So despite the Covid-19 pandemic I have been able to get out and bird the local area, as well as my own yard.  Early morning birding doesn’t appeal to Jack so I generally go with four friends:   Lani, Megan, Jim, and Tim.

Anchor Point/Anchor River

We’ve gone several times to the Anchor Point beach/Anchor River to bird.  This is the time of year to catch the migrating (outbound) shorebirds.   They breed in the Arctic and then head south to leave the young to figure out migration and survival.  Jack and I have taken Moxie a time or two as she loves the beach but happily doesn’t chase birds.  The best time to go for shorebirds is when the rocks along the beach are exposed following an outgoing tide – generally when the outgoing tide is around 9.0 feet or less.  The more exposed rocks, the more feeding areas for the birds.  From late June through July, the shorebirds seen are the following:

  • Black Turnstone
  • Surfbird
  • Ruddy Turnstone
  • Whimbrel
  • Sandpipers – Least, Western, or Semi-palmated
  • Spotted Sandpiper
  • Short-billed Dowitcher
  • Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs
  • Red-necked Phalarope
  • Rock Sandpiper
  • Bristle-thighed Curlew

At least that is what I’ve seen this year.

The Black Turnstones are generally the birds seen in the highest numbers – several hundred.  Surfbirds aren’t far behind.  Whimbrel numbers vary from a few to up to 88 (the most I’ve seen on the beach at one time).  And this year I even spotted a Bristle-thighed Curlew.  These birds are distinguished from the Whimbrel by their unmarked buff colored rump.  This bird just happened to be about 30 yards from me when it flew straight out.  Couldn’t miss seeing the color of that bird’s rump.  Woohoo!!!  In Alaska I’ve only seen this bird once before (since it often misses our area as it migrates to breed in Western Alaska) during the 2009 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival and it was on this beach.

At one of our birding outings our group did see 37 roosting Greater Yellowlegs on the sand/gravel bars in the Anchor River.  That was quite a sight.  None of us had ever seen that many yellowlegs at one time.  We were surprised to also find two Red-necked Phalaropes – birds usually attributed to the sea during migration – along the river as well.  One was later spotted in the rocks feeding along with the Surfbirds, Whimbrels, and Black Turnstones.

There are other non-shorebirds to see here as well, although out on the bay it has been pretty quiet.

On 28 July Jack and I ventured back to the beach and walked from the boat launch parking lot to the mouth of the river.  The mouth is several hundred yards further north than when we first started going to the beach over 10 years ago.  At the first fishing hole, we had at least 48 Greater (mostly) and Lesser Yellowlegs loafing or feeding along the river – mostly loafing.   Then at the mouth we had another 24 Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, again loafing, along with a small mix flock of Black Turnstone and Surfbirds.   These two species’ migration numbers are dwindling.  Early to mid-July is generally the peak outbound migration for these birds.

Arctic Tern

There are about six or seven Arctic Terns in this photo.  Jack and  I saw a total of 12 – adults and hatch year birds during one outing

Jack and Moxie at the Anchor River

This Bald Eagle (subadult) was about ten feet away

I don’t think I would want to be on the receiving end of those claws

This is the first time in 13 years there has been an abandoned vehicle on the Anchor Point beach. I wonder how long it will stay there.

Bristle-thighed Curlew

The bird walking away after it flew a short distance away from me, thus enabling me to get a good look at its buff colored, unmarked rump (now hidden).

Can you spot the bird in this photo?

Here it is … a Least Sandpiper

They launch boats from this beach and park the trailers on the beach.  Halibut fishing anyone?  Busy this year despite the pandemic.

Anchor Point beach – lots of seaweed

The sand and gravel bars in the Anchor River

Anchor River

To the beach, to the beach to the sandy beach

A Red-breasted Nuthatch youngster. Not as colorful – yet – as its parents

Searching for spiders and other bugs to eat

Mew Gull

First cycle Glaucous-winged Gull

Common Raven

Now how did she know I was going to take her photo. Artist doing plein air painting ( outdoor painting)

This is area with ponds is just behind the Boat Launch Parking Lot – a good place for shorebirds and waterfowl during spring migration.  Not so good during outbound migration for these same species.

The grasses have grown tall so not as easy to see birds here as in early spring

On July 20th we had a beautiful day

I like this photo of the Black and Ruddy Turnstones because of the print marks on the rock caused by the Black Turnstone

Rock Sandpiper – we usually see these birds here in the winter time

Size Comparison between the Rock Sandpiper (left) and Black Turnstone (right)

Here the Ruddy Turnstone (back) and Rock Sandpiper (front)

The waves surprised this Rock Sandpiper into flushing (getting out of the way of the water)

Lesser Yellowlegs – one day we saw 14 of these birds.  They are much rarer here than Greater Yellowlegs.

Red-breasted Merganser and five ducklings. There were actually two families on the river one day. The other family had four ducklings, smaller in size than these ones.

Mew Gull chick. Yeah, big chick. The parent tried bomb diving Moxie.

One of the Lesser Yellowlegs on our big day of yellowlegs (28 July)

Greater Yellowlegs feeding along the bank of the Anchor River

I “spotted” this Spotted Sandpiper along the banks of the Anchor River.  I later saw four at the mouth of the river. The bird is lacking its “spots”.

Dead sea otter on the beach. I could smell this critter some distance off. Luckily Moxie didn’t want anything to do with it.

Eagle Lake

Jack and I also do loon monitoring at Eagle Lake. We have been monitoring Pacific Loons here since around 2009.  This year we were hopeful that a chick would fledge.  We saw a young chick riding on the back of one of its parents one week, and then the next week when we went back the chick was swimming on its own near its parents.  We watched as several times the parents would dive for food leaving the chick unattended.  This was not good.  In fact, the following week when we went to check on the chick it was gone.  It might have been one of those times when the parents were underwater searching for food that the young chick was taken by a killed – most likely by a Bald Eagle.  There are Merlin (small raptor) and Mew Gulls in the area, but the chick looked too large for a Merlin or a Mew Gull to overtake.  Of course I guess all the Merlin or Mew Gull would have to do is kill the chick in the water and slowly drag it to shore.  I wonder what happened.  If only I was a fly on the water (wall) so to speak.   We will go back out in August one more time to see if the Pacific Loon pairs are still there so we can complete our monitoring tasks and complete the necessary report.

On the way to Eagle Lake one day we saw a Spruce Grouse hen with eight chicks

Spruce Grouse Hen

Spruce Grouse chick – they are getting big

Eagle Lake

Jack checking out the birds with the spotting scope

This Greater Yellowlegs did not want us there. Squawked the entire time.

The lake is slowly evaporating leaving small mud islands like the one this Greater Yellowlegs was using

Merlin (adult)

This hatch year Merlin was squawking up a storm. Not sure if the bird wanted us to feed it or leave.

Alpine Bog Swertia (Swertia perennis) – a member of the Gentian family

Lily pads and flower

Elephant’s Head

Up close view of the Elephant’s head (Pedicularis groenlandica) a type of  lousewort

White Bog-orchid (Plantanthera dilatata)

Lincoln’s Sparrow

Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia). There was a lot of sundew at the lake

Wild Gernanium (Geranium erianthum)


There is never a dull bird moment at our house.  I think one day I counted about 15 hatch year Golden-crowned Sparrows.  We must have several breeding pairs nearby.

We also successfully hatched three Tree Swallows.  Well we didn’t personally, but the pair on our property were able to raise and fledge that many.  We have a nest box that has been used since we lived here.  Early in the year two pairs of Tree Swallows were fighting over the box.  The winners laid four eggs, of which three hatched.

Our nest box has three holes, rather than the typical one hole.  The purpose of three holes is to prevent the first born from poking out the hole and gobbling up all the food that the hard-working parents bring back for the young.  With three holes, three chicks can all hang out their hole waiting for food.  When they do start appearing at the holes, it is signal that flight feathers are developed and they are only a matter of days away from fledging.  And once they fledge, they and the parents disappear – time to head south we suspect.

This year the young birds first appeared at the holes on a Tuesday and by Friday the last youngster had fledged.  It seemed as though the last young bird had been holding out for a free meal as it was hanging out of the hole for most of the day without the parents returning to feed it (at least not that we observed).  I was getting a little worried when it finally gave up and flew away.  When that happened, I knew I wouldn’t be seeing any of the swallows again.  And I haven’t.  I hope they have a safe journey south.

At our house the young birds continue to chase each other around the yard, while their parents smartly eat to fatten up for migration.  Will miss all the sparrows when they head south in the fall.

For a diversion to enjoy, we have a family of Black-billed Magpies with five youngsters cavorting around.  They are now just coming into their long tails and blue/green sheen on their flight feathers.  Noisy birds.

Hatch year Tree Swallows in their nest box waiting for food

American Robin youngster

One of our Sandhill Crane pairs – the pair failed to produce any colts this year sadly

This one relaxing on the rock path to our garden

There are at least ten birds here feeding – mostly sparrow youngsters

Golden-crowned Sparrow (hatch year bird)

The swimming pools/bath tubs for our birds

Fox Sparrow bathing

We had this Porcupine visiting us one morning. Luckily Moxie was inside so she couldn’t investigate.

I flushed the porcupine as I opened the window to take a photo

Making its way to safety

What it uses – its quills – to defend itself.

One of the seven Black-billed Magpies – this is one of the youngsters

Black-billed Magpie

Our Poppies

I like that they don’t all bloom at once

And they are quite prolific

One morning I woke up to four hatch year Ring-necked Pheasants under our spruce tree feeding on sunflower seeds. I also saw the hen drinking from our water dish. I suspected there were pheasants around, but this is the first time I’ve seen them since early winter. Yay!!!

Morning has broken ….

It’s Always A Great Day to Bird