I completely spaced this week’s early morning bird walk in the Campbell Tract (I was up, just not awake, clearly) so in lieu of that I and a friend went birding at two of our favorite spots in Anchorage after work last night. Potter Marsh and Lake Hood/Lake Spenard (the float-plane/small aircraft airports out by the international airport).
The migratories are here with a vengeance. Dowitchers were the bird of the evening, every time we looked at any patch of land in close proximity to water they seemed to be there. Both short-billed and long-billed. Telling the two apart are a real problem for me when I’m looking at the short-billed: I always think: what a long bill! And then I see a long-billed and am reminded, no, that’s a long bill.
One of the spottings that made me particularly happy was a pair of rusty blackbirds. They’re the object of a lot of citizen science around here since, as I understand it, the numbers and habitat have been declining. And we not only got to see them but they were moving around and visible within about 10 feet of us. Usually when we see them at Potter Marsh we’re catching glimpses of them in reeds at hundreds of feet away. Not last night!
A couple of my favorite migratory birds are back in evidence: tree swallows (at Potter Marsh) and red-throated loons (at Lake Hood). Oh, and who can resist the twirling paddling of the red-necked phalaropes? We saw those at Potter Marsh, but they’re usually in evidence at Lake Hood, too. Hopefully we’ll see them there soon because they’re usually closer in to the edges of the lake at Lake Hood.
We came across one relative rarity: a Eurasian wigeon. There are regular sightings of them here at least once a year or so, but this is the first time in a long time I’ve seen one. That at Potter Marsh, too. Thanks to the birder who told us about it while we were wandering the boardwalk at Potter Marsh: I rarely go all the way out to the southern end of it, but on her advice we did and we got great views of that wigeon.
Oh, yeah, and bunches of Wilson’s snipe not being secretive in the slightest.
And in the non-feathered category, two very very very pregnant moose (the Anchorage moose moms should all be dropping calves sometime in the next couple of weeks) and a fluffed out, preening male muskrat. And you ask how I know he was a male? Sadly, his preening turned into a possibly related behavior and I was able to identify his gender by a far too close look at a portion of his anatomy that I would much rather have remained out of range of my binoculars.
But here’s the full 42-count bird list for me for the evening of wandering about town:
Scaup [indeterminate, I’m afraid. The pair was a long way off and the female was sleeping–and I can only reliably tell the difference between lesser & greater by the female’s face.]