feeders; Yellow-rumped Warbler heard periodically out in back; and a couple of scruffy juvenile Steller’s Jays on the porch mealworm and peanut feeders.

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It is supposed to keep raining for days, so I plan to venture forth tomorrow.

288 species so far

July 23 – Anchorage

I tried, I really did, to find birds away from my usual birding spots in Anchorage. But it’s the wrong time of year. First I went to the Ship Creek area, but all I found there were gulls (primarily Glaucous-winged) on the mudflats, a single Common Raven and Canada Geese.


Next I drove through a couple of neighborhoods where there are bird-feeders but all I found there were more ravens and Black-billed Magpies.

So, I gave up and went to Potter Marsh. We have had quite a bit of rain and although the wildfire still is apparently smoldering, the air was much clearer than a day ago. At Potter Marsh I was delighted to find a pair of White-winged Crossbills, and possibly a young one, which just made noise but did not let me see it. There also were the usual yellowlegs, mainly Greater Yellowlegs, Green-winged Teal, a distant perched Bald Eagle, a single Tree Swallow and an Alder Flycatcher.


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At home there were a couple of species, including a rather scruffy-looking family of Dark-eyed Juncos.

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As I expected it would be, birding is a bit slow right now in the Anchorage area.

288 species so far, and holding

July 22 – Birding South of Anchorage

Upon learning that it was likely to rain later today, I hurriedly drove south of Anchorage this morning. Although it was misty, the rain held off for awhile as I drove to Potter Marsh and then down the highway, past the smoking, burning hillside to Girdwood to Moose Flats and a portion of the Trail of Blue Ice.

At Potter Marsh, highlights of my half-hour visit were a very noisy Belted Kingfisher sitting on the boardwalk and a Bald Eagle in a rather nonviolent dispute over a dead fish on the mudflat (at least while I watched).

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There were very few birds out and about as I drove down the highway, but even on this cloudy day, it was beautiful.



Before rain forced me to turn around on the Trail of Blue Ice, I heard a few Yellow-rumped Warblers, and saw a Solitary Sandpiper (my second of the year) in a nearly dried-up pond area.




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I was glad that the rain was heavy on my return to Anchorage, and I hope that the McHugh fire is dampened and drenched and stopped by now or very soon.


288 species for the year