I’m going to try and get out more to bird, however, recently the winds have been ferocious and not even my feeder birds have been out and about. I hope they haven’t succumbed to the weather.
Kachemak Bay Birders
So being retired ( aka unemployed), how do I pass the time. I do a lot of volunteer work for our local bird club – Kachemak Bay Birders. We’ve are doing more this year as 2018 is the “YEAR OF THE BIRD”, and we want to get the word out to our local community about how they can help conserve birds and their habitat. Check out our website: www.kachemakbaybirders.org.
Each month I am preparing a “Bird of the Month”. This month the bird is the Downy Woodpecker. Check it out on our website to learn more about this bird. And the “Bird of the Year” is the Semipalmated Plover. For April, we will focus on the Sandhill Crane.
6×6 Artwork – Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival
Several years ago I suggested that our Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival Committee do a 6″x6″ inch art work fundraiser similar to what the Audubon Society of Portland (Oregon) does for their annual Wild Arts Fair. The focus, of course, is Alaska birds. The medium is up to the artist and it can even be mixed medium. The first three years I painted with acrylics, and this year is no different. I think my paintings are getting better. At least I hope they are. Here is what I submitted this year.
Bidding for the art work begins April 1 and runs through noon on May 13th. For more information go to: Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival website at: http://kachemakshorebird.org/2018-bird-art-trip-auction/
The festival is scheduled for May 10-13th. Lots of great trips, workshops, and presentations planned. I will be giving a presentation on my trip to Australia. The presentation is scheduled for Friday, May 11th 12:00 -12:50 pm. I will also be co-leading a Saturday Anchor Point Hotspot trip with Dave Erikson. This is a great place to be during shorebird migration.
As for what I will paint next year? If I submit a painting, I think it will be watercolor, rather than acrylic. I recently took a five-week (10 hours total) watercolor class at the local art store (Homer Art and Frame). Plus, I’ve been watching how-to videos (of which there are MANY) on my computer. I’ve learned a lot, but I need to practice, practice, practice.
On 5 March, I conducted my COASST (Coastal Observatory and Seabird Survey Team) Monitoring at Anchor River South (which is from the boat launch parking lot to the mouth of the spit). Again, I went during low tide (best time of the day, even with the longer daylight hours). The day couldn’t get any better – sunny, little or no wind, and low 30s. I even had my gloves off much of the time. And NO DEAD BIRDS – WOOHOO!!!
With my conducting the survey during low tide (-0.6 feet), I couldn’t see much of what was on the water bird wise. I made a promise to myself to go back and bird the area when it is sunny, a high tide, and little or no wind (easier to see the birds on the water). Plus, bring my spotting scope so I can see more birds.
Birding the Homer Spit
Cabin fever struck and I talked Jack into go down to the Homer Spit to bird on March 2nd. We got there before high tide. I was surprised with what we didn’t see – Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, Dunlin, Rock Sandpipers.
Got out again to bird the Homer Spit (March 11th), and while we had some good birds, the birds were further out in the bay. Lots of Long-tailed Ducks near the end of the spit – at least 150 of them. They must be processing fish nearby and releasing the waste into the bay.
Again I went to the Homer Spit to bird (March 17th). This is the best place to go in the winter for birding. There are generally a lot of birds out on the bay. The Black-legged Kittiwakes are back. They love to nest on the deep water dock and adjacent dolphins.
Homer Spit Birding Again? Why not, the Birds are Great
On 28 March, I headed out to the Homer Spit to bird yet again. The day was nice – light winds, high 30s, and mostly cloudy skies. The tide was in, which helped push the birds closer to shore and make them more visible. Despite that, I brought my spotting scope anyway so I could scope the bay at the End of the Road park.
The Long-tailed Duck are still here. They will soon migrate north to their breeding grounds. On the bay I spotted several large rafts of Common Murres. Many nest on nearby Gull Island, but nesting doesn’t occur until later in the summer. The food must be good in the bay at this time of the year.
In all, I had 23 different species. No surprises – no new birds. The usual 2000 or more Rock Sandpipers were roosting at the Boat Harbor. They were joined by at least 37 Dunlins. There could have been more Dunlins, but my hands were freezing (no gloves) so I only did a quick scan. One thing I did notice during the day was a lot fewer Black Scoters and Common Goldeneyes.
Short-eared Owls in Homer
The Short-eared Owls that migrate through our area in the spring and the fall have arrived earlier than usual on their way north. There have been numerous sightings over the month, and Jack and I were fortunate enough to spot one of the birds sitting on a fence post at the Homer Airport. The birds have generally been seen flying near the airport, along the Homer Spit, and along the lower bluffs out East End Road. A friend had actually seen two at her place. These are my favorite owl species and I felt very fortunate to be able to see this bird sitting. Guess it wasn’t time yet to hunt for dinner.
We looked for the bird again a few other times, but we were not successful. I did, however, get a glimpse of a Gray Jay. Haven’t seen them around most of the winter, which is unusual for us.
Anchor Point Birding
I went birding at Anchor Point on March 17th, and saw a total of 17 species, including a large raft of Common Eider (25), and two pairs of Steller’s Eider. Many of the Pigeon Guillemots were in breeding plumage. It is so much easier to identify them in breeding plumage. Also present were a number of Common Loons, and at least one Red-throated Loon. The bird was in winter plumage, but I swear I saw a red line down its throat. Is that how its breeding plumage starts – at the center of the throat and then out? Definitely the luck of the Irish – St. Patrick’s Day.
I truly was a great day to bird. I went during a high tide (19.8 – at 4:02 pm) and that brought a lot of the pelagic birds much closer to shore, although a spotting scope was still needed. The weather was nice (overcast, but little wind), and the seas were calm allowing for improved observation of the birds on the water.
As far as land birds go, there was only the Northwestern Crow. Needless to say, I really didn’t get any photographs.
Kachemak Bay Birders – March Field Trip
We went to Seaside Farms for our March Field Trip. The day was overcast, warm, with little or no wind. The roads were muddy and silly me I forgot to wear my xtratuf boots. Our leader, Jim Herbert, wanted to start around 2:00 pm in order to be birding during high tide and catch any seabirds or waterfowl on the bay. We did see large rafts of Greater Scaup and Common Goldeneye.
As for landbirds, Jim was hoping there would be sparrows present (there were in February when my friend Lani and I visited Seaside Farms to bird), however, none showed. The landowner, Mossy Kilcher, believes the Northern Shrike that has been hanging out probably kept the birds away. We did get a glimpse of the shrike.
I was happy with the birding because we had nice views of Common Redpolls (there were many), Dark-eyed Juncos (FOY – First of Year), and Brown Creeper (FOY). A female Downy Woodpecker graced us with her presence. I’m amazed how long they can stay in one place and not move – at all. Despite the lack of sparrows, it was still a beautiful day to be out birding with like minded people.
Sunshine on my shoulder, face, head … okay my entire body … makes me happy
The sun was shining, there was hardly a whisper of a wind (after several days of 10-20 mph winds), and a low tide so Jack and I grabbed Doodlebug and headed to Mariner’s Beach for a walk in late March. And I didn’t do any birding. This was a purely relax and release kind of day. No cares in the world other than to just be a part of nature. What more could you ask for?
I really need to learn the names of the different marine detritus washed up on our beaches.
Winter Continues (four months down, two months to go)
In early February, the ground hog saw its shadow indicating six more weeks of winter. In Alaska it really doesn’t matter if the ground hog sees its shadow or not we are guaranteed “at least” six more weeks of winter, if not twice that much.
The days are getting longer (well in terms of daylight). You can actually track the sun’s progress. The sun comes up further in the east and sets further in the west.
And the winner of the March Madness – all birds who survived.