"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa
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Saturday, June 26, 2021

Those Eyes!

 On a recent trip to the Denali highway, we stopped by a small lake and found a pair of horned grebes.


Their eyes will keep you awake at night.




Thursday, June 17, 2021

Busy Days

 These are busy times for me.    I've cleaned litter from roughly 25 miles of highway and spent a lot of time at Tern Lake observing the birds.

I'm getting ready to go on my annual birding trip to the Denali Highway.

In the meantime, here's what's happening at Tern Lake.



 

Grebe chicks immediately climb on an adult's back as soon as they hatch.  That is where they will stay for several days.

Each pair of grebes has hatched at least one chick and are still sitting on unhatched eggs.  This grebe just rearranged the eggs.....




..and on her back, a chick wonders what all the movement is about.




It isn't all about birds, though.   This evening a muskrat swam by with a big salad for the family.




Monday, June 7, 2021

Grand-Grebes Arriving Soon

There are two sets of red-necked grebes nesting at Tern Lake this summer.   I can see both nests from the highway.

This photo shows a shift change about to occur on one nest.   Both parents take turns.



They appear to have five eggs.





It takes a while for the adult to fluff up those breast feathers and settle on the eggs.



This photo was taken in the golden light of late evening when the breast feathers looked like burnished copper.


 

Saturday, May 29, 2021

A Day in the Life

 

I got home from cleaning up litter about 6:30  couple days ago, so tired I didn’t even do a little birding on the way home and was amazed that I didn’t collapse on the side of the highway with temps in the mid-seventies.

I had just enough energy to drag myself out to the front deck with a camera, iPad, and cup of lemonade, all of which I put on that cottonwood half-round that ticked off my sacroiliac earlier this month when I insisted on dragging it home.

 


 

 For the next two hours, I was thoroughly entertained.   

 Violet-green swallows did aerobatics in front of me, a female pine grosbeak landed on the cottonwood slab, looked at me with a “What have I done?” glance then hopped over to a feeder.

 

After she realizes her mistake and jumps to the feeder.

 

 

Black-capped chickadees were flitting about and carrying off the seeds I’d sprinkled on the deck rail.  Then one large one landed on the  shoe on my crossed legs,  and wanted peanuts!  No doubt about that. 

 

Black-capped chickadee


I got some shelled peanuts, gave one to the big bird and tried to entice a couple more but they flew to  the lid of a peanut butter container I have clipped to a spruce branch and where I usually put their peanuts.  Smart little things.

So, I put a few peanuts  in the lid and a few on the rail.  Shortly, I heard an unhappy chickadee and looked over to see Squirrel raiding the peanut dish.

 

Who?   Me?

 

If I’d had the energy, I would have jumped for joy when I realized a yellow-rumped warbler was at the suet feeder.

 

Yellow-rumped warbler, one of my favorite birds.

 

The male pine grosbeak landed on the rail in front of me, sang me a song and partook of the sunflower seed feast.  On top of a tree behind him, a robin was also singing that it was back.

 

Male pine grosbeak.

 

 

American Robin

 

Male and female dark-eyed juncos were looking for seeds that had spilled to the deck and, apparently, I was too big for them to see because they were almost at my feet.

 

Male junco.

 

 


Female junco.

Also joining in the fun were nuthatches, pine siskins, two Steller’s jay, a polite magpie (because he took only one peanut at a time)...

 

Black-billed magpie.  He isn't blind.  That's the nicitating membrane or third-eyelid.

 

... and an unidentified  bird that sang LOUDLY and DISTICTLY ”chimmy, chimmy, chimmy, chimmy, chee......chip, chip, chip”  that I couldn’t get a good look at.

 

Pine siskin

 

Steller's Jay

 

 

 

Pine siskins.

I should do this more often.

Friday, May 21, 2021

The Princess




 "What's the matter, Martha Dear?   Are you having trouble getting comfortable?"




"Yes, Sweetie.  I thought there was a rock under the mattress, but it was just a little pea."

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Road Trip, Leg 2: Hawk Eyes

 
 

  Mounts Sanford, Drum, and Wrangell from the Glennallen Highway

 

(Palmer to Gulkana)   We left Palmer early morning and headed up the Glenn Highway in a northeasterly direction.    We had gone all of forty miles after two hours, which is good time when one considers that we pulled into every wide spot, pull out, back road, etc., always on the lookout for birds.

 We found them.   Ruby-crowned kinglets and dark-eyed juncos especially, and also some swans and other waterfowl.  I’ll tell you something:   were it not for Leilani’s exceptional hearing and knowledge of bird song, I would not see anywhere near as many birds as I do.

Given that, it’s hard to get decent photos of kinglets.   They are the first of the songbirds to return to Alaska and are much sought-after by bird photographers.   They also don’t hold still!   Ever.  

 

This bird is a ruby-crowned kinglet and probably the best shot of the trip.   I wish it had its red feathers up on its head.



Bye.



Dark-eyed junco.   Sweet and accommodating birds.



Another junco.

 

 This rock formation is called Lion's Head.   In all my years in  Alaska, I have yet to understand why.




 

 

We stopped to photograph some mountains on the climb up Sheep Mountain.  The gypsum in the mountains have been stained orange by iron and are quite pretty.







 

 Looking back at one of the least scary parts of the road.

 

 

And a few Dall sheep but too far away for a decent photo.

 

 

Eventually, we were in the high country near Gunsight Mountain and Leilani turned into a pullout where two men were scanning the skies with binoculars.

 The first thing I noticed, of course, was all the appalling litter around the site.  We spoke with the two volunteers from Hawk Watch who were counting migrating raptors that flew through this migration pass, apparently using a mile-wide thermal in the area.   How they can sight in on a black dot and recognize it for what kind of bird it is, is quite beyond me.

 

 



And yet:

 

I was so embarrassed by the litter that I grabbed a yellow litter bag and my grab stick and cleaned up around the men.   

 

 

Photo by Leilani.


Another look at those mountains with an explanation sign:




 


Moving on, we spotted American Wigeons and Green-winged Teal in some open water and photographed them.

 Green-winged  teals.



American wigeons

 

 By the time we reached Glennallen, it was early afternoon.   Too soon to check into our B&B, we drove a bit farther to the Gulkana airport and off road to a small lake.  The resident pair of trumpeter swans were there, as well as the usual suspects—mallards, northern pintails, and such.

 Then, Leilani and I decided to have a late lunch at our must-stop diner—Ernesto’s.   The best Mexican food in Alaska, for sure.  Afterwards, B&B time.