September 16 – Home, not Nome, on the (Moose) Range

I’ve had meetings and projects lately, so have mostly been around home in Anchorage. A few bird photos from our yard follow, of squabbling, eating Steller’s Jays and a Dark-eyed Junco on a seed feeder.

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The most exciting thing about our yard lately (until this morning) has been watching the fireweeds gradually turn a fiery red. The photos below were taken each day from Sept. 12-15, the first two days not being sunny, so the lighting also affects how red the leaves are. It is clear, however, that there is more red and less green in the leaves.

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This morning’s excitement was invasion by the two neighborhood moose, mama and half-grown young, which munched on trees and sadly, on fireweed, in the back yard. We would never have noticed them in the middle of the night but our dog heard them and let out a curdling whine/bark at 3 a.m. I closed all the blinds and the windows that had been open so he couldn’t see or hear the moose and eventually he settled down and we went back to sleep. When we got up at 7 a.m., the moose were still there, visible in the half-light, munching some more before hopping the fence to browse on a neighbor’s bush.

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I went out on the front porch to get a few pictures as they munched a few minutes later.

The mother then wandered into the street, followed by the youngster. It turned out the youngster was interested in something to eat besides vegetation so there was a brief feeding interlude out in the street before they both wandered farther down the road.

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Tomorrow I’m again heading off to Nome for a few days to see what it’s like at this time of year. I expect that most bird numbers will be way down, but hope that there will still be ducks and geese.

 

September 8 – Nome Birds and More (Aug. 26-Sept. 1)

Finally I’m getting around to posting more bird photos from my last trip to Nome. Although in Alaska most little birds have raised their babies and fled by now, the loons (Red-throated and Pacific) were still around Nome often with flightless young in tow.

Same thing with Common Eiders, some of which had very tiny young.

Same thing with the ptarmigans that I was able to see along Teller Road, but the young I saw could fly, and did.

The flocks of geese were gradually increasing – just a few Brant, but larger flocks of Cackling and White-fronted Geese were around.

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I did find a couple of my hoped-for Nome birds for this trip – Boreal Chickadees (3-4) in the spruce trees near the end of Council Road (near Gray/Canada Jays, new for the area on my last trip), and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers (with similar Pectoral Sandpipers) on Safety Sound.

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The main non-bird activity around Nome was musk oxen, all over the place, and not just in the places that I had found them earlier.

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September 5 – Nome Roads in Late August (Aug. 26-Sept. 1)

As far as I know the temperature had not yet dropped below freezing before I arrived in Nome on August 26th, but many areas were showing signs of colder weather. Fireweeds were mostly done blossoming but their red vegetation brightened up many vistas as I drove along.

Before I get to the pictures showing the beauty along the roads, in an attempt to tell a more complete story of my trip, I guess that I should mention a not-so-beautiful fact of Nome life in August. In many waterways, it often was not so beautiful in the water, and the surrounding air was filled the smell of rotting fish, presumably mostly salmon, that had spawned and died at the end of their long swim inland, so that their species might be replenished.

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Most of the time, however, the air was crisp and clean, and the dead fish were easily ignored and forgotten. The following scenes are along Teller Road on August 27th, when the road periodically went through clouds and rain, followed by a few closer shots of fireweeds:

Scenes along Kougarok Road on August 28th follow. First is the picturesque often birdy old house that was even more picturesque with the red fireweed leaves, followed by scenes along the road, including fireweeds:

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Scenes along Council Road on August 29th follow, including Safety Sound, the beautiful greenish yellow marsh vegetation near the Bonanza Bridge, and the spruce trees near Council, and of course a few more fireweed pictures:

A few times, I stopped the truck and got out to wander on the tundra, where the color that was beginning to appear was mostly limited to leaves and not flowers.

On my last day in Nome, September 1st, when I drove much of Kougarok Road again, I was delighted to see that a few fireweeds were still in full bloom. I’m sure that will not be the case when I return in a couple of weeks.

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September 4 – Nome Raptors (Aug. 26-Sept. 1)

It has taken awhile to wade through the nearly 2500 photos that I took on this trip.I am hoping to do a couple more posts on it after this one, including scenes of the hills and tundra, just beginning to turn to reds and yellows, and photos of birds seen for the first time in Nome.

There was a large difference between the number of birds that I saw in Nome in late August and the number that I saw in early August. Many of the smaller birds were no longer heard or seen, but of course, it is possible and even likely that some of them were hiding in the bushes and had not yet migrated. The raptors were much more noticeable than they had been before, and they are the subject of this post.

On Teller Road, there were at least four Rough-legged Hawks hunting on August 27th, usually hovering and backlit, or hurrying by and out of sight.

The next day early on my drive up Kougarok Road, there was a Peregrine Falcon sitting on a pole, apparently hunting as it looked around and downward. I heard the chips of sparrows in the bushes beneath the falcon, but the falcon just sat. It only moved from the pole when I drove closer and passed where it had been sitting.

Farther up the road, two Golden Eagles were perched high above the road. Another was seen flying away a couple of days later on Teller Road.

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On the next hill on Kougarok Road, a Merlin also sat waiting (in my wishful thinking, erroneously originally identified by me as a Hobby with its reddish leggings), and then it flew away and disappeared, never to be seen again.

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In a brief trip along Safety Sound later that day, a Northern Harrier was photographed (others had been seen earlier on the other roads but not photographed).

On August 29th, there was another Peregrine Falcon unsuccessfully harassing ducks out on the water at Cape Nome before it came and perched near me on the cliffs.  A redpoll (small white dot at left of first photo) bravely scolded the Peregrine.

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Most exciting was the number of Gyrfalcons seen. On Teller Road on August 30th, three of us first saw a Gyrfalcon perched on the ground. We screeched to a halt. As it took off I tried for photos but failed. Soon thereafter, there were two Gyrfalcons circling and chasing each other near a cliff before both hurtled off and disappeared. Again, bad photos.

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I thought that would be the best I could do to document Nome Gyrfalcons, but the Gyrfalcon on Council Road the next day was more cooperative than I have ever experienced for a Gyrfalcon. I looked upward into the sun to see it and try to photograph it, as it sat for a few seconds on a low cliff along the road. It then squatted and launched off the cliff away from me, never to be seen again as it dropped below the cliff. The results were rather interesting views of a Gyrfalcon.

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