Jack and I decided to take a week and head out among the crazy hunters.  Luckily we didn’t stray too far off the road where the hunters were searching for their moose, caribou, bears, or whatever was available to point a gun at and shoot.

We left Homer and headed up the Kenai Peninsula, birding at a few spots along the way, including the mouth of the Kasilof River.  I was hoping to see some shorebirds, but only observed three Greater Yellowlegs in the wetlands and no shorebirds on the river bank.  Of course the tide was coming in, rather than going out which makes a difference.  We actually saw more birds at the Kasilof River SRS when we stopped for a bathroom break.  Species observed there included:

  • White-winged Crossbill
  • Boreal Chickadee
  • Gray Jay
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • Bald Eagle

Any trip to Seward or Anchorage  or points further north requires a stop at Tern Lake, one of my favorite spots in Alaska.  There is generally a bird or two hanging around.


What a view


Scaup sp. (Lesser? Greater?)


Goldeneye sp. (Barrow’s? or Common?)


The scaup again

We stopped for the night at the Granite Creek Campground, owned and operated by the U.S. Forest Service.  This small campground was surprisingly busy for a week day and many of the campsites had already been booked for the upcoming Labor Day Weekend.  One last hooray for the camping crowd.  Birds observed here included:

  • Boreal Chickadee
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Varied Thrush
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch – heard only

The view from our campsite


Doodlebug going in for a drink


Granite Creek


These mushrooms were really small – about the size of a dime or less


This is definitely the year for mushrooms


I love the colors and textures, shapes and sizes

From there we headed up the Glenn Highway after making a few stops in Anchorage for food that didn’t come with a sales tax price tag.  I know, we should be supporting our local governments but I think taxing food is just wrong.   Okay off that soapbox and onto the birds and nature.  We stopped at several places along the way in search of birds, including the Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site (SRS).  There is a short trail that takes you to several lookouts and we were treated to chickadees, thrushes, and warblers.

  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Swainson’s Thrush
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch – heard only (good thing I know their call)

Matanuska Glacier. Okay so I wanted a photo of the fall colors more than the glacier.


Viewpoint – Jack and Doodlebug. This is the start of the trail along the bluffs.


Swainson’s Thrush


Another view of the Swainson’s Thrush

We were checking the lakes along the Glenn Highway for swans, and at one lake around Milepost 174 there was a pair of swans with SIX cygnets.  The parents must have had fun raising all these youngsters.  I suspect there aren’t any Bald Eagles nearby.  Hope they all make their long journey south.


Swan Lake – so named by me because of all the swans we saw on the lake (Family of 8 – 2 parents, 6 cygnets – WOW!!!)


Dad was preening and bathing further along the shoreline. Mom and cygnets were hanging out preening and roosting. Okay, I don’t know for a fact that the parent with the cygnets is the female parent, I just assume…..

Our campsite for the night was at the Dry Creek State Recreation Site, located a few miles north of Glennallen.  I was surprised by this campground – it was relatively nice.  We stayed – alone – in Loop A.  Loop C seemed to be the popular campground loop, but our site in Loop A had the most birds, including a male Spruce Grouse that was in our site as we drove up.  Sweet!!!  Here is a list of the birds we observed:

  • Spruce Grouse
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Wilson’s Warbler
  • Boreal Chickadee
  • Fox Sparrow
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Common Raven
  • Steller’s Jay
  • American Robin
  • Gray Jay
  • Orange-crowned Warbler

Male Spruce Grouse – this guy was in our campsite


What a beautiful bird


Gray Jay looking for a handout

The next day we left early, making a stop in Glennallen for eggs.  We then stopped off at the Wrangell-St. Elias Visitor Center, just south of Glennallen.  While Jack checked out the exhibits, I took a short walk on the Boreal Forest loop trail, encountering not one, but four spruce grouse – two males and two females.  One male was in full regalia, while the other male was most likely a hatch year bird.  I was alone of the trail at first, but a couple of people soon followed.  The woman was talking quite loud as she read the interpretive signs along the trail, later telling me her husband was afraid of bears so she talked loud to scare them away.  Once she saw I was looking at the spruce grouse, she quieted down.  Hooray!!!


Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Visitor Center – just south of Glennallen on the Richardson Highway


Mt Drum as seen from the visitor center

Lots of bird songs and calls as I walked through the woods looking at the spruce grouse.  Species observed included:

  • Spruce Grouse
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • American Robin
  • Fox Sparrow
  • Swainson’s Thrush
  • Boreal Chickadee

Male Spruce Grouse


Female Spruce Grouse


Another female Spruce Grouse


Male Spruce Grouse – I think this was a hatch year bird (bird born this summer)


All the grouse were first observed on the trail, but easily flushed up into nearby trees, generally just off the trail


The Boreal Forest Trail

Our next stop was at Willow Lake.  We were afforded great views of the Wrangell Mountains due to the beautiful weather.  The lake had lot of ducks and sevens swans, but all were too far away for decent looks, let alone photos.   When we stopped there were only two other cars at this pull-off.  I guess everyone wanted to take photos of the mountains too as at least eight more cars pulled up while we were there.


Willow Lake and the Wrangell Mountains in the background


Lincoln’s Sparrow (one of my top 3 favorite sparrows) – at a lake near Kenny Lake

Our next stop – Chitina (pronounced Chit-na).   But this was just a quick stop to look at the birds on the lake in town.  Birds observed on or near the lake were:

  • Trumpeter Swan
  • Mallard
  • Northern Pintail
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Common Merganser

Trumpeter Swan pair in the lake at Chitina


Up close and personal – Trumpeter Swan

I have a brother who has a beautiful cabin and property on Silver Lake (on the road to McCarthy), near Chitina.  We spent three nights and four days there enjoying the beauty of the area and my brother and sister-in-law’s company.   It was fun to relax and do nothing, although we did get in a few walks, a boat trip around the lake, a short drive, and a game of badminton (we won).  Oh and the food was marvelous.

The loons were calling at dusk, the northern lights were dancing at night, and we even had a Great Horned Owl hooting.   It was hard to leave this spot, and I can understand why my brother and sister-in-law spend so much time here during the summer.

Silver Lake/McCarthy Birds observed:

  • Wilson’s Snipe
  • Common Loon
  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Spruce Grouse
  • Varied Thrush
  • American Robin
  • Gray Jay
  • Black-billed Magpie
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Common Raven
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Bald Eagle
  • Great Horned Owl – heard only
  • Boreal Chickadee
  • Mallard
  • Scaup sp.  (my guess is Lesser Scaup)
  • Flycatcher sp.
  • Wilson’s Warbler
  • White-winged Crossbill
  • Golden Eagle
  • American Wigeon
  • Trumpeter Swan
  • Goldeneye sp.

Quite the list of birds.  The Gray Jays would come take food out of your hand (thanks to my brother and sister-in-law), or in my case  off my knee.  One morning there was a large mixed flock of songbirds foraging in the willow trees near the cabin.  Fun to watch the frenzied feeding, and birds chasing each other off.


Cooper River


We had extremely beautiful weather


Silver Lake as viewed from the deck of my brother’s cabin


A resident spruce bunny (okay, it is called a Snowshoe Hare, but since they love spruce I’ve coined the name Spruce Bunny)


My brother’s cabin at sunset one night


Almost looked like the sky was on fire


The beautiful sunset as seen from a dock on Silver Lake


Oh Ruby….. Don’t flash your crown around (Ruby-crowned Kinglet – foraging for food)


Gray Jay with a piece of bread in its mouth. I bet they are disappointed when my brother and sister-in-law close up the cabin for the winter. No more easy food.


Gray Jay


Gray Jay – called camp robbers for a reason


One of the many small ponds along the road to McCarthy


Another pond


Some even had waterfowl on the ponds – mostly Scaup sp.




Doodlebug on the dock waiting for a boat ride … or not


No snow on the mountains … yet

Alas, we needed to leave Silver Lake and move on.  The weather had changed from sunny and warm, to overcast with the threat of rain.  All good things must come to an end they say.


Copper River


Fish Wheels along the Copper River – none in use

We stopped in Chitina for breakfast at the Chitina Hotel.  The food was okay, but my brother is a much better cook, well actually three of my brothers (I have four).  Love you guys!!!


The swans were still at the Chitina Lake – this one has an itch that needed scratching


Green-winged Teal (on the right). Not sure what the duck is on the left. Any guesses?  Waterfowl are not my strong suit, especially at this time of year.


Liberty waterfall. There is a small state park campground here. Very basic.

Our next stop for the night was Blueberry Lake SRS just south of Thompson Pass.  Jack was hoping to see the fall colors, which were starting to show themselves in the Copper River Basin, but were surprisingly absent from the Thompson Pass area.  A stop at Worthington Glacier was a nice break, and a good thing too since it was pretty much fogged in the next morning when we headed back toward home.    Birds were pretty sparse at the pass, the glacier, and our campground.  In our campsite we only had Black-billed Magpies.  I think they were feeding on food left by the previous camper.


Love the fall colors


Worthington Glacier. There were a surprising number of people here when we stopped.  Saw at least three people on the glacier.


We hiked a portion of the Trail of 98 (1898 that is)


Red, red, red (and dang I should know what this plant is)


Strange looking mushroom


Another mushroom (I need a good mushroom book)


Not sure what kind of caterpillar this is???

On the way back home, we drove through Copper Center.  Not much happening there.  Even the local coffee shop was closed, on a holiday no less.


Cute trailers


The “Bee Happy” Coffee Company – which was closed. Go figure.  We were not happy.


They even had mocha coffees (which I love), but alas it wasn’t meant to be (heavy sigh)


This sign looks like it has been there awhile. I wonder if they built the community center elsewhere, or did they just run out of money???


Saw this Belted Kingfisher sitting on the power/telephone line. Got a lucky shot of it spreading its wings.


This was a wetland near Copper Center. The kingfisher was on a line over the wetland.


Burial site


Burial site

It really is amazing how much the vegetation can change in a week’s time.  While there was some color up around Sheep Mountain/Eureka area, and in the Copper River Basin when we first came through, there was SO MUCH MORE when we came back through these areas.  The hillsides were a beautiful red, and the aspen were turning yellow, gold, and orange.  So beautiful.


Black-billed Magpie making use of the sign


This section of the Richardson Highway near Worthington Glacier is beautiful. Definitely worth its Scenic By-way Designation.


The Tonsina River, I believe. Dang I should have written it down.


Our oil pipeline


Up close(r)

The road traffic was heavy, due to a large number of hunters returning home to Anchorage.  To avoid this traffic and the Alaska State Fair traffic, we decided to spend Monday night at Matanuska Glacier SRS, rather than driving into Anchorage.  We again walked the trail and listened and watched for birds.  Not as much activity this time – just the resident chickadees.  Guess the other birds left while the weather was good.  The Matanuska Glacier SRS campground, which is small, was surprisingly busy.


Beautiful – near Gunsight Mountain


Even with the low hanging clouds the scenery is still spectacular. Adds a hint of mystery.


This area is close to sheep hunting, but may be open to hunting of other species. I don’t know if I would want to hunt in the fog.


When you really like something ….


Aspen leaves with raindrops


Matanuska River as seen from Matanuska Glacier SRS trail


Matanuska River

The next morning we headed into Anchorage in the pouring rain for the requisite Costco, Fred Meyer, and Target runs, and then on home.  Along the way we did make our mandatory stop at Tern Lake.  Far fewer birds here, but oh lots of interesting mushrooms

img_6753 img_6754 img_6774 img_6775img_6776

Driving into Homer was a reminder of unfinished projects, but we were happy to be back home.