On October 31st, I returned from Australia (where temperatures reached 96 degrees F the day before we left to return home) to winter temperatures, icy roads, and snow.  What a difference a day makes.  I thought I would share a little of my life this past month.

COASST Surveys

I conducted my monthly COASST (Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team) survey at the Anchor Point beach in early November.  The survey requires that I walk from the parking lot to mouth of the Anchor River and back – over 2 miles round trip.  I usually go after a high tide, but in the winter that isn’t always possible due to lack of daylight, timing of the high tide, and weather.

My November walk required that I start on a “high” incoming tide.  I thought we (Jack and I) had given myself plenty of time to complete the survey, but after finding three dead birds (Horned Puffin, Common Murre, and Northern Fulmar), we barely made it back to the parking lot in time before the beach was covered in water.  I need to be more careful next time.   Despite the rising tide, it was a beautiful day.  I  spotted a group of nine Rock Sandpipers and a lone Sanderling feeding at the surf line.

Head and beak of the dead Northern Fulmar (found the bird almost covered by sand)

Dead Horned Puffin – also found covered in sand

Rock Sandpipers


Beautiful Sunrises

One thing I love about winters in Homer are the sunrises.  They can be quite colorful.  The month has seen a lot of sunny days (which I love), although that usually means colder weather.  The winds, at times, have been brutal making walks barely tolerable.

View from my home

Kachemak Bay Birders – November Field Trip

It seems strange not to be birding every day.  I miss it.  I like traveling to new places and seeing new birds and their environment.  I’m ready to leave again.  However, we’ve decided to spend the winter in Alaska.  So will make the most of it and get out and see our area birds.

On November 18, eleven hardy souls joined Michael Craig, our trip leader, for some birding on the Homer Spit.  The sun was out, windy, and while it was chilly, I think everyone enjoyed seeing the birds.  One or more of us spotted 29 different species, including a Belted Kingfisher, which usually has migrated south for the winter.  The wintering Rock Sandpipers were in evidence (in large numbers) along the banks of the boat harbor.  Fun to watch them bath in the cold waters of Kachemak Bay.  You wouldn’t catch me dipping into those waters regardless of the time of year.

Several of the birders checking out the fishing lagoon for birds

Belted Kingfisher at the Petro Marine fueling dock

This was just a small number of the Rock Sandpipers present

Rock Sandpiper

Project FeederWatch

Project FeederWatch (https://feederwatch.org/), a program sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, began mid- November.  Since we are going to be in Alaska this year, I decided to participate again.  For two consecutive days a week from mid November to mid April, you count the total number of birds by species seen at your feeder during the day.  You can choose to observe mornings, afternoons, or all day – and for as long as you like (never taking your eyes off the feeder to less than a hour watching the feeder).

The first week we actually had six different species come to our feeder: Pine Grosbeak, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Gray Jay, Pine Siskin, and Black-billed Magpie.  Pine Grosbeaks are the predominant visitors, and generally feed throughout the day, whereas the chickadees and nuthatches generally feed in the early morning and late afternoon, and the Pine Siskins only in the morning.  The Gray Jay only came once.  The magpies travel between our house and the neighbors house.  I usually bang on the window when they come as they tend to dominate the feeder, especially if there is suet present.

We’ve also had a Sharp-shinned Hawk in the neighborhood who is marauding the birds at the feeder.  The end result is that the birds flush – being chased by the hawk –  and occasionally flying into our windows.  This has resulted in four dead Pine Grosbeaks, three within one week.  Distressing to say the least.  I painted the living room windows (where the strikes have occurred) to see if that helps, but may need to take other measures like putting up a net to catch the birds and bounce them away from the windows.  But then does the hawk getting better access to the bird?  Or do I stop feeding the birds for several weeks to see if the hawk moves on?  Such a dilemma.

This past week we’ve had Gray-crowned Rosy Finches coming to the feeder.  On the second count day, we had three Rosy Finches, the next day the number of Rosy Finches increased to twenty, and the following day we had up to 50 visiting our feeder.  When there are fewer numbers of Rosy Finches at the feeder the birds tend to stick around and feed.  When the number gets too high it seems the birds spend most of their time scattering and in flight.

Pine Grosbeaks at the feeder

Gray-crowned Rosy Finch and Pine Siskin feeding on the ground below the feeder.

Gray-crowned Rosy Finch

Base of the feeder – Rosy Finches

The latest casualty of the Sharp-shinned Hawk saga – Male Pine Grosbeak. These deaths break my heart.

Eveline State Recreation Site

Winter is a fun time to check out the animal tracks traversing the park and adjacent roads.  I followed one and it lead of a hole.

Snowshoe Hare (???) or as I like to call them – Spruce bunnies

Someone dragging his tail – Red-backed Vole?  And if so, then what made the other tracks?

Our neighbor’s dog acts like a fox – jumping into the snow to check for critters.  Does he hear them like foxes do?

Neighbor dog – Chaz

Living near the park has been a godsend.  During the non-snowy months we walk the trails regularly.  During the winter if the snow is too deep we walk the roads near the park, otherwise we walk the trails.    The lighting in the mornings and late afternoons has been wonderful to capture the beauty of the area.

So what beauty and delight will December hold?  More Birds !