On 4/14 I was mostly at Mile 121 on the Glenn Hy from 11:30 to 4:00 PM. Saw two bald eagles and 3 goldens. No other raptors. I was not alone most of the time. On 4/15 I was at the Gulkana airport. I started seeing and hearing sharptails on their lek after about 6:30 AM. They were located on the east side of the main N-S runway several hundred yards south of the shorter E-W runway. Best access is the gravel road starting just north of the main runway. I did not count but there were 15-20 birds present. I visited the lek at MP 174 but saw nothing. Back to MP 121from about 10:30AM til noon. One Golden, one bald eagle. No other raptors. ----- George Moerlein
A pair of RN Grebes. This morning at Potter Marsh near the largest turnout.
Four pair of Pintails, numerous Canada Geese. The Bald Eales are regularly on the nest that they have occupied in years past.
Date: 4/15/19 11:51 pm From: Steve Friend <sjfriend...> [AKBirding] <AKBirding-noreply...> Subject: [AK Birding] Anchor Point FOS
Today saw my first Red Tailed hawks of the season, 2 flying in tandem ;) (both Harlens)3 days ago FOS Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Varied Thrush heard singing around house.Steve FriendSent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.
Date: 4/15/19 5:43 pm From: Lani Raymond <lanibirder...> [AKBirding] <AKBirding-noreply...> Subject: [AK Birding] Anchor River Trip: 4-14-19
Kachemak Bay Birders had a fantastic trip to the Anchor River today! Great weather with rain and snow totally missing us. Highlight was a PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVER that flew overhead and then landed on the beach nearby. Gorgeous golden head and body in the sunlight. *Shorebird*!! The BARROW'S GOLDENEYES and COMMON MERGANZERS were beautiful to see and of course the LAPLAND LONGSPURS that some got to see.
Plus, we also enjoyed watching a whale as it progressed. Out quite a ways and no firm consensus on what whale it was.
A big thank you to Michael Craig for leading this trip. Today was indeed A Great Day To Bird!
Species we saw: PACIFIC LOON RED-THROATED LOON COMMON LOON RED-NECKED GREBE HORNED GREBE PELAGIC CORMORANT HARLEQUIN DUCK LONG-TAILED DUCK BARROW'S GOLDENEYE COMMON MERGANZER MALLARD WHITE-WINGED SCOTER SURF SCOTER BLACK SCOTER BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE MEW GULL GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL MARBLED MURRELET PIGEON GUILLIMOT PACIFIC GOLDEN-PLOVER BALD EAGLE NORTHWESTERN CROW LAPLAND LONGSPUR
On the way home a few of us stopped at the bridge a couple miles in on the North Fork Road to see if the AMERICAN DIPPER was there. The pair *is* there making a nest under the bridge. Interesting also to watch one dipper take a long bath. Seems like a bird that spends lots of time under water getting food, might not really need much of a bath? But apparently it did. Fun to watch! Look forward to a trip there in June with warblers that will be there by then.
This is Hawkwatch Weekend
at Gunsight Mountain.
It's the greatest weekend of
the birding year in Alaska.
There are TWO ROOMS still available at Sheep Mountain Lodge.
Reservations for the Saturday Night Hawkwatch Dinner at Sheep Mountain can still be made by calling (907) 734-5121 or emailing <info...> mailto:<info...>
We hope to see you at
"The Harlan's Hawk Capital
of the World!"
Date: 4/14/19 10:26 am From: George Matz <geomatz41...> [AKBirding] <AKBirding-noreply...> Subject: [AK Birding] First Report for Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project.
Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project
2019 Session #1
On Saturday, April 13 the Kachemak Bay Birders had its first shorebird
monitoring session for this year. This is our eleventh consecutive year of
monitoring following the same protocol each year. Twenty volunteers made
observations for two hours (9:00-11:00 am) at five sites in the Homer Spit
area, one volunteer at Seldovia Bay, three volunteers at Anchor
Point/River, and two with Keen Eye Birder at the Kasilof River. Sites in
the Spit area include Mud Bay, Mariner Park Lagoon, Mid-Spit, Outer Spit
(boat harbor area), and nearby Beluga Slough.
At 8:53 the weather was mostly cloudy, winds were calm, the temperature was
42°, and the barometric pressure was 29.63 inches. At 10:53 the weather
was fair, slight winds from the S at 5 mph, the temperature was 43°, and
the barometric pressure steady 29.62 inches. Our weather data is from the
Homer Airport NOAA station at the base of Homer Spit. (
March was a record warm month for all Southcentral Alaska, and April seems
to be continuing the warm trend. We expected that the mild weather might
result in an early arrival of migrating shorebirds, but that wasn’t the
case. For Kachemak Bay and the Anchor and Kasilof Rivers there was only
one new arrival which was a Black-bellied Plover at Louie’s Lagoon in the
mid-spit site. No yellowlegs, which is often the first arrival.
One Rock Sandpiper was seen at the Green Timbers portion of the mid-spit
site. A couple thousand Rock Sandpipers usually overwinter in the Kachemak
Bay area, as they did this winter. Normally, a couple of hundred are still
around when we begin our shorebird monitoring in mid-April. But since they
are not long-distant migrants and breed in parts of Alaska that have the
same weather conditions as Homer, we have noticed over the years that they
leave early when we have mild springs. Early bird gets the worm (or bug in
the case of ROSA).
Other Homer Spit area birds.
Mallard, Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Eurasian Wigeon (1), Northern
Pintail, Long-tailed Duck, Common Goldeneye, Black Scoter, White-winged
Scoter, Surf Scoter, Harlequin, Scaup, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser
Loons and Grebes Common Loon, Pacific Loon, Red-throated Loon, Common
Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Horned Grebe, and Red-necked Grebe.
Cormorants: Pelagic Cormorant.
Raptors; Bald Eagle.
Alcids; Pigeon Guillemot.
Gulls: Black-legged Kittiwake, Mew Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, and Herring
Misc; Rock Pigeon, Belted Kingfisher.
Songbirds; Song Sparrow, NW Crow, Common Raven, Lapland Longspur.
Seldovia birds include; Greater White-fronted Goose, Mallard, Greater
Scaup, Harlequin Duck, Surf Scoter, White-winged Scoter, Bufflehead, Common
and Barrow’s Goldeneye, Common and Red-breasted Merganser, Horned Grebe,
Mew Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, Common Loon, Bald Eagle, Black-biller
Magpie, NW Crow, Common Raven, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Golden-crowned
Kinglet, Varied Thrush, Pine Siskin, Song Sparrow.
Anchor Point birds include;
Usual suspects and Barrow’s Goldeneye, and Lapland Longspurs.
Kasilof birds include; Canada Goose, Gadwall, Mallard, Northern Pintail,
Greater Scaup, Surf Scoter, White-winged Scoter, Common Goldeneye, Barrow's
Goldeneye, Common Merganser,
Mew Gull, Herring Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, Bald Eagle, Black-billed
Magpie, Common Raven, Black-capped Chickadee, Golden-crowned Kinglet,
Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Common Redpoll, Pine Siskin.
This looks like it might be an interesting year. Next report in five
I was able to get some better photos of the two LESSER CANADA GEESE at the Waterfront bike path. They chose a busy place to grab a bite to eat as people also enjoy this first mile of the Iditarod National Historic Trail between the Alaska Sealife Center and the boat harbor. Several people walked past and didn’t even see them from just a few feet away!
As I watched, they became very alert and slowly walked away from the grassy area down onto the rocky beach. A block away, a woman walking her dog on the beach had come too close. She saw them too late and the Geese flew a short ways and landed in the water, honking. The woman considerately turned around and walked her dog away.
It will be interesting to see how long these hungry Geese will persist at this busy location.
Based on several resources, I determined these Geese to be Lesser Canada Geese, Branta canadensis parvipes. If anyone has a better ID, please let me know. With so many subspecies and the smaller Cackling Geese now separated from Canada Geese, it can be confusing!
Late last night a Trumpeter Swan flying over calling. This morning the Hawk Owl was still calling and FOS Ruby-crowned Kinglet was singing. No American Three-toed or Black Backed Woodpeckers found, just Hairy & Downy. Steve W.
I spent from 1100-1530 hrs at MP 121.5 of the Glenn Hwy searching the skies for raptors. This spot is a bit east of the standard Hawkwatch sites but one Paul Fritz used for early raptors especially Golden Eagles. Of note all the Eagles seen were high and distant; spotting scope was the necessary tool. Results:
Golden Eagles 22 Bald Eagles 4 Ravens 9 Goshawk 1 (maybe but just guessing) Redpolls were heard more than seen
The Eagles seemed to mostly be on a track from Eureka and points east and then along the syncline north and east of Gunsight Mt. A half hour at the more traditional Hawkwatch sites yielded 1 Golden. Temperatures were 32-42F. Light winds out of the west and nice sunshine. Also seen 1 Hare and 5 grazing Sheep
Willow Sockeye Burn area today. Bright & sunny, mid 50's & still knee deep snow. Downy & Hairy Woodpeckers, plenty more hammering away in the woods. The usual Ravens. Gray Jays, & Magpies. Tonight I heard what I thought at first was a cross between a "winnowing " snipe & a long winded Boreal Owl. I tracked down the call and it was a Hawk Owl calling from the top of a spruce. Also saw the first spring butterfly, not sure what kind but it looked like an Arctic Fratillery. Steve W.
Date: 4/10/19 12:18 am From: <c_griz...> [AKBirding] <AKBirding-noreply...> Subject: [AK Birding] Tuesday, April 9, 2019 Canada Geese! Pied-billed Grebe flees River Otter!
Tuesday, April 9, 2019 Canada Geese! Pied-billed Grebe flees River Otter!
Sunrise 6:59 am, sunset 9:01 pm, for a total day length of 14 hours and 1 minute. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 27 seconds longer. Low of 33 at 8 am, rising to a high of 46 by 6 pm. Mostly sunny tomorrow, followed by a couple days of rain, then mostly sunny until Wednesday, so says the forecast.
After a few days of unremarkable light showers, the gray clouds lifted. By late afternoon, the curtain parted as if in a magic show, revealing blue sky, majestic snowy mountains, and a glassy-smooth bay.
I hopped on my bike at 8 for an evening ride along the Waterfront at 8 pm as mountain shadows crept up the flanks of Mt Alice and her neighbors on the east side of the bay.
The beauty of the stunning scenery compelled me to stop frequently to admire and take more photos like a tourist. At one stop, I almost fell off my bike. Two FOS CANADA GEESE! One watched warily while the other fed hungrily on the greening grass at the top of the beach. The Geese were in the shadows and I did not have either binocs or long lens. I’ll try for more diagnostic photos tomorrow.
A friend passing by told me the Geese were on the bike path yesterday, and walked away towards the beach as she approached with her little dog. How fabulous! Geese!
I pedaled slowly away without further disturbance and headed to the boat harbor. So calm! Then ripples of something odd paddling along and diving. Again, in the shadows, but then I realized it was a River Otter, swimming characteristically with its head low facing forward, rear end out of the water. I followed slowly trying to get a better view.
Just ahead, the PIED-BILLED GREBE popped up! The River Otter made a bee-line for it, but the Grebe didn’t wait for any small talk. It shot off, running like mad across the water, wings beating, leaving huge foot splashes behind. When it finally landed a safe distance away, it dove and disappeared. Smart Grebe!
As the mountain shadows deepened and the temperature started to drop, it was time to head home. What an amazing little spin along the water!
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter
Date: 4/8/19 10:26 am From: Buzz Scher <buzzscher...> [AKBirding] <AKBirding-noreply...> Subject: [AK Birding] Arctic Valley Migrants
Migrants seen Sunday (7 Apr) morning hiking the ridge above the Arctic Valley Ski Area included 1 Golden Eagle (ad), 1 Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, 4 Snow Bunting, 1 Lapland Longspur; plus courting Willow and Rock(1) Ptarmigan.
On Saturday, April 6 we followed up Jim Herbert's lead and found small numbers of CANADA GEESE (parvipies) arriving on the Kasilof Flats, counting a total of 65. Earlier we had seen 7 on the Kenai Flats. Of note we saw at least 3 beluga whales in the Kasilof River.
On Sunday, April 7 we found 23 Canada Geese on the Kenai Flats and at least 12 beluga whales in the Kenai River. We also conducted a survey of the Kenai Flats hybrid gull colony and counted 33,000 birds - for April 7! (On April 3 we counted 12,000.) The colony is already mostly here - building up in number earlier and faster than we've ever previously observed. The colony usually numbers 40,000+ by mid-May. In 2005 this colony "only" numbered 25,000 individuals.
I made the trek down the Glenn Highway for lekking Sharp-tailed Grouse very early this morning. The temps were in the single digits and the lek at MP 174 was dead but I still had time to get to the Gulkana Airport lek before sunrise. At 6:30am, before I could even get into the parking area, I stumbled upon an actively hunting GREAT GRAY OWL working the field north of the Airport Access Road beside the Richardson Highway. It was a worthy distraction from the grouse. Since this area takes some effort to get to, I feel it is okay to share the location. Great Grays are awesome birds and every once in a while people deserve to hear about a location. As for the SHARP-TAILED GROUSE, a dozen males were lekking beside the main runway.
While heading back westward to the Gunsight Mountain hawkwatch, I found a NORTHERN HAWK OWL a little less than a 1/4 mile west of the Eureka Lodge. I'm sure I missed others on the drive. There was some hawk action at the MP 120 hawkwatch, but when a BOREAL OWL starting singing incessantly around noon, I once again became distracted by an owl. I found it perched low in a spruce below the pulloff. I'm not sure what convinced the guy to start advertising in the middle of a sunny day, but it's not the first time it's happened at this site.
When you go looking for grouse and just so happen to see the trifecta of northern owls, it might be time to retire from birding and end it on a high note. Photos and video will be up on eBird sometime soon.
Our Beginning Birding Class
at Audubon’s April 18 Meeting
HAS BEEN CANCELLED.
Due to a Mix-up in Scheduling, we do not have the room reserved on that night and the class cannot be re-scheduled at this time.
So please join us at the Hawkwatch Weekend
on April 20 $ 21. Its the biggest birding event of the Year!
Date: 4/4/19 12:24 pm From: Mary Sutkowski <onegoodtern...> [AKBirding] <AKBirding-noreply...> Subject: [AK Birding] 9th Annual Yakutat Tern Festival
As you know probably know, Yakutat hosts an annual festival celebrating the Aleutian Tern.
The Ninth Annual Yakutat Tern Festival will takeplace May 30-June 2 2019. The Yakutat Tern Festival is a celebration of thenatural and cultural resources of Yakutat, Alaska. It’s family friendly andoffers activities for birders as well as non-birders, including field trips,seminars, kid’s activities, evening banquets and other programs, a Wildman footrace, music, and art. This year's keynote speaker is Ned Rozell, he writes weekly newspapercolumns about science and natural history for the Geophysical Institute at theUniversity of Alaska Fairbanks.
Please see www.yakutatternfestival.orgfor more information and follow us on Facebook and Instagram! Yakutat TernFestival and @yakutat_tern_festival... You can also call (907) 784-3359.
We hope to see you at this years' festival.
Mary SutkowskiYakutat Tern Festical Coordinator607.349.1831
Alternate Email: <Mare_e86...>
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
Wednesday, April 3, 2019 Swan cygnets
Sunrise 7:17 am, sunset 8:46 pm for a total day length of 13 hours and 28 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 28 seconds longer. Low this morning of 39 rose to a high of 51 by midafternoon. Clouds rolled in by late afternoon, heralding the end of our amazing sunny spring streak. Forecast for showers, possible snow?!, and precip for the next week or longer.
While the resident adult TRUMPETER SWANS stake out the icy Mile 1 Nash Road nest site, their recently unfriended cygnets are chilling together at the wide-open Lagoon. What a marvelous sight, those six healthy, 10-month old Swans! Their plumage is ever-changing to white, even more obvious when they stretch and show their white primaries.
The drab-looking aquatic plants that the cygnets pull up from the depths do not look very appealing, but apparently provide sustenance for these hardy waterfowl angels.
A pair of HOODED MERGANSERS, tiny BUFFEHEADS, and courting COMMON GOLDENEYES hung out near the cygnets, most likely diving for small fish. COMMON MERGANSERS chose to snooze in the sun on the north shore, soaking up the rays while they could.
Later, I refound the PIED-BILLED GREBE back on the north end of the boat harbor near the Train Rec and Travel-lift. This time, I could even see his little black adult chin.
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter
Date: 4/3/19 10:34 am From: <akjohnm...> [AKBirding] <AKBirding-noreply...> Subject: [AK Birding] Early seabird report - Rez. Bay - Chiswells
An early update of seabirds showing up in the Resurrection Bay - Chiswell Islands area:
Pelagic Cormorants: Here in abundance and many looking quite spiffy with their shiny greenish-black plumage and bright white rump patches.
Red-faced Cormorants: Several observed near nesting locations at Rugged and Natoa Islands.
Black-legged Kittiwakes: Here in abundance. An estimated 8,000 were seen at their nesting cliffs around Cape Resurrection late last week and thousands more in the Chiswells on April 2nd. While they are common at the nest sites now, it’ll be at least another month before they starting building new nests.
Pigeon Guillemots: Many, perhaps 100 or more, now hanging out nearshore at various locations around Resurrection Bay.
Common Murres: Hundreds to thousands between Cape Resurrection and the Chiswells. Very few still in winter plumage.
Marbled Murrelets: These little ones are year-round residents in Resurrection Bay but not seen in great numbers over the past month.
Ancient Murrelets: A few seen 1 to 2 miles from Chiswell Island on April 2nd.
Not here yet but expected in another 2 to 6 weeks: Horned and Tufted Puffins, Rhinoceros and Parakeet Auklets, Thick-billed Murres, Kittlitz's Murrelets, and more!
John M. Maniscalco, Ph.D., Capt. Senior Research Scientist, Alaska SeaLife Center
Owner/Operator, Alaska Seabird Charters
www.alaskaseabirds.com http://www.alaskaseabirds.com/ PO Box 1675
Seward, AK 99664
Date: 3/31/19 10:58 pm From: <c_griz...> [AKBirding] <AKBirding-noreply...> Subject: [AK Birding] Sunday, March 31, 2019 Lapland Longspurs and Pied-billed Grebe
Sunday, March 31, 2019 Lapland Longspurs and Pied-billed Grebe
Another beautiful, sunny day with a low of 29 overnight and a high of 50. March certainly went out like a lamb! April showers to bring May flowers are in the forecast starting on Thursday.
I found tracks on March 29, but today I found the makers: FOS 12 LAPLAND LONGSPURS foraging through the fallen beach rye grass. How wonderful to hear them twitter and call!
Thanks to a tip from eBird, I learned that the elusive PIED-BILLED GREBE had relocated to the south end of the boat harbor. The light was great so I bestirred myself to go look. Sulli happened to be birding there as well and pointed out the rare bird napping by the S dock float. (Thanks, Sulli!) We watched from a distance, not wishing to disturb it. Just as we were leaving, the Grebe paddled out of the shade and into the sun where he preened and stretched as if posing for photos. Then he paddled across to the next float, leaving a tiny wake on the calm water.
This little Grebe has certainly done well to survive in the boat harbor all winter and all alone since November. When it first arrived, it was a juvenile with brown and white streaks on its face and rufous neck. Now it has molted into breeding adult plumage with a flashy white eye-ring, dark eye, and fancy black ring on its light-colored bill. The white “tail-light” remained, making it easy to identify even as it paddled away. Chances are very slim for a mate, but one never knows with birds!
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter
Date: 3/30/19 12:51 am From: <c_griz...> [AKBirding] <AKBirding-noreply...> Subject: [AK Birding] Friday, March 29, 2019 FOS Northern Pintail!
Friday, March 29, 2019 FOS Northern Pintail!
Sunrise 7:33 am, sunset 8:34 pm for a total day length of 13 hours and 1 minute. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 29 seconds longer. Overnight temps dipped below freezing, but rose today to 47. Mostly sunny in the forecast for the next five days with highs in the low 50s.
Spring sprang into action upon arrival, waving her magic wand to banish winter. Like a time lapse, ice and snow visibly shrank and disappeared. Spectacular crocuses exploded from the warming earth; a queen bumblebee emerged from hibernation to feast on the golden pollen. The first mosquitoes appeared, the large, lumbering, and hungry females.
Bedraggled grass instantly turned green next to sunny, south-facing foundations. Dandelions shot up, already armed with buds. Ice on ponds in the sun turned a lovely shade of green, then melted. Slushy ice futilely grips shaded ponds; it won’t last long.
HERRING GULLS began migrating several weeks ago, their plaintive cries heralding their arrival. Few pay attention to gulls, but credit is due!
The neighborhood SAW-WHET OWL steadfastly beeps from the forested slope of the nearby mountainside. I hope he finds a sweetie!
Today, I found my First of Season NORTHERN PINTAIL, an elegant drake feeding with a pair of MALLARDS. It seemed unusual for him to be alone; I wonder if he migrated from California with other ducks or solo?
The resident pair of TRUMPETER SWANS accompanied by their six beautiful nine-month-old cygnets staked out the coveted Nash Road wetlands when just a tiny bit of open water appeared at the far back. I missed the eviction of the once-cherished babies, as now just a pair of adults remains.
This evening around 6:30 (still light!), I enjoyed watching the Cobb (male) enjoy a bath while the demure Pen (female) leisurely fed nearby on underwater vegetation.
First, he vigorously preened every feather, his long neck looping gracefully. He dipped one wing then the other in the cold water right next to lingering ice, and preened some more. Then he paused, stretched out, and suddenly flipped upside down, black legs flailing in the air, water splashing everywhere. After several seconds, he popped back upright and resumed preening.
The cold water must have been invigorating. He repeated the upside-down bath followed by preening many times, running on air, then flipped back, water rushing off, beak open and feathers askew. It was hilarious to witness!
It won’t be long before the nest-building begins and the cycle of life continues. He’ll be ready to serve as Defender of his Swan Universe!
The Turnagain Merlins showed up in the neighborhood on Tuesday. This might be the earliest they have ever appeared, but we don't have complete enough records to prove it. A pair has nested within a 6-block radius for almost 20 years, and it's good to see them back in town!
Date: 3/29/19 1:23 pm From: <wkeys...> [AKBirding] <AKBirding-noreply...> Subject: [AK Birding] The Big Day
The Anchorage Audubon First Day of Spring Big Day was last weekend, and here's the re-cap of the day's events.
It was a day of high drama and superlative stress. Pat Pourchot said it best, “There was crushing defeat and disappointment followed immediately by exciting exhilaration, and it went on for 24 hours.”
Teams showed up at locations where a common bird like a Hairy Woodpecker or a Boreal Chickadee were Alwayspresent only to find nothing at all. Another team gloatingly reported, “We went to the red house in Girdwood and found both Hairy Woodpecker and Downy Woodpecker at the feeder within 60 seconds, and it was less than 5 minutes after you left!”
There was discouragement, embarrassment, humiliation, and dismay mixed with the ecstasy and rapture of seeing a Northern Goshawk blast in from nowhere chasing a Pigeon at blinding speed over the congested jungle of asphalt at the intersection of C Street and Northern Lights Boulevard. That’s what a Big Day is all about.
The First Day of Spring Anchorage Big Day is a competition to see which team can see the most bird species within the Municipality of Anchorage during the 24 hours between 5 pm on Friday and 5 pm on Saturday. These hours were chosen instead of the traditional midnight-to-midnight time frame in order to facilitate a 5 o’clock dinner and drinkfest during which teams can recount their findings and make other teams feel even more disheartened than they were before.
During the day, eight teams found a total of 46 Species. The winning team of Sulli Gibson and Ben Lagasse found 35 of those birds. Three Teams tied for Second Place with 30 species, and the fifth place team tallied 28.
Ten species seen by All teams included Mallard, Common Goldeneye, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Black-billed Magpie, Common Raven, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Common Redpoll, and European Starling.
Conversely, nine other species were seen by Only One team. They were Northern Pintail, Rock Ptarmigan, Merlin, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Wilson’s Snipe, Mew Gull, Boreal Owl, Belted Kingfisher, and Chestnut-backed Chickadee.
Five additional species were seen by only two of the teams: Canada Jay, Northern Goshawk, American Robin, Golden-crowned Kinglet and Dark-eyed Junco.
One surprise was the number of species that had never appeared on our Big Day Count before: Gadwall, Harlequin Duck, Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintail, Rock Ptarmigan, Wilson’s Snipe, and Mew Gull had never been seen on the First Day of Spring. Multiple teams reported that they had not seen the Gadwalls at Spenard Crossing on Friday, but did find several at that site on Saturday. Either the first migrating Gadwalls arrived overnight on Friday, or they have just arrived very recently. Spring Migration is happening now.
Some species were in short supply. No Snow Buntings were seen and no Shrikes were seen.
Totally frustrating to all teams was the Northern Hawk Owl at Lake Hood. This bird has been a Special Guest Star for over a month. It’s been seen and photographed by everyone in town, and NO TEAM found him on Friday or Saturday. Countless hours were spent by the teams combing and re-combing the area for what was thought to be a guaranteed species. Another bitter birding pill to swallow!
This year’s warm weather undoubtedly affected the spectrum of species seen. There was more open water and clear ground than had ever been seen in the six years of Spring Big Days, but there were also meteorological mishaps. Two teams chose to start their Big Days on Friday afternoon in Girdwood where it turned out to be dismally pouring rain.
Another team decided to be strategically placed at the top of Arctic Valley before daylight on Saturday morning. The Army’s gate opens at 6:00 am, but when the birders arrived, it was still locked. By 7:15, the punctual military still hadn’t shown up to unlock the gate. Another plan bit the dust which, of course, couldn’t be seen because it was actually mud.
The Big Day winners, Sulli and Ben, were awarded the Cash Prize of $35 for seeing 35 species during the day. This was equivalent to a whopping 79¢ per hour! They philanthropically donated the prize back to Anchorage Audubon in a magnanimous gesture of benevolence.
Their tally of 35 species was 76% of the day’s total species-seen of 46 Species. This is a major lesson of the Big Day competition: Being an expert birder is not the Only factor in success. If you’re not at exactly the right place at exactly the right time, you won’t see everything there is to see. In this case, even the winning team missed 24% of the birds seen during that 24-hour period.
The prize for farthest distance traveled goes to Marc & Eliana Kramer Ardila from Miami, Florida who joined Eric and Christy Youngblood. Their team name, “Team Ptarmageddon” tied with Stacey & Jared Sapp and MaryAnn Gilgallon’s team “Talk Birdy To Me” for best team name.
And finally, we have the award for “Biggest Big Day Birding Sacrifice.” This prize goes to a team which shall remained unnamed for obvious reasons. The team had birded Portage and was returning to Girdwood when they were pulled over and cited for speeding by a State Trooper. He explained that since it was a construction zone, the fine could be as much as One Thousand Dollars!!!!
The officer then asked what they were doing. They described the whole concept of The Big Day, and the Trooper said, “Oh, that’s great. My wife and I are going to the Homer Shorebird Festival.”
He then reduced the reported speed at which they were traveling so as to only get them a Two Hundred Dollar fine. The benefits of Birding can never be overestimated.
THE COMPLETE LIST OF SPECIES SEEN:
American Three-toed Woodpecker
Date: 3/22/19 8:42 am From: 'Jamin H. Taylor' <jamintaylor...> [AKBirding] <AKBirding-noreply...> Subject: [AK Birding] First gull of the year
I saw my first gull of the year today at Cuddy pond near the Loussac Public Library. Looked like our typical Gloucus x Herring crossbreeds with a pink eyering and black primaries. Nice to see them coming back as a herald of migration! Jamin Taylor
For some reason, I believed that only hummingbirds could fly backwards. But looking at the Lance-tailed Manikins on the Cornell website, doing their courtship display, I see that they are quite adept also. In fact, the display requires it. It’s more like backing up in mid-air than actually travelling. Then looking at a bustling flock of redpolls at the feeder today, I saw redpolls can do it too. Little wonders.