Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Curlews and Plovers

Temperature High 55, low 38. Overcast. WSW 10 mph RH 59%f

At present, there are birds all over the Valley in various stages of the migration.

The Sandhill Cranes are still hanging out at the UAF Experimental Field

Pectoral Sandpiper, near Snodgrass Field, Palmer, Alaska

This fella looked dazed and confused. I walked right up about 10 feet away. Perhaps he lost his mates.

One of several Whimbrels looking for worms in someone's yard.
Looking for Worms

White Rump and Tail

The tail is important for identification and differentiation from the Bristle-thighed Curlew
American Golden Plovers, Sandpipers in Flight

Flight of the American Golden Plovers
American Golden Plover

Red-necked Grebes

Weather: Sunny and cloudless day. Temperature up to 55 F here in Palmer, Alaska. We were warm as Seattle today but without the rain.

Red-necked Grebes are aquatic, surface diving birds that feed on fish, insects, mollusks and amphibians. They spend their summers on the lakes here in Alaska, and winter along the coast. Grebes eat a lot of their own feathers, and also feed them to their young. Some think this protects their stomachs from all the fish bones.

Grebes will aggressively defend their territory. Here you see a photo of a Grebe pair, but an interloper come in and displays aggressive behavior. A fight ensues, and the invader is repelled.

Pair of Red-necked Grebes
Aggressive Stance
A fight breaks out.
Bird of the Air China genus. You can track this bird here:

Spotted Sandpiper: It appears they have very flexible necks, and sometimes want to look up toward the sky.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sunday at Potter Marsh

The sun has finally melted the snow and birds are taking to their nests, pecking through the mud, or hunting over the fields. Clear skies, 47 degrees.

Red-necked Phalarope

Solitary Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

Greater Scaup, male and female

Mew Gull defends its nesting grounds
Arctic Tern
Mew Gull

Shorebird Identification

In my last post, I showed a picture of a Greater Yellowlegs. Below I have shown you a picture of a similar looking bird to the Lesser Yellowlegs, but it is much smaller. This bird on the left is about the size of a Least Sandpiper, about 6 inches. However, it does not have a slightly downturned or drooped bill as the Least Sandpiper does. It also has yellow legs.
Next to it there is a more rufous bird with a very long bill. There is a blade of grass in the way, but the black bill touches the water, as you can see from the ripples. It looks similar to a Short-billed Dowitcher, but again, is much smaller. This bird is about 6 inches, instead of about 11 inches for the Dowitcher. It's about the size of a Common Redpoll and smaller than an American Robin. Can you identify these birds? Write your thoughts in the comments.

Click for Original Size

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Snow in May

Yesterday showed the start of an extremely late season snowfall. Despite the snow, two Western Sandpipers and a solitary  Dowitcher were poking around the marsh near the Eklutna Tailrace on Friday. The sandpipers looked like they had cold feet on the snow and were looking hard for a bite to eat. Two American Wigeons swam on the Tailrace waters while Mew Gulls called from overhead.

Out at the Old Matanuska Townsite, a Greater Yellowlegs found some tasty treats in the water surrounded by 4 dabbling Green-winged Teals. Out in the grass, two late Sandhill Cranes hunkered down in disbelief at the fresh snow, glad they weren't farther north with their friends.

Today the sun came out in the afternoon to start melting the snow at Skyranch. The robins were quick to look for worms in the mud, the Tree Swallows swooped through the air picking up mosquitoes, and American Tree Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, and Lapland Longspurs sorted through the grass in our yard.

The bird feeder has attracted a few small mammals, and a Great Gray Owl came gliding through the woods.

Greater Yellowlegs, Old Matanuska Townsite

Greater Yellowlegs found some lunch.

The scene on Friday at the Old Matanuska Townsite
Sandhill Cranes wondering at the very late snowfall.

American Tree Sparrow at Skyranch

Savanah Sparrow: heavily streaked, yellow supraloral, strong mustache strip, small bill, and white belly.

Lapland Longspur

Hang in there everyone! This week will bring sunshine, warm weather, and relief for man and bird.

Friday, May 17, 2013

White-crowned Sparrow and Friends

Friday. Temperature: 39 RH: 87% Pressure: 29.38 Precipitation: Light Rain

We were shocked to see a forecast for possible snow today. This late in the year, we are all starved for spring. Thankfully, there was a fresh sign of spring: an American Robin in our yard, foraging on the ground with some White-crowned Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, and Black-capped Chickadees flitting overhead in the branches. Even in the rain or snow, life in Alaska is good.

Dark-eyed Junco
American Robin

American Robin

White-crowned Sparrows

The White-crowned Sparrow lives in the Southern US and Mexico during the winter. They are year-round residents of Oregon, Western Washington, and so on as seen. Many come to Alaska in the summer. They breed in bushes and stunted trees on taiga and tundra. This is a Gambel's subspecies. The median crown stripe meets the gray lores and the supercilium is not pinched off. The bill is also orange, but would be yellow in Pacific and pink in Dark-lored varieties.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival

A great time was had by all this weekend at the shorebird festival in Homer. We were blessed with nice weather most of the weekend and beautiful calm seas. I will post photos as time permits, but I wanted to get a list up of the birds I saw over the weekend. I could not get good photos of many, as we were rocking along in a small boat much of the time. I counted 50 separate species if you include the Double-crested Cormorant and Arctic Tern seen Cooper Landing. These include:

Pacific Loon
Common Loon
Red-necked Grebe
Horned Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Northern Pintail
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Harlequin Duck
Surf Scoter
White-winged Scoter
Red-breasted Merganser
Bald Eagle
Black-bellied Plover
Pacific Golden-Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Ruddy Turnstone
Black Turnstone
Western Sandpiper
Wilson's Snipe
Red-necked Phalarope
Glaucous-winged Gull
Black-legged Kittiwake
Common Murre
Pigeon Guillemot
Kittlitz's Murrelet
Tufted Puffin
Black-billed Magpie
Common Raven
Northwestern Crow
Tree Swallow
American Pipit
Orange-crowned Warbler
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lapland Longspur
Greater White-fronted Goose
Sandhill Crane
Mew Gull
Marbled Murrelet


Rafts of Common Murres

Pelagic Cormorants

Harlequin Ducks

Common Murre

Sandpipers, Dunlins

Scaup and Wigeon

Orange-crowned Warbler

Golden-crowned Sparrow

Birders on the Danny J

Pelagic Cormorants

Tufted Puffin