It is 5:30 am, the sun is shining brightly, and my wake-up call summons from the birds singing and the Sandhill Crane bugling. He (or is it the female) started at 4:30 this morning laying early morning claim to its territory. Must be the daylight – we are now getting 18+ hours of it.
We finished the last of nine Shorebird Monitoring sessions for the year. Most of those brave winged warriors have continued onward yet another several hundred miles in their thousand mile(s) journey perpetuating their quest to breed in the Arctic or northern environs. Life continues we hope in the face of climate change adversity. Despite the date (May 26) we still observed four different species at Anchor Point: Greater Yellowlegs, Dowitcher sp., Wandering Tattlers, and Spotted Sandpipers. The Spotted Sandpipers most likely breed along the Anchor River so are ‘home-making.’ And it was along the river that we spotted all four species.
It was a beautiful blue-sky day, the water calm, and a mild wind – can this really be the Anchor Point known for its fierce winds? We’ve been fortunate during our shorebird monitoring this year at the Anchor Point beach/Anchor River. The weather has been warm, with little or NO wind, and mostly sunny. Monitors included Michael Craig, Ken Jones, and myself.
In addition to looking for shorebirds, we can’t help but search for other bird species as well. On the ocean Inlet we spotted a number of Common Loons, as well as a mixed flock of White-winged Scoters and Greater Scaup.
And of course the ever-present Mew Gulls. The number of gulls is much higher in the winter than during the spring months. The gulls are also answering Nature’s call and are somewhere off breeding now.
Some of the best birding is ‘backyard birding.’ Plant lots of native trees and shrubs, mix in some nesting habitat, add a feeder and ta da birds! For some reason it seems like we have a lot more songbirds this year than in previous years. There is a pair of nesting American Robins. A first for us, I think. I don’t recall a pair exhibiting nesting behavior in our immediate area in the past, in fact we get excited to see a Robin. Jack built a nice brush pile for the birds and we see Golden-crowned Sparrows giving it some scrutiny. I wonder who might be nesting there. But the most prevalent singer is the Orange-crowned Warbler. I think last year’s hatch might have produced a bumper crop of Orange-crowns.
The single Sandhill Crane faithfully comes to the house daily to stake out its territory and chase away interloper cranes. Some days its vigilance is more frequent than other days. I think it is getting close to the time when the eggs will hatch. Hopefully soon the pair will be bringing the colt(s) to our yard.
Jack built the mound that the crane is standing on. They seem to like slightly elevated areas. Possibly to see other cranes in the area or seem more lordly???
One of the best things about living in the ‘snow zone’ at 1,5000 feet elevation is that we are neighbors to Eveline State Recreation Site, and enjoy an almost daily hike in the park with its panoramic views and amazing display of wildflowers – summer only of course. This park is located just north of our property – within short walking distance. Lots of birds are now singing as we walk through the park’s varied habitat. Occasionally I bring my camera and am able to capture one of the many birds perched on a bush, or surveying us from the top of a spruce tree – including this Golden-crowned Sparrow.
Last weekend Jack and I went to Eagle Lake to determine whether the Pacific Loons had returned to the lake to nest. They have! I’ve been doing loon monitoring at the lake for the past five years (missing last year). In all those years the loons only fledged one chick in one year. I suspect the eggs or young are eaten by the nesting mew gulls, or by raptors in the area – the Bald Eagles and Merlins we’ve seen in the area.
In addition to the nesting Pacific Loon pair we spotted the following species: Greater Yellowlegs (this guy was not too happy with us, even flying up into a tree to squawk at us), Lesser Yellowlegs, Ring-necked Duck (two males courting one female), three pairs of nesting Mew Gulls, Golden-crowned Sparrows, Fox Sparrows, Hermit Thrushes, American Robins, Orange-crowned Warblers, Green-winged Teals, and a few Violet-green Swallows.
We will go back several times over the next two months to check on the status of the loon nest. Hopefully this year, the pair will fledge a young.
Since we had such a beautiful weekend – sunny and warm (70s at our house), we decided to check out the forest/meadow trails off Rogers Loop Road. We hiked from Rogers Loop Road to the over look near Diamond Ridge Road. There were a lot of birds singing and a great day to be outdoors.
I also made a quick stop at Karen Horneday park – a local city park in Homer. There I found a spruce tree loaded with cones and several Pine Siskins feeding away.
Sunday afternoon I went to a friend’s house off of Skyline Drive in Homer and joined friends for a picnic. Another beautiful day and this property has a commanding view of the Bay and mountains – just relaxes the mind and renews the spirit. And, warm enough that I could actually wear a short-sleeved shirt. After a delicious lunch we walked the property trails enjoying the sights and sounds of the area, including the sighting of a young moose. We quickly and quietly retreated so as to not disturb the moose. Getting too close to a moose is not a good thing.
After a glorious weekend of warm sunny weather we are headed to Barrow Alaska for three days to check out the birds there. I read they were having a heat wave with temperatures in the low 40s. Woohoo!!! Now if only we can have those kinds of temperatures during our short stay – none is in the forecast. Following our Barrow trip, we are then off to Denali National Park and the surrounding area for the rest of the week. I’m looking forward to the change in scenery and maybe seeing some new birds. All four species of eiders at Barrow would be nice and of course, a Snowy Owl. We had planned on taking two weeks and heading up the Dalton Highway but the road washed out several weeks ago and even with its temporary repairs I’m not sure it would be wise to travel the road in our van, which doesn’t even have all-wheel drive. And, truck traffic has been stacked up awaiting the road reopening. So we will have to save that trip for next summer.
It’s A Great Day to Bird