October 31 – Searching, Searching in Juneau

I flew to Juneau this morning. My goal was to search for, and maybe find, a Swamp Sparrow. Patty Rose had found one a couple of days ago along the Mendenhall Wetlands dike trail, but I do not think it had been seen since. Today she and I tried again for about 4 hours and I went back later for another 2 hours. There is a small possibility that I saw the back of one, and later she and I saw a small sparrow bird dart past in the shadows, but neither sighting was definitive or satisfactory. So we try again tomorrow.


It was a very nice day to be birding anyway. Although there had been a bit of frost early on, the day warmed up to about 40 degrees and it did not rain. Birds seen included a Bald Eagle, a Great Blue Heron, a Belted Kingfisher, a few Song Sparrows and about 10 Dark-eyed Juncos (among which the Swamp Sparrow had originallu been seen).

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We’ll be back out there tomorrow morning.

302 species so far

October 30 – Potter Marsh and Swan Song

I did not expect to find many birds at Potter Marsh today and thought there might not be any birds around. Although the sky was beautiful, it was dark and cloudy at 2 pm and looked like more rain was coming. There was less ice near the boardwalk due to the warm (up to about 38 degrees) weather and the recent rain. I was delighted to find that there were two Common Mergansers swimming up the stream beside me as I walked along the boardwalk and then as I walked back, they swam back along with me.




There were a couple of distant Black-billed Magpies, two perched Bald Eagles in the vicinity of their summer’s nest and a single fly-by Common Raven.



No other ducks were visible from the boardwalk and I expected there would be none visible if I drove the road along the marsh, but you never know. I was right about the ducks, but to my surprise, I found that there was a lone swan out in the marsh away from the boardwalk. I had thought they all had left, but not so. Most swans that stop at Potter Marsh are Trumpeter Swans, but I’m thinking this lone swan is a Tundra Swan. Comments welcome. Whatever it is, it is unlikely to be around long. Soon normal winter temperatures will return and there will be no open water out in the marsh away from the boardwalk and the swan is very likely to be gone.



302 species so far

October 29 – Magpies and Ravens

I only birded a few sites in west Anchorage today, including around Spenard and Hood Lakes, Point Woronzoff and the Turnagain neighborhood. Everywhere I went, there were Black-billed Magpies and Common Ravens. The ravens were mostly sitting on the ground eating something or calling to each other in trees and the magpies were clambering around various structures. Most people seem to like ravens, but some people don’t like magpies. I find them both fascinating. I only saw a few other species – Black-capped and Boreal Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches until I got home and had at least four Steller’s Jays coming to my peanut jar.




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This week I have two quick trips planned. The first is to Juneau early in the week, followed by a day back in Anchorage and then a few days in Barrow. Maybe new birds, maybe not, but if I stay in Anchorage, most likely not. Gotta try for something beyond magpies and ravens, I guess..

302 species so far


October 28 – More Balmy But Wintery Anchorage

Although the snow is still clinging to most of the branches in Anchorage, today it felt like spring with a temperature of 34 degrees by midday.




The lakes are mostly frozen over, however, so the Mallards are becoming more and more concentrated where the water is still open, such as at Spenard Crossing and on the stream flowing into the lake.



People are not supposed to feed the ducks, but the ducks know that people are the source of food and the ducks immediately come toward people as they get out of their cars.


The only other ducks that I saw at Spenard Crossing today were five Common Goldeneyes periodically diving in the greatly reduced open water area.


As usual, the Black-billed Magpies were using the warmer weather to bathe in the open water. This one had just left the water and was dripping and preening. Other birds seen were Black-capped and Boreal Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches.

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302 species so far

October 27 – Anchorage Wandering

There was another beautiful sunrise today before I left home to wander around Anchorage.


Once again my goal today was to see if there were any winter arrivals in a few Anchorage areas. My first visit was to the Turnagain area where there are many fruit trees and one might eventually hope to see Bohemian Waxwings and American Robins. That’s where they came last winter, but so far, not this winter as far as I can tell. Most of the woodland areas in the neighborhood were basically bereft of leaves. There were the usual neighborhood birds, Black-capped Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches and that’s about it for the drive-through.


After that I drove out past the Anchorage airport, but the only bird seen there was a single Black-billed Magpie. The mountains as viewed looking west from Point Woronzoff were beautiful, as were the mountains behind Anchorage itself when I looked back to the east across the inlet.



When I got home I decided to make my bird feeders a little more inviting, having been reminded at the last Anchorage Audubon meeting that feeders should be placed near trees or other cover. Since I do not have any trees or bushes in the center of the yard, I fastened some branches from my brush pile to a few of the feeder stands. Shortly after doing so, I watched a Red-breasted Nuthatch clambering over a branch before it went to a feeder. Before I even left the yard, however, Black-capped Chickadees were coming to the feeders, a Common Redpoll was high in a birch tree clinging to a branch and three first-of-the-winter Pine Grosbeaks for my yard arrived, talking beautifully.






Two Steller’s Jays arrived to dine on peanuts, one of which took a few peanuts from my hand. The two of them then proceeded to empty the peanut jar that I have attached to my porch railing. I am going to try again to include two videos of the jays. The second video shows “Beaky”, the one without an upper beak, and how it is able to grab peanuts anyway.

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302 species so far

October 26 – Anchorage Woodland and Estuary

It was a bit warmer today – starting at 19 degrees instead of 9. After a beautiful sunrise at about 9 am as seen from our living room, more clouds rolled in by the time in late morning when I went on my walk at the Campbell Creek Estuary Natural Area and the sun had a bit of difficulty coming through.






By the time I was finished with my walk , the temperature was up to 28 degrees, but it felt a little colder due to the wind. Birds seen included four Black-capped Chickadees, a Red-breasted Nuthatch, a noisily tapping Hairy Woodpecker and a Steller’s Jay quietly hopping about and investigating the tree branches.




302 species so far

October 25 – Anchorage

Today was another beautiful sunny crisp day in Anchorage, very much like yesterday. The mountains viewed from our living room windows at the front of our house were just as lovely, today’s picture being taken slightly to the north of yesterday’s view. The other pictures are taken out our back window. The lovely spruce trees in the bottom picture are our neighbor’s trees. My birding was even more limited today than yesterday, being primarily backyard birds and birds seen as I drove from one meeting or appointment to another. So, my bird sightings today consisted mainly of Black-capped Chickadees, Steller’s Jays and Black-billed Magpies, none of which I took the time to photograph.




302 species so far

October 24 – Crispy Cold in Anchorage

When I woke up this morning, the temperature outside was 8 degrees, but by mid-afternoon it was up to 32 degrees. The only open water at Potter Marsh was the stream flowing a pathway through the snow-covered grass and then across the open area surrounded by ice. The light and the snow were beautiful and the air crisp – very nice for half an hour or so before my fingers started to get cold. I had three species at the marsh – a Black-capped Chickadee heard on the drive in, two Common Ravens flying by and two Bald Eagles flying by.








Later, when I got home and looked outside our living room window it was still beautiful, with the view of the Chugach Mountains and Flat Top Mountain reminding me why we bought this house and moved in exactly two years ago today.


302 species so far

October 22-23 – From Sitka to Anchorage

This blog post has mostly additional information about my day in Sitka. Although the Tropical Kingbird (more pictures in yesterday’s post) was the undoubted highlight yesterday, there were quite a few other good bird sightings in Sitka.


Yesterday began (before the kingbird) with Louann and I walking over to Swan Lake where I had seen my year Wood Duck very early in this year. Unbelievably the Wood Duck is still in Sitka, still hanging out with the Mallards and still stunning in appearance.






There were other welcome birds at the lake, including a Pied-billed Grebe way out on the lake, my third Pied-billed Grebe of the year in Alaska (the others were in Ketchikan and Palmer). It is my understanding that Pied-billed Grebes nested in Sitka this year.


Also on the lake were numerous other ducks (Greater Scaup, Ring-necked, Bufflehead) and a single Canvasback (shown with one of the Ring-necked Ducks), first seen late in the day when we were looking for (but not finding) the Swamp Sparrow that we possibly, but not certainly had seen earlier in the swampy edge of the lake. During the day we also saw a White-throated Sparrow, my second for the year (this one not photographed).


After we finished daylight birding and taking pictures of ducks and of the lake area, we went downtown in Sitka where we saw a spectacular sunset before taping our interview by Matt Goff for his radio show and then we had an excellent dinner.




After dinner, Louann and I drove around looking for various nighttime birds that we were told might be possible (Western Screech-Owl and Leach’s Storm-Petrel were mentioned), but we did not hear or see either of these.

Early this morning we boarded our flight back to Anchorage. The sun was finally showing, tinting everything as we arrived there.




At our house the snow is mostly exactly as we left it a couple of days ago, clinging to branches and continuing the winter wonderland. As I typed this message on the afternoon of the 23rd, a Steller’s Jay was peering in my downstairs office window and hopping about among the scattered peanut shells left there earlier by the jays.




I’m not sure when my next out-of-town trip will be. Earlier in the year I had thought that October would be slow and had made commitments for various non-birding scheduled events, so if some bird that I still need for my list shows up somewhere, I’m hoping it does so at a time when I can hop on another plane and try to see the bird before it departs.

302 species so far

October 22 – Sitka – 302!!

Just a brief report tonight. I’ll try to tell more about Sitka tomorrow. Suffice it to say that Matt Goff picked us (Louann Feldmann and I) up this morning after she and I had found the Wood Duck that has been in Sitka since last winter. We spent the morning looking for but not seeing the Tropical Kingbird that had been in Sitka at least 6 days. After lunch Matt returned to the area while Louann and I looked unsuccessfully for the Swamp Sparrow that we thought we might have seen earlier. Then Matt called us to say he’d refound the kingbird. So Louann and I drove over there and we all saw the TROPICAL KINGBIRD. I never thought I’d see a named tropical bird in Alaska but apparently there are previous records. I also never thought I’d get to be interviewed for a radio show by Matt a second time (along with Louann) about birding.






Tomorrow we return to Anchorage.

302 species so far