March 8 – Usual Yard Birds and Upcoming Trip

Birds in our yard have been very predictable. In addition to flyover Common Ravens, a single flyover Bald Eagle and periodic visits by Black-capped and Boreal Chickadees, the most common birds are the many, many Common Redpolls (up to 156 at one time yesterday, counted by photographing them perched in the trees around the back of our yard and adding up the numbers found the multiple photographs), Black-billed Magpies (up to 7 recently), Red-breasted Nuthatch (just 1 lately) and Steller’s Jays (usually only two lately, almost always dredging peanuts out of the jar on the porch or eating dried mealworms).

I’ll be absent from Anchorage for a couple of days, leaving tonight for Juneau where I am looking forward to giving a talk tomorrow on my Alaska big year and birding, of course.

March 6 – Hawfinch Still in Anchorage

This morning I picked up Yve Morrell, the Dancing Birder, who is doing an ABA big year, and went with her to the Anchorage home where the Hawfinch was originally found. Not very long after we got there, the Hawfinch, which had been there earlier but had left before we arrived, returned and began munching at one of the feeders.  Although the photos were taken through the window, they are clearer than the ones taken the other day because the Hawfinch was much closer today. Very nice!

We did not have as much success on our woodpecker drive, but American Three-toed Woodpeckers are not rare, nowhere near as rare as Hawfinches in the United States, so there was a bit less urgency in that search.

It was great to meet another woman big year birder! Thanks Laura Keene for helping us get together!

March 4 – Sharpie Returns

 

I knew some flying predator had tried to catch something in our yard when about noon yesterday I saw a very distinctive pattern in the snow in our back yard. I was just looking at it wondering whether daytime hawk or nighttime owl when my question on “who done it” was answered.

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Then and today, just after noon, a Sharp-shinned Hawk has arrived in our yard, scared away the redpolls, perched on the feeder poles and made periodic aerial dashes toward the redpolls when the redpolls returned to the feeders and to the areas of the yard where there is seed on the snow. The redpolls seemed to ignore the hawk until it came after them. Then they scattered to unseen places, returning 20-30 minutes later.

After one dash across the yard the Sharpie perched in our neighbor’s spruces. I was able to get a blurry picture of it there and a couple of blurry pictures of the redpolls at our porch feeder with a more focused hawk visible in the background in the spruces, watching the redpolls.

The hawk also came back at dinnertime yesterday.

So far I haven’t seen any of the redpolls get caught.

I have included a short video of the hawk intently scanning our yard.

 

March 3 – Anchorage Hawfinch!!

Rumors of a possible Hawfinch in Anchorage started a couple of days ago, but there was some question whether the homeowners, where the bird was coming to feeders, would allow visitors. Yesterday I learned that some number of small groups could make reservations with the homeowner to try for the bird, so this morning I was part of a small group that had a reservation and headed over there. One car of the group went separately and got on the wrong road and found the Hawfinch in a new place about a block from where it had been reported before our car got to our destination, and they texted us. Soon thereafter we were able to see the Hawfinch from the road, where it went from the top of a spruce tree to sitting in a bush apparently eating something. The Hawfinch was in the same bush when we left about half an hour later. It was not even scared away when a big garbage truck drove by and stopped not far away before leaving again. Hopefully the many other birders who are likely to come looking for this very rare bird will find it. As far as I know there are hardly any mainland sightings on this continent of a Hawfinch and the only place it has been seen more than once in the Americas is on the western Alaskan islands.

I had never seen a Hawfinch in this continent until today, and the only place I had seen one before is where it belonged, in England.

Thank you to Enric Fernandez and Peter Scully!!!

March 1 – Anchorage Winter Birding

We have had a couple of blue sky days with each night being colder than the last. Last night it was minus 6 degrees at our house but now it is up to about 15 degrees. Tonight is expected to be colder I believe. We either get snow, of which I am quite tired, or it gets colder. Either way, it’s clearly mid-winter. The birds are definitely hungrier lately.

In spite of some out-of-the-house nonbirding commitments the last couple of days and the hours I’m spending each day writing, writing, writing, I did go to bird two places in Anchorage that weren’t my back yard. On February 27th I went to Spenard Crossing and was delighted to see that due to the warmer weather before then, the creek was much more open and the American Dipper was back. The Mallards also had much more room to swim and a Common Merganser was periodically coming up and then diving under ice to come up in another part of the creek.

On February 28th I went to Potter Marsh. Things were slow (only Common Ravens, Black-billed Magpies, Black-capped Chickadees and Common Redpolls) and there was only a tiny area of open water, but it was a beautiful day and the beautiful blue shadows on the snow distracted me from birding so it did not matter.

I am looking forward to going to Juneau in a week to give my big-year talk, and to get back to birding one of the most-visited areas during my big year.