alaskabirder

Its a Great Day to Bird

Month: June 2016

Crane Death

WARNING:  This story includes graphic photos of a dead Sandhill Crane.  If you do not want to see the photos, then you might want to stop reading now.

We  have been graced with Sandhill Cranes on our property since we moved into our home in 2008.  This has included both nesting and non-nesting pairs.  In August 2008, a male crane on our property was captured by Dr. Gary Ivey with the International Crane Foundation.  The crane was fitted with both a satellite and radio transmitter as part of a project by Kachemak Crane Watch to determine the migration route of the Sandhill Cranes that nest in the Homer area.  This male was paired with a female crane who had a colt (crane chick) that year.  We got the pleasure of watching the pair raise their colt, including teaching it to fly.  This crane pair returned to our property through 2013.  Unfortunately we haven’t seen the tagged crane since.

That, however, has not stopped other cranes from claiming the area and nesting nearby, and this year, we had the pleasure of having a crane nest on our property.  We had a general idea of where the nest was located, but didn’t want to actively search for the nest for fear that eagles, ravens, magpies, or neighbor dogs might find and destroy the eggs, and injure or kill the cranes.

The pair first appeared on our property on 17 April 2016 – the earliest recorded arrival for our property.   The pair liked to come to the garden area and hang out together.  We figured something was up when only one crane of the pair began showing up on 3 May 2016, signalling that one of the cranes was on the nest.

On 9 June 2016, Jack was looking out the window and noticed a Bald Eagle drop to the ground in the general location of our nesting crane pair.  We immediately ran outside to check on the crane and the nest.  Much to our dismay we found the Bald Eagle feeding on a dead Sandhill Crane.  We surmised the crane had been dead for several hours as it was missing most of its feathers and breast meat.  The beak was essentially gone – or at least the outer layer – and the head had been stripped of feathers.  We suspect the killed crane was the male, but don’t know for sure.

We did not want to check on the nest, afraid the surviving crane may still be on the nest.  So the next day, with no eagles around, we went to check on the crane nest.  What we found were a whole lot of feathers and a broken egg shell, its contents gone.  We lost our crane nest and chick(s) for the year.

This nest was the closest a crane pair had nested to our home to date.  We were so looking forward to having possibly one or two little colts (crane chicks) to watch grow and learn to fly.  Unfortunately a Bald Eagle had other plans – dinner.

Many people will say such is life.  The death of this crane by an eagle is just nature taking its course.  While that may be true, what isn’t “natural” is people feeding Bald Eagles.  People who feed Bald Eagles will want to know how feeding an eagle is any different than people feeding cranes.  But it is different.  Bald Eagles are top predators and will go prey on more than fish, including Sandhill Cranes.  After the death of our crane, I learned another crane pair within a mile or two of our house was being harassed by not just one Bald Eagle, but five.   Please do not feed or encourage the feeding of Bald Eagles.  To do so, just increases the population of Bald Eagles in the area, resulting in increased pressure on its food prey (e.g., ducks, cranes, and yes – people’s pets); and when food is not sufficient, results in the starvation of the bird.

Crane

One of our cranes

CraneFoot

The cranes did not like their reflection in our windows so they would attack the window (footprint), thinking they were driving away another crane invading its territory.

DeadCrane1

Dead Crane – when we found it many of its feathers were missing.

DeadCrane3

Up close view of the crane’s head. The outer layer of its beak was missing.

IMG_3425

Crane feathers – general area of nest

IMG_3427

Crane feathers – up close

IMG_3428

Depredated Crane Egg – the only egg shell or egg I saw amongst the feathers.  Another could have been removed and eaten elsewhere or there was only one egg to begin with. 

We fear despite the pair being on a nest, the egg(s) was addled.  Crane incubation is generally 30 days.  Our cranes began nesting on May 3rd.  The adult and the eggs were depredated on June 9th – which is more than 30 days from the date we believe incubation began.  While it is sad to lose eggs and chicks, the greater impact to the Sandhill Crane population is the loss of a breeding adult.

We hope next year another crane pair will come and build a nest on our property or the widowed crane will find a new mate and return.  Two days after the attack, a pair did come and try chasing off the widowed crane.  Stay Tuned……..

It’s A Great Day to Bird

 

 

Travels along the Alaska Highway

Recently my husband and I traveled the Alaska Highway – after a short stay in the Klamath Falls, Oregon area, we headed north.  We took the Cassiar Highway – western BC Canada, as I think it is more scenic.  Also, there seems to be a greater chance of seeing black bears along the highway, and we weren’t disappointed.

We spent several days in the Klamath Falls area visiting Jack’s sister.  She lives near Keno Park, owned and operated by Pacific Power and Light.  They have a nice campground there with excellent birding.  We didn’t camp at the park, but we did bird it – finding over 27 species in a short two hour visit.  As we were walking to the park on a road through the Ponderosa Pines (my favorite conifer species), I told Jack I really wanted to see a Pileated Woodpecker.  Within 5 seconds (yes seconds) I saw a woodpecker fly by and land.  Sure enough it was a Pileated Woodpecker.  What a fabulous bird.  So big, with its bright red head.  I must admit, however, that I was surprised at the lack of warblers and sparrows we’ve seen at this location in the past.  Where were they?

AWPE-1

American White Pelicans feeding

AWPE-2

When their heads were underwater and their back ends sticking up in the air, their legs would be out of the water

AWPE-3

This pelican was hanging out on the rocks in the stream just below the dam

Tern-2

Forester’s Tern on a rock that gets a lot of use

Tern-4

Tern preening, although it looks like it could be hanging its head in a pout

Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird

RWBL-1

Red-winged Blackbird. Every time I tried to get a better angle to photograph the “red” in its wings, the bird moved. I secretly think it knew what it was doing.

Geese

Canada Geese on the rocks in the middle of the river

At Jack’s sister’s house we were delighted by the appearance of a kit fox.  This is a “life” mammal for me, and one I’ve been hoping to see for some time.  The photo I got isn’t the best, but this little guy wasn’t going to stick around for me to get any decent shots.

KitFox

Kit Fox

Lizard

Sagebrush Lizard – this guy would raise up and down on his legs.  It looked like he was doing push-ups.  Fun to watch.

The trip across Canada and on to Homer took us 6 days, averaging about 500 miles per day.  We actually could have made the trip (Klamath Falls to Homer) in about 5.5 days, but one must stop in Anchorage to shop for those items that can’t be found in Homer or are there, but at a higher cost.   Is Anchorage “local” enough?  Probably not.

The first day we traveled from Klamath Falls to Bay View State Park near Burlington, Washington.  This state park is located adjacent to Padilla Bay, and is a favorite birding area.  Since we were in a hurry to get home, we didn’t spend any time birding the area – only at our campground site.

Day two took us from Bay View State Park to Riverside Park and Campground, located within the community of Vanderhoof, British Columbia.  This was  nice community campground, and not too busy.

Day three look us from Vanderhoof to the Dease Tanzilla Campground located along the Cassiar Highway.  We saw a fair number of wildlife sightings along the way, including at least six black bears, two moose, and a Red Fox walking along the highway.

Bear

Black Bear #1

Bear-1

This Black Bear was just off the road eating grass

Moose-1

Bull Moose in a pond off the highway

Cassier-1

Moose pond

Goldeneye

Barrow’s Goldeneye in the pond with an American Wigeon pair

BlueLake

Blue Lake – this lake has a pair of nesting Common Loons. Lots of other birds around too. Don’t you just love the clouds?

Day four we traveled from the Dease Tanzilla Campground to the Congdon Campground along Kluane Lake.  This was probably the best campground we stayed at on this trip.  The campground has two loops – one along the lake, and a forested interior loop.  We stayed in the interior loop.  The site was a pull-through, and had good separation from neighboring sites, not that we had any neighbors.  Only one other person stayed in the forested loop, and not all the lakeside campground sites were filled.  So where is everyone staying?  Of course we really didn’t see a lot of campers traveling the highway – north or southbound.  This was surprising.  With the price of cheap gas (in the U.S.A, anyway – no bargains in Canada), I would have thought there would be more campers.

NotMuchSnow Mountains

We left Congdon campground and slowly (construction delays) made our way into Alaska.  We stopped at the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge ( coffee for Jack) and at Fast Eddy’s in Tok for lunch.  From Toke we headed towards Anchorage, hoping we could get at least as far as the Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site.

ConstructionYukon

One of several construction zones in the Yukon

FreshSnow

We woke to fresh snow on the mountains. While it was windy the night before, it didn’t seem that cold.

DeadButterfly

This poor butterfly met its death when I shut the door of our vehicle.

BaldEagle

We stopped at Pick Handle Lake to check out the birds – finding a pair of swans and some waterfowl. As I was headed back to the car I happened to look up and saw this bald eagle on a spruce tree near the restroom.  He didn’t seemed at all phased about how close I got.

TetlinNWR

View of Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge from the viewing deck at the refuge’s Visitor Center.

Tetlin

Giant Cache at the Tetlin NWR Visitor Center. I wonder if anything is “cached” in the cache?

BatBoxes

Bat Boxes on the refuge buildings. I wonder if bats use the boxes? I didn’t see any evidence of use.

BatBox-1

Close-up view of the bat box.

There are seven species of bats known to occur in Alaska: Little Brown Bat, Keen’s Myotis, California Myotis,Long-legged Myotis, Silver-haired Bat, Hoary Bat, and Yuma Myotis.  I have never seen a bat in Alaska.  Have you?  For more information on bats in Alaska, check out: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=citizenscience.batsinak

CliffSwallowNests

Cliff Swallow Nests on Tetlin NWR Visitor Center building

CLSWNest

Cliff Swallows sticking their heads out of the nests

HeadShot-2

Up-close view

HeadShot

I just LOVE birds

Along the highway between Tok and Glennallen, we spotted two moose in a pond feeding.  This is the typical scene everyone wants to encounter.  So we stopped and I started photographing the moose.  I swear that one moose kept its head below water for a good 5 minutes.  Also at this pond/wetland, were two Trumpeter Swans, two Bald Eagles (who I suspect were waiting for the swan eggs to hatch so they could snatch the young cygnets), and a single female mallard (her young were probably already snatched by the eagles).  But the highlight were the two moose calves standing in much shallower water and grasses, feeding and trying to hide out.  So cute.

MooseNearTok

Pond with the two feeding adult moose

Moose-Submerged

I swear this moose had its head below water for 5 minutes or more

MommaMoose

This was the momma moose …

MooseCalves-3

… and these were the two calves hiding in the tall grass – so, so cute

There is a large wetland complex along the Tok Cutoff road where we always stop.  There is always some bird life on or near the wetlands.  Plus, this one of my favorite sections of the drive between Tok and Glennallen.  So beautiful!

Pond

Wetland complex. Notice there isn’t much snow on the mountains for early June.

YRWA

Yellow-rumped Warbler

We, and one other camper,  stayed the night at the Matanuska Glacier SRS campground.  I was surprised at how few people there were in the campground – granted the campground only has about 10-12 sites.

MatGlacier MatGlac-2 NearMatGlacRose-1 Rose-3 Rose-2BunchBerry BlueFlowers

The final day of our journey had us heading into Anchorage with stops at various stores to stock up on food and other items we need (or think we need).  Then the final push to Homer, with stops at Tern Lake (always) and Soldotna (for gas).  We arrived in Homer around 5:00 pm, picked up our dog Joey who was staying with friends, and happily headed home.

TernLake

Tern Lake near the Forest Service Day Use area

MewGull

Mew Gull on a rock in the stream. We were looking (unsuccessfully) for American Dippers that like to hang out at the bridge near the day use area at Tern Lake.

Despite our “rush” to get home, I did get some time to bird and enjoy the wildlife along the highways – Black bears, Moose, Red Fox, Spruce Bunnies (known officially as Snowshoe Hares).

Once home we were treated to the site of a male Pine Grosbeak searching for any leftover seed from this past winter, as well as feasting on the dead dandelions (hey, maybe they are good for something).  We rarely see Pine Grosbeaks at our house in the summer, so this sighting was a treat.

Grosbeak-2 Grosbeak

Whether you bird from your house, car, or by being in the great outdoors …. IT IS ALWAYS A GREAT DAY TO BIRD.

© 2018 alaskabirder

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑