Thursday, July 3, 2008

Last Day in Alaska

As the Common Murres Uria aalge say good-bye, I'm sitting in the Anchorage airport waiting for my flight home. It has been a great 3 weeks in Alaska and I can see why people fall in love with it and move here. In some ways it is beginning to look like everywhere else (strip malls and the ubiquitous fast food restaurants) but in many ways it will always be different from any other place on earth. The last week of hiking, climbing and cruising has been fun, exhausting, dreamlike at times and well worth the time and effort to be here.

But let's talk birds. Of course I came to Alaska hoping to add to my life list but it wasn't a true birding trip. I had two weeks of work to do and then when I could travel the guys I was with weren't birders so I did what I could. The first thing I'll say is that with the huge amount of habitat available, finding birds wasn't as easy as you might think. I heard much more than I saw. Second, I was amazed at how many thrushes were around. They were probably the most numerous group I ran into. It was cool seeing Hermit Thrushes Catharus guttatus feeding young. Dark-eyed Juncos Junco hyemalis singing on territory was also a first. Did you know young juncos have spotted breasts? I didn't even though we see them in migration in the fall. Finally, I did have success in adding to my life list. The trip list is only about 65 or so species but here are my lifers (without scientific names):
Willow Ptarmigan
Red-faced Cormorant
Mew Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Black-legged Kittiwake
Arctic Tern
Marbled Murrelet
Kittlitz's Murrelet
Rhinoceros Auklet
Horned Puffin
Tufted Puffin (maybe my new favorite bird)
Northwestern Crow
Violet Green Swallow
Chestnut backed Chickadee
Varied Thrush
Golden-crowned Sparrow

Besides that I got to see other cool stuff I had only seen once before or a long time ago. Daniel Edelstein asked if I had seen any Wood Warblers while here and I did though not as many as I thought I might. These included:
Orange-crowned Warbler Vermivora celata all over singing on territory.
Yellow Warbler Dendroica petechia
Yellow-rumped Warbler Dendroica coronata
Townsend's Warbler Dendroica townsendi a pair on territory
Wilson's Warbler Wilsonia pusilla singing on territory

Another thing this trip suggested was that I need a better camera (who doesn't?) but I'll leave you with a picture of one of the cool flowers I saw, the Chocolate Lily.



Anonymous said...

Thanks for your posts on Alaska. I am off on Wednesday for a 7 day cruise from Vancouver to Seward with 6 days on our own on the Kenai. Hope to get some great birds. Anywhere on the Kenai you thought was esp. productive? It will be fun to see boreal species away from MN.

bevson said...

What! You saw a Willow Ptarmigan! Excellent. I am totally jealous, that would have been a lifer for me too. Great list! I have been back and forth checking on your trip. Sounds like you had a great time.