June 29-30 – Arctic Valley and More

Yesterday was a rainy day but I was determined to check out Arctic Valley Road anyway. Everything was beautifully bright green and drippy.

Most birds seen were perched up in the rain and singing. Photographed were Dark-eyed Junco (one out of the rain under an overhang along the road and one perched up in the rain), Swainson’s Thrush and Wilson’s Snipe.

At Cuddy Park, where I quickly checked to see if there was anything unusual, the Canada Geese adults and teenage goslings had taken over.

At home yesterday and today the Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers adults and young are still regularly eating at our porch feeders.

June 28 – Potter Marsh Terns and More

I began my Potter Marsh birding on the boardwalk. There was no sign of the Common Yellowthroat that has been there recently.

The most obvious birds at the Potter Marsh boardwalk were the swarms of Tree Swallows, mostly newly flying young of the year over and around the boardwalk.

At the end of the boardwalk the two Bald Eagles were perched and were what most of the visiting tourists were gathering to watch.

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Mostly I spent my time at Potter Marsh watching two Arctic Terns feed a youngster. While I was there the little one must have eaten more than its weight in little fish. It was very difficult to make myself leave the terns.

After I left I did drive the back side of the marsh before quitting birding for the day, and saw a perched Belted Kingfisher that stayed even though I stopped the car and took pictures.

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June 27 – More Baby Birds Plus

I started my birding today at Lakes Spenard and Hood. A family of Mallards and another of American Wigeons was swimming near two Red-necked Phalaropes that still are around.

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Tree Swallows (at first I thought these were Bank but photos do not show a breast band) were going in and out of a hole in a small building along the water, presumably feeding babies.

At Westchester Lagoon I saw that at least one of the pairs of Red-necked Grebes has youngsters riding on the back of one of the parents. I don’t believe that I had ever seen babies of Red-necked Grebes be fed by a parent as they rode on the back of another parent, but that occurred over and over as I watched today. The harried food-provider repeatedly dove, found a little fishy morsel, swam rapidly back to the carried youngsters and fed them. Maybe next time that I see them they will be a little closer to shore so the pictures will be better (viewing the video images on a computer will make the images of the stripe-headed baby grebes on the parent’s back much more visible than on a cell phone).

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At home the baby theme continued. Both the Downy and the Hairy Woodpecker youngsters have found the peanut butter logs. I did not know until today that youngsters of both species have a reddish-brown top to their heads (not the red at the back of the head that the adult male has, as in top picture). The babies were perfectly able to feed themselves, but they were also periodically fed by a parent.

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Two of the Downy Woodpecker juveniles squabbled a bit, although there was plenty of food to go around.

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June 26 – South to Girdwood area

This morning I drove south of Anchorage to beyond Girdwood, to the Moose Flats area near the beginning of the road to Portage Glacier.

On the way I briefly looked over Potter Marsh, and then drove on to see whether the Red-winged Blackbirds were still around just south of Girdwood. The male was sitting up, preening, chirping periodically and flying about both on my way down to Moose Flats and on my way back, but the female was mostly invisible, just heard a few times.

There also were Cliff Swallows and Arctic Terns flying about, and a small goldeneye family.

At Moose Flats there were a few flowers in bloom, and a talkative Wilson’s Snipe, Hermit and Swainson’s Thrushes, a smattering of warblers (Yellow, Wilson’s, Yellow-rumped (photo)), a couple of Fox Sparrows, Common Redpolls and Pine Siskins.

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On the drive back toward Girdwood I stopped when I heard a singing Song Sparrow where I had heard and photographed one the last time I was down there. While I was looking around a car pulled up to see what I was seeing, and the people got out and started taking pictures. I was amazed, thinking not only had they found the Song Sparrow but were actually interested in photographing it. Then I realized there was a moose in the brush that I had not seen and probably would not have seen if they other car had not stopped. I never did see the Song Sparrow.

As I neared Anchorage and drove past Potter Marsh, I saw my first baby Red-necked Grebe for the year on the back of a parent, but they were too far out for photos. I did get photos of a scaup family.

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June 24 – Mostly Cranes

One of the many wonderful things about Anchorage is that everywhere along the inlet in summer there are Sandhill Cranes. Right now in addition to adult cranes, there are a few Sandhill Crane colts. Today I saw and photographed them at Campbell Creek Estuary Natural Area and at Carr Gottstein park at close to a very high tide, which brought a few of the cranes a bit closer.

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The other most obvious birds today at the Campbell Creek Estuary Natural Area were Lincoln’s Sparrows, singing and scolding.

My final bird for my wandering today was a Red-breasted Nuthatch, either a scruffy adult or a youngster.

June 23 – Birds around the Water

Yesterday I went to the Westchester Lagoon area and to Lakes Hood and Spenard. Birds were much more photogenic at the latter two places. Birds photographed include Mallards and their young in the same area as a small flock of Bonaparte’s Gulls.

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There were many Red-necked Grebes, but so far I haven’t seen any young.

There were two Canvasbacks among the scaup on the lake.

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And there were two loons – a fairly distant Pacific Loon and the very tame, very close (it came to within 4 feet me) Red-throated Loon that has been around this summer. I particularly enjoyed looking down and seeing the way-back legs of the Red-throated Loon.

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At home the Dark-eyed Junco that has been singing in our yard has apparently produced at least one youngster that came up on the porch to eat.

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Today out at the Potter Marsh boardwalk there were both the usual Violet-green and Tree Swallows.

A Canada Goose newly hatched batch of goslings was next to the boardwalk.

There also was a Wilson’s Snipe entertaining everyone as it sat on the boardwalk and called.

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June 21 – Townsend’s’ Time

I drove up Arctic Valley Road today. The usual birds were around. I got a somewhat better view of a Townsend’s Warbler than I usually get and even a partial photo.

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As I was driving down the road, just after I had turned around at the foggy top, a bird darted across the road and landed on a power line – a Townsend’s Solitaire – a bird that is usually very difficult to find in Alaska. It sat for a while and even sang its gentle song and then darted off into the mist.

Other birds photographed along the road were Violet-green Swallow, American Robin, and Yellow-rumped Warbler.

June 19 – ‘Tis the Season…

…for baby things to appear.

The biggest of these today was a baby moose at Potter Marsh, apparently the second day it has been seen there without an obvious mother. So far it seems to be okay, munching and splashing across the water. It was making a few little bleats every now and then.

The Common Yellowthroat male is still at Potter Marsh regularly singing when I got there, but mostly hidden in the brush out off the boardwalk.

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Other babies included many young Mew Gulls in the marsh.

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Very near the goslings there was also a baby Arctic Tern on the edge of one of the parking lots along Potter Marsh, right beneath a parent tern that seemed to be ignoring both us and its mostly motionless baby as it preened.

At Lake Spenard a family of newly hatched Mallards hustled away when I drove up.

At Lake Hood, very near three Red-necked Phalaropes there was a baby Lesser Yellowlegs (puffball on stilts) along the water’s edge not far from a noisy parent.

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There were of course other adult birds. Shown are an Alder Flycatcher and Lincoln’s Sparrow.

And there were beautiful flowers and greenness everywhere.

Finally, we still have a couple of Mallards coming to our backyard. As I write this, there is a female there now.

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It sure is hard to do anything else but bird!

June 15 – Birdy Lakes Hood and Spenard

Today I just had time to check out Lakes Hood and Spenard to see what if anything was around. Although numbers of each species were not huge, there was quite a bit of bird activity.

Swallows were very evident – Violet-green Swallows flying about Lake Spenard (not photographed), Tree Swallows flying and sitting on various rooftops and plane parts on both lakes, and Bank Swallows on Lake Hood flying, sitting on buildings and fighting each other.

Shorebirds included both Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs (at least one each), a Spotted Sandpiper heard flying out over the lake, and a Red-necked Phalarope sitting and preening and stretching and swimming near where they have been for weeks now on Lake Hood. Be careful you don’t get seasick as you watch the two videos. Also note the phalarope’s reaction in the first video to a magpie flying over (magpie is not visible in the video but you can tell when it flies over). I was hoping to catch the phalarope spinning in the water, but perhaps the water was too deep and too wavy for that to be of much use in finding food.

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There were a few ducks: Mallards and Greater Scaup, two of the latter photographed as they looked up, possibly at a plane going over.

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The only sparrows that I saw and heard by the lakes were Savannah Sparrows, some singing from building-tops and others out in the grassy edges. I also heard a White-crowned Sparrow singing along the road as I left.

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There were a couple of Red-necked Grebes but too far away to try to photograph. The Red-throated Loon was dozing in a less busy part of Lake Hood than where I have usually seen it, only waking up for a short time before tucking its beak under its wing again.

Other birds seen included a couple of Bonaparte’s Gulls, a Mew Gull, starlings and an American Robin.

June 14 – Thrushes and Blackbirds

I did bird the last couple of days but did not get many pictures or see any new birds for the year. I did finally see and photograph a Western Wood-Pewee (heard previous days).

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Today I drove south past Girdwood and turned off the main highway on to the road to Portage Glacier where I walked on the Trail of Blue Ice beginning at the roadside pulloff area that is about 2.5 miles down the road from the highway intersection. Everything was beautiful, the mountains, the trees, the understory vegetation and the birds when I could see them.

Most of the sound was of warblers and thrushes. Mostly the warblers were Yellow, Wilson’s and Orange-crowned Warblers and Northern Waterthrush. The thrushes were Varied Thrushes and Hermit Thrushes (photos), many of which were carrying food, as well as unseen Swainson’s Thrushes.

On my walk back to my car, I heard but did not see a very loud Gray-cheeked thrush with its thin reedy song.

On the drive back to Anchorage I spent some time along the road south of Girdwood where the I had seen the male Red-winged Blackbird earlier. My conclusion that there actually were two blackbirds was documented as I was photographing a male and a female flew by and was caught in one of the photos.

PS. For those of you not in Alaska, you might be interested to know that today we have 19 hours and 17 minutes between sunrise and sunset, which is about a minute longer than yesterday.