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Posts Tagged ‘Bald Eagle’

Diane and I headed to Kenai after a couple of wonderful days in Homer.  This area is the heart of salmon fishing country.  At a couple of river crossings, the fishermen were standing shoulder to shoulder in the river in their hip waders.  We took a short detour through Anchor Point SRA on our way to Kenai and we found these gulls on the river beside Slidehole Campground.  In Alaska, Glaucous-winged x Herring Gull hybrids are common and I suspect that at least one of these birds is a hybrid.  Regardless of their identity, the birds were beautiful on their nest on the rock in the middle of the river.

Nesting gulls at Anchor Point SRA

Nesting gulls at Anchor Point SRA

We found this Northwestern Crow when we stopped for gas.  It looks just like an American Crow, but it’s a different species, so it adds to a birder’s life list.

Northwestern Crow

Northwestern Crow

We also had time that afternoon for a stop at Kenai NWR and a walk on the trail behind the headquarters in Soldotna.  This part of the state was quite different from Homer and we found the wooded trail just beautiful.  There was much lush mossy vegetation like that in the photo below.

Along the Kenai NWR headquarters trail

Along the Kenai NWR headquarters trail

Early the nest morning, July 1, we met our guide for the day, Ken Tarbox.  Ken and his wife Connie are largely responsible for the Kenai Peninsula Wildlife Viewing Trail Guide.  Ken is also one of the friendliest and most generous people we have met.  He told us that he likes to go out with visiting birders whenever his schedule allows.  Ken took us to all the birding hot spots around Kenai and Soldotna – the river flats, viewing platforms, the landfill, and even his yard and a friend’s yard.  We felt like we’d made a new friend and hope to go birding with Ken again.

Bonaparte’s Gulls were one of my favorites that day.  We watched this adult swimming and foraging by plunging into a little stream.  Here it is with the little fish that it caught.

Bonaparte's Gull

Bonaparte’s Gull

And, I saw my first juvenile Bonaparte’s Gull.

Juvenile Bonaparte's Gull

Juvenile Bonaparte’s Gull

One of our target birds for this part of the state was Spruce Grouse.  On our way to Seward the next morning, Diane and I drove Skilak Lake Road and enjoyed Pine Grosbeaks on the side of the road and Common Loons and Common Goldeneyes on the lakes, but we failed to find a grouse.  We decided that this was another good reason to go birding again in Alaska.

Ken had given us several tips on where to find American Dipper.  We did not find any at Tern Lake, but we found this cooperative bird at the next location we tried, Ptarmigan Creek Campground.

American Dipper

American Dipper

Diane had found the adorable and comfy Abode Well Cabins for our stay in Seward.  In addition to being clean and cute, birds were literally right outside our door.

Our Abode Well cabin near Seward

Our Abode Well cabin near Seward

Just a couple of blocks away was a yard with juvenile Varied Thrushes.  They were fairly easy to see with our binoculars, but they hid in the grass just well enough to make getting a photo a challenge.

Juvenile Varied Thrush

Juvenile Varied Thrush

There were also beautiful butterflies and wildflowers near our cabin.  This is an Arctic White butterfly on fireweed.

Arctic White butterfly on fireweed

Arctic White butterfly on fireweed

On July 3, after a little birding near our cabin neighborhood, we ventured into town.  Seward’s population of 2,500 swells to about 30,000 for the Independence Day festivities.  Main Street is completely blocked off to traffic and the streets fill with people.  Most come to run in or watch the Mt. Marathon Race, which has quite an interesting history.  According to legend, it began with two old guys arguing about whether it was possible to run up and down the rather steep Mount Marathon in less than an hour.  The first official race was in 1915 and it has since become an important part of the July 4th celebration in Seward.

Seward Harbor

Seward Harbor

We drove Lowell Point Road, which runs along the edge of the harbor, where we enjoyed dozens of gulls, a couple of Harlequin Ducks, and Pigeon Guillemots.  We drove the road a couple of times, hoping to get close enough to the Marbled Murrelet to get a photo.  We had stopped at the end of the road closest to town and were watching the gulls.  And, then things started happening so fast that I’m not entirely certain exactly what happened, but here’s how I think it went.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

A group of about eight young people were standing about 20 feet from where we were, also watching the birds.  Suddenly there were two Bald Eagles right in front of us.  One of the eagles caught a fish, the other tried to steal it, and the fish was dropped.  One eagle flew away.  One of the young men picked up the fish and threw it for the eagle.  The eagle swooped in to within 10-20 feet from all of us, but missed the fish.  This happened several times, the young man throwing the fish and the eagle attempting to catch it.  Excitement and enthusiastic shouts filled the air.  With one throw, the eagle came in especially close and the young man shouted “Hello America!”  And, we couldn’t imagine a more American place in the county than Seward, Alaska, on that gorgeous sunny Independence Day eve.

Shelley and Diane enjoying a seafood dinner

Shelley and Diane enjoying a seafood dinner

After a delicious dinner with a view of Seward Harbor at Ray’s Waterfront Restaurant, we ended the day with a drive on Nash Road to see the family of Trumpeter Swans that are regulars there.

Trumpter Swan family

Trumpter Swan family

The next morning it was time to head to the Anchorage Airport again, this time to fly home.  I will forever be grateful for 28 summer days in Alaska, truly the “trip of a lifetime.”  And, I’m especially grateful for the last week with Diane on the Kenai Peninsula.

Bald Eagle in tree

Bald Eagle

This is the sixth and last post about my trip to Alaska.  The other posts are:

Alaska 2015: There’s no place like Nome
Alaska 2015: The Pit Stop is Cancelled
Alaska 2015: Kenai Fjords and Denali National Park
Alaska 2015: To the Top of the World
Alaska 2015: Bird Nest Habitat

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January 2012

Tricolored Heron at Merritt Island NWR

The moon has completed a full revolution around Earth since my last day of work and I haven’t even begun cleaning up my house.  But I have seen 149 species of birds, including 5 life birds.

January 3, the first workday of the year, was bitterly cold, but I felt an irresistible urge to get out of the house.  I drove around a bit and as I returned home, I saw dozens of both Black and Turkey Vultures patrolling my neighborhood and roosting in a backyard pine tree three houses down the street from my house.  I stopped my car in front of a neighbor’s house and stood in the street staring in amazement as the vultures flew low over the street.  My neighbor came out to ask what I was watching.  We talked a bit about the birds as we enjoyed the unusual sight.  Just as she walked back to her door, I screamed “Bald Eagle, Bald Eagle!” and she came running back.  I shared my binoculars and we watched an adult eagle fly over our heads.  This was the first time that I had met this neighbor, yet we jumped up and down and hugged like excited children.  She told me that she had seen the eagle perched in a tree in her backyard earlier that day, but did not know what it was.

My planned Florida trip was postponed at the last minute due to unexpected events, but my birthday was January 12 and I wanted to celebrate with birds.  On an impulse, I signed up for the Georgia Ornithological Society meeting in Tybee Beach, Georgia.  The trip got off to a wonderful start with a stop at Savannah NWR on the way to the meeting.  Three other birders were in the parking area when I arrived and we all birded the wildlife drive together.  Our sightings included a King Rail, who amazed us by walking around right out in the open.  We saw it from as close as 10-15 feet and heard it vocalize.  Life bird #1 for 2012!  The GOS meeting was great.  I continue to be impressed with both the skill and friendliness of Georgia birders.  I think that I enjoyed meeting new people as much as I enjoyed the birds.  And the meeting delivered life bird #2, a lovely, cooperative Snow Bunting on the beach with the Tybee Island shorebirds.

A few days at the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival completed my birding for the month.  I met more friendly birders and got 3 more life birds, Black Rail, Glaucous Gull, and Pomarine Jaeger.  The rail was heard only, but that’s all I expected.  I had great views of the Glaucous Gull as well as the jaeger as it harassed gulls just off shore.  In my spare time, I birded Merritt Island NWR, which has now become one of my favorite “hot spots.”

So, what did I learn with all this birding?

Female ducks CAN be identified.  Except for easy ones like Bufflehead and Ruddy Duck, I previously used the “look for the closest male” method of identifying female ducks.  Now I’m motivated to at least try to identify the females.

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Gulls can be identified, too, even the sub-adults.  Now I’m also motivated to work on this group of birds.

Pay attention to Willets.  This is a beautiful underappreciated bird.  And, Eastern and Western Willet will be split, according to shorebird expert Kevin Karlson and other top birders.  Western Willets breed in the Great Plains and winter along all US coastlines and down into Mexico.  Eastern Willets breed all along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and winter in South America.  They can be distinguished by physical characteristics and voice.

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