Wednesday, June 26, 2013

New Update: Anchorage, June 10-12, Now Home, June 20, 2013

In Anchorage on June 10, I first added Barrow's Goldeneye (drake in breeding plumage) at Lake Hood, number 504, after waking up late and shopping in the morning.  Several participants on the Attu trip had reported finding a Barrow's Goldeneye on the lakes near the airport.  I used information in A Birders Guide to Alaska by George C. West, the 2002 version, and also information provided by David Sonnenborn, MD, whom I had met on a previous trip to Attu in 1989, as well as Isaac Helmericks, a guide on the Attu trip.  While on the Puk-uk at Attu, I had compared the new version of The Birders Guide to Alaska and the older version that I took with me and found that there was not much difference between the two versions about the birds to be expected in the Anchorage area. 

On June 10 my first day in Anchorage, I woke up late, because I was tired from the rigors of Attu birding.  In the morning, I bought a bear bell and a canister of bear spray with a holster as recommended by Isaac Helmericks our guide on Attu who lives in Alaska.  I never had to use it, fortunately, but all the signs in every park around Anchorage warned about being prepared.  After seeing the Barrow's Goldeneye, I went to Westchester Lagoon, and quickly found Arctic Terns, number 505, about 25, in breeding plumage and Hudsonian Godwits, number 506, about 30, most in full breeding plumage, on the island by the parking lot, even though it was not high tide in the evening.  There was a cooperative Red-necked Grebe which caught a fish and swallowed it while I watched.  See photos.  Then I drove to Potter's Marsh to the boardwalk and heard but did not see
Distant Hudsonian Godwits

Red-necked Grebe
Alder Flycatcher, number 507.  I had missed the last week of May in Ohio and therefore missed Alder Flycatcher during spring migration.  At Potter's, the Arctic Terns at the pull off south of the boardwalk were beautiful as were the mew Gulls.  See photos.  During this day I also saw Common Redpoll, Black-billed Magpie, Black-capped Chickadee, Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's race), Mew Gull, Semipalmated Plover and Lesser Yellowlegs, none of these new for the year.  The sun set at about 11:30 pm while I was in Anchorage but it never got completely dark.  I had to rely on physical tiredness to remember to stop birding and get some sleep.  The weather in Anchorage was unexpectedly warm and very sunny with daytime highs into the seventies for almost every day I was there and for at least 3 days before I arrived.
Arctic Tern

On June 11, I started early to take advantage high tide at Westchester Lagoon, but found nothing new.  The mountains in the distant over Cook Inlet were special.  See photos.   I did see and hear an Alder Flycatcher along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, as well as Yellow and Orange-crowned Warblers.  I stopped back at Potter's Marsh, because the host had told me on June 10 that he had seen Wilson's Warbler there already this  year.  I had missed Wilson's warbler during
Mew Gull

spring migration in Ohio due to preparations for and the Attu trip. At Potter's Marsh, I  saw the Alder Flycatchers at close range (See photo) and also heard Northern Waterthrush and Hermit thrush as well as Savannah Sparrow, Wilson's Snipe and Lesser Yellowlegs.  Nothing new there.  I continued to Hillside Park in hopes of finding Olive-sided  Flycatcher, Townsend's Warbler, Spruce Grouse or one of the three toed woodpeckers.  I did not find any of the sought for birds but saw several Boreal Chickadees in the spruce near the ski jump and found more Yellow-rumped Warblers, singing Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a family of Gray Jays, and Common Raven--also

View from Tony Knowles Trail
nothing new.  I noticed that most people that I saw or met on the trails did not seem to be prepared for bears!  I left Hillside Park and went to Chugach State Park at Glen Alps.  There was a good chance of seeing Willow Ptarmigan as well as other alpine species.  Due to the nice weather, the trails were overrun by hikers and tourists.  At

View from Tony Knowles Trail
 any given time, I could see about ten people on top of Flattop, the destination of most hikers, and at least twice that many on the trails leading to the final ascent.   See photo of Flattop.  The second photo is an extension of the firs to the west, showing the awesome scenery and why on sunny warm days Glenn Alps is so popular and

Alder Flycatcher
full of hikers.  My guide to Alaska birding warned about this large number of people.   I stayed near the parking lot and the overlook that looks down over Anchorage and scanned distant willows and meadows.  I succeeded in hearing a Wilson's
Warbler in the willows near the parking lot, number 508.  I also expected to see these also in Nome.   I also saw Golden-crowned and White-crowned Sparrows and heard a distant thrush that I did not hear well
Looking Northwest of Flattop
enough to be sure it was a Gray-cheeked Thrush.  I expected to see and hear them in Nome.  A third photo is from the overlook giving along distant view of downtown Anchorage.

In the evening, Dave Sonnenborn called to see how I was doing and verified that my precautions for bears was a good idea, as also stated by Isaac Helmericks.  After talking to Dave, I decided to go back to Hillside Park on my last day.  The alternate choice was to
View of Anchorage from Glenn Alps
drive south of  Anchorage toward Indian where Isaac Helmericks' brother lives and Wandering Tattlers are common.  Also, further south a Spruce Grouse was reported to me by a man from Great Britain who had photographed a Spruce Grouse on a trail with a boardwalk off the road to Grayling Lake about 20 miles north of Seward.  I met him at Westchester Lagoon    Spruce Grouse can be found in the Anchorage area at Hillside Park, if one is lucky, and Wandering Tattlers can be found on the coast of California in the fall and possibly in Nome.

On June 12, my last full day in Anchorage, I returned to Hillside Park and walked the trails finding a singing Olive-sided Flycatcher, OSFL, (singing "whip three beers"), number 509, off the trail in an opening in the conifers.  This location was reached by walking the wide multiuse trail leading north off of the right side of the end of the skiing parking lot until this multiuse trail drops down toward Campbell Creek.  I took the right most of three trails to the right just at the point where the multiuse trail drops toward the creek, and continued diagonally up the hill until the trail turns sharply left and uphill.  When I stopped to try to find the OSFL, I heard a tapping sound and walked carefully and loudly on a trail into the woods toward the opening.  I found an American three-toed Woodpecker, number 510, feeding on a dead conifer at the edge of the opening, could see the white barred back and yellow cap with some barring near the back of the crown but could not get photos.  This woodpecker insisted on staying on the shady side of the tree and I was looking directly into the sun; thus, could not find the bird in my lens, given how low in the sky the sun is in Anchorage.  I finally saw the OSFL briefly before it flew down and disappeared.  The woodpecker disappeared as well, due to a Merlin that flew through the opening.  When I returned out of the woods to the main trail, I started hearing a song that I was sure was a Townsend's Warbler.  I pursued this bird uphill until it met a trail that is part of the Spencer Loop.  I could never see the singer but was sure it was Townsend's Warbler.  It was clearly different than the Orange-crowned Warblers and Yellow-rumped Warblers common in the park and sounded like Townsend's Warbler song that I had heard in the state of Washington in the past.  I returned briefly to my vehicle and downloaded a video with a singing Townsend's Warbler to my Droid Razr, hoping to use it again to pull in the warbler.  I quickly ate my sub carried for dinner and returned to the trail.  Before the left turn uphill on the trail, a Townsend's Warbler started singing unassisted.  I played the video (lucky that this worked) and a beautiful male Townsend's Warbler, number 511, flew down on a close birch branch, so close that I did not need binoculars, confirming my voice identification.  That was really satisfying to know that I remembered this song from years ago.  I did not have time this year to review all the songs that I might hear in the west.  I had texted Dave Sonnenborn about my finds and sent him the exact location of the American three-toed Woodpecker and also forwarded the location details to Isaac Helmericks, as he had requested while on the Attu trip.  I had also used Isaac as a resource for birding in Anchorage.  Dave suggested that I should continue birding to look for Spruce Grouse--when you're hot, you're hot.  However, I had a 6:00 am flight to Nome tomorrow and needed for repack my stuff for the flight.  Besides that, a man told me he had just seen a Black Bear walking along the entry road into the park headed toward where I was parked.  That was just before I returned to the trail away from the location of the bear to see the Townsend's Warbler.  I figured I should not push my luck, and decided I needed the rest.  Dave offered to keep my bear spray in Anchorage until a future return, and he picked it up at my motel the next day.

Barrow's Goldeneye, Arctic Tern, Hudsonian Godwit, Alder Flycatcher, Wilson's Warbler, Olive-sided Flycatcher, American Three-toed Woodpecker, and Townsend's Warbler yields a total of 511.

On to Nome.


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