November 9 – Anchorage Jays

I decided to spend some time with Steller’s Jays on our porch today instead of trying to figure out where I might go to find birds in the Anchorage area. No matter how many pictures I take of the jays, I still find myself wanting to take more pictures of them. To me, they are beautiful and charismatic and fun to watch, close to the top of my list of favorite Alaska birds.





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303 species so far

November 8 – Sunset Birding in Anchorage

A few hours after photographing a Pine Grosbeak in our yard today, I did a short birding drive.

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It wasn’t even quite 4 pm but the mountains, city and trees were lit slightly by sun coming through the clouds and then beginning to glow with yellow sunset light.







I drove out to and past Point Woronzoff and through some of the Turnagain streets in Anchorage. Birds seen and photographed included a Common Raven, a European Starling (which I have never had in my Anchorage yard), and Black-capped Chickadees. Also seen were numerous Black-billed Magpies and Boreal Chickadees.

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I have no real plans for birding away from Anchorage in the near future, but I am contemplating a number of possibilities. Again, stay tuned.

303 species so far


November 7 – Sitka – End of the Bird Drought…

…at least for today! This morning I met Matt Goff at the Castle Hill area in downtown Sitka about 8 am.



Within 5 minutes, we were seeing the CAPE MAY WARBLER that he had found about half a week ago in the same area. It was constantly flitting about, peering under branches and leaves, busily feeding.

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We also saw the immature Cedar Waxwing that has been in the same area for at least a couple of days.

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Soon the two Palm Warblers that had been seen recently on the hillside arrived, spending most of their time on or near the ground as expected. After about an hour of warbler observing, they all vanished, and we did not see them again when we returned after lunch. We did not see the other warbler species that have been around recently.

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Before returning to downtown for lunch, I checked out Swan Lake and found the Wood Duck that has been around for most of 2016.

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I also saw the two Pied-billed Grebes that Matt had mentioned were around.

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I then drove out to Starrigavan Recreation Area and saw the Trumpeter Swan that was there, as well as two Great Blue Herons, four Horned Grebes, and the usual ducks.

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In the nearby woods I only saw one bird, a gorgeous Varied Thrush.

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On the way back into Sitka, it started raining in earnest and then on one side of the road the sun broke through and on the other side of the road a rainbow appeared and the morning had a magical finish.


In the afternoon’s sporadic rain I birded Totem Trail Loop and just felt good about the day. THANK YOU MATT GOFF for yet another year bird!

I am now back in Anchorage. Who knows what will be next, or if there will be a next new year bird?


303 species so far

November 6 – Anchorage Briefly

I forgot to include one of the pictures from Barrow of my birding pals from the last 3 days, so here it is (Christian, John and Brandon):


This afternoon I visited the Campbell Creek Estuary Natural Area briefly. Birds there were a perched Bald Eagle, a Red-breasted Nuthatch, a Black-billed Magpie, a Steller’s Jay, a Black-capped Chickadee and flyover Common Redpolls. It was cloudy but very pleasant with only a slight wind.






When I got home there were two begging Steller’s Jays, even though I had filled their peanut jar before I went birding. The jar was now empty. I did a series of photos of one of the jays taking peanuts off the porch railing and showing the stashing of the first peanut in the bird’s throat so that a second peanut could be grabbed before the jay flew away. If at all possible the jays always feed that way unless there are no peanuts small enough to fit all the way in their throat. Rarely do I see them actually eat a peanut; rather,  they usually jab the peanut into the ground or leaf litter, presumably for eating on a later day.

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Tomorrow I’ll bird in Sitka where the weather is forecast to be very windy and 100% chance of rain. Sounds like lots of fun.

302 species so far


November 5 – Barrow Day 3 – NO IVORY GULLS

There just are no Ivory Gulls at all in Barrow, probably because not until yesterday was there even any slushy ice and only by midday today did it seem like the thin slushy ice layer was getting thicker by coalescing into lumpy areas (picture below). Most years the sea around Barrow is covered with ice by now. This year the real winter ice pack is presumably coming and maybe the Ivory Gulls will come eventually. I, however, am now back in Anchorage.


It was a good trip with good people. Now that I am home I can post more pictures, so I’ll start with the video of John Puschock making a dirt angel to liven up the first day I was in Barrow (I had tried to post it earlier but there apparently was too uneven and weak a signal in Barrow and the video, as well as most of my still photos, kept failing to post).

We actually saw the sun at about noon today (shortly after the actual sunrise time) when the heavy clouds parted for awhile.


Today, in addition to again birding the area at the base of the point, where it was nearly birdless with probably a total of 10 Glaucous Gulls and no other birds, we finally found someone to take us out to the point. That area often has many polar bears and is restricted to Barrow natives and those they take out there in their vehicles. Our journey in a truck with big tires was extraordinarily bumpy over the dirt and snow-filled tire tracks but no actual road. We got stuck a couple of times in the snow, requiring that we get out of the truck and the strongest people (not me) push and push and the vehicle rock and rock before it was able to heave its way out the loose snow and dirt.


Although there had been many polar bears just before we got out there, the only polar bears that we saw were way out on the ice on a lake. Of course, I still took pictures of the closest ones. We also saw a couple of arctic foxes out there.



Although the only gulls that we saw at the point were Glaucous Gulls, there were many eiders (Common, King and at least one Spectacled) and a handful of Long-tailed Ducks.



The ice was much thicker at the point (the Bering Sea) than at the base of the point but was still in little floating chunks and piles of small ice pieces on the shore and was not solid ice. Farther up on the shore were larger ice hunks that must have been brought there days ago in a winter storm. We stayed there until sunset at about 4, when we actually saw the sun set.




I have a few more places to look for birds this year, including in southeastern Alaska. Sitka will be next, but probably I will be going to Juneau and/or Ketchikan before the year is out.

302 species so far


November 4 – Barrow Day 2

Yesterday and today were very similar. We drove along the ocean to the base of the point in Barrow, walked out to the edge and scanned the water until we were too cold to do more, got back in the rented truck, drove to another overlook, watched awhile and repeated, taking breaks to get  lunch from the store and eventually going back to our rooms at dark. And the results were the same each day – no Ivory Gull (and no Ross’s Gull for those wanting them).

We also posed for more photos in our spare time but I was unable to put them here in spite of trying over and over again.


I did get photos of some of the 14 very distant polar bears and finally was able to put one here.

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Tomorrow, my last day in Barrow, we are hoping to find someone who can take us out to the point where maybe other gulls are hanging out.

302 species so far

November 3 – Barrow Day 1

A windy day with few birds – mostly Glaucous Gulls (sometimes looking really white and Ivory-Gull-like), plus a few ravens, redpolls, and eiders (mostly Common) and one Short-tailed Shearwater. I birded with John Puschock (leader), Brandon Reo and Christian Hagenlocher. The main or possibly the only goal for most of us in Barrow is Ivory Gull. We will be looking again for it tomorrow.


Meanwhile, to amuse himself and us, John did a couple of snow-angels and a dirt-angel, which I video-recorded but will probably not be able to download on the blog until I have a faster wifi signal. A few of us also had our photos taken by a local landmark.


302 species so far

November 2 – Anchorage Yard Birds and Planning

Not much time to bird today due to multiple doctor-type appointments and music rehearsals and shopping to do and lots of worries and plan reconsiderations on whether I should go to Barrow as planned or to Sitka or to parts unknown where a Gray-headed Chickadee might still be. I did not go anywhere to bird but I did look out in my yard periodically but mostly there was nothing there, just every now and then a few Steller’s Jays and a few Black-billed Magpies.

One of the Steller’s Jays fed from my hand as usual.

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The Steller’s Jay with the damaged beak (“Beaky”) seems to have difficulty sometimes getting peanuts from the jar so I put some on the porch railing to see if that would be better, and then I took pictures from a couple of feet away as he tried to pick up a peanut and did succeed.

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Bottom line on my plans: I’m still going to Barrow even though the ice is not there as probably needed for Ivory Gulls. We shall see if that is a wise idea. After that, who knows whether there will be any birds to chase or not.

302 species so far

November 1 – Another Lovely Day in Juneau

…but no Swamp Sparrow.



Patty Rose and I birded the Mendenhall Wetlands dike trail again in the morning for a few hours and I did it again in the afternoon before turning in my rental car and checking in for my flight back to Anchorage.


Probably he same flocks of Dark-eyed Juncos (some Slate-colored, mostly Oregon), the same Song Sparrows, the same Belted Kingfisher, the same Common Ravens, the same single Green-winged Teal and the same zillion red squirrels were along the path. It is entirely possible that the Swamp Sparrow is still around lurking under the low spruce trees, but if so, it has been most uncooperative.

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Soon I head to Barrow for a few days.

302 species so far