Evening birding

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).

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Sunset at Pt. Woronzof

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.

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Three napping dowitchers. Longbilled–you’ll have to trust me on that one. A couple woke up long enough to wave them around a little. But I didn’t manage to have the camera on them then.

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.

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tree swallow on the railing of the Potter Marsh boardwalk.

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.

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Two dowitchers, one green-winged teal, one Eurasian 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.

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Before the muskrat went all unseemly

But here’s the full 42-count bird list for me for the evening of wandering about town:

American robin
American wigeon
Arctic tern
Bald eagles
Barrow’s goldeneye
Black-billed magpie
Black-capped chickadee
Bonaparte’s gull
Canada goose
Common goldeneye
Common redpoll
Dark-eyed junco
Eurasian wigeon
European starling
Gadwall
Gray jay
Greater yellowlegs
Green-winged teal
Herring gull
Least sandpiper
Lesser yellowlegs
Long-billed dowitcher
Mallard
Mew gull
Northern pintail
Northern shoveler
Pectoral sandpiper
Red-breasted nuthatch
Red-necked grebe
Red-necked phalarope
Red-throated loon
Ring-necked duck
Rock pigeon
Rusty blackbird
Sandhill crane
Short-billed dowitcher
Solitary sandpiper
Song sparrow
Tree swallow
Trumpeter swan
Wilson’s snipe
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.]


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