Saturday, June 29, 2013

Cape May Point

This afternoon I did a walk with Lisa and Rob and some of their friends.  The couple are getting married tomorrow and since they are birders decided to incorporate a bird walk into the pre-wedding festivities.  Such a cool idea!
We walked the beach first. We saw a group of 4 American Oystercatchers with other 2 AO's displaying.  It is late to start nesting again but perhaps that is what is happening.  Before I left for Alaska there were at least 6 chicks split between 2 pairs and some eggs still in nests but sadly all of those chicks have been eaten except one.  I was fortunate enough to get picture of one of the AO pairs with their chicks right before leaving for my trip.  Next up were some Ring-billed Gulls on the beach.  We saw Least Terns but only one or two as the whole colony of LT has left the area.  I heard that the Nature Conservancy feels that it's because the eggs and nests were being lost to predators - perhaps fox and coyote.  Again I have some pictures of the LT with their nests and in courtship rituals from late May but I am sad not to see the terns here today.  There were also Forster's Tern, Common Terns, Black Skimmers and then a Gull tern was spotted by Rob. The ponds held a Killdeer, Mallards with Purple Martins and Tree Swallows flying over the tops. We saw Catbirds, Cowbirds, King birds, Robins and all manner of the usual summer regulars. We also saw Cabbage White butterflies and a Pearl Crescent butterfly. We ended the walk with over 50 species of birds and had fun meeting fellow birders and new friends.

Then after the walk I made a quick stop at The Triangle Park to look for butterflies. I haven't seen many butterflies since I got home and have talked to Will, expert who has said the butterfly species and overall numbers are down so far this spring/summer.  I can only hope that they start to pick up as the weather gets hotter.  The garden is looking good with lots of flowers blooming.  Then I stopped by The Meadows where I saw a Killdeer on nest out in the parking lot.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

West Chester Lagoon, Anchorage, Alaska

Last stop of the day before going to eat at Kay's was the West Chester Lagoon.  Alaska has been in a heat wave the temperatures have been between 65-80 degrees instead of the 58-65 degrees we had been expecting on our vacation. At the lagoon we found native Alaskan's were dressed in bathing suits and shorts when it was about 72 degrees with a breeze.  I was in slacks, shirt and jacket.  They were laughing at the tourists being "overdressed."  At the lagoon there were some shorebirds out at the island.  I was able to ID some Short-bellied Dowitchers before they all flew off.  There were also Arctic Terns, Mallards, Scaup- both Greater and Lesser, a Red-necked Grebe, American Wigeon, a selection gulls, Black-billed Magpie and more.

Alaska Botanical Garden - Anchorage

Our next stop was Alaska Botanical Gardens in Anchorage.  We always try to visit as many botanical gardens as we are able when we are traveling.  Here are some of the pictures.  One of the cool parts about visiting here today was seeing 2 species of butterflies - Tiger Swallowtail  who were nectaring on daffodils that were just opened and a species of white that was nectaring on flowers.  Even though the gardens is young they have gotten off to a good start.  We were surprised today to hear that their annual fund raiser is tonight which includes an auction so there was lots of art being set up for the auction.

Potter's Marsh

We had such a great time watching the Arctic Terns and the Mew Gulls yesterday at Potter's Marsh we decided to return today.  First, we drove back to Windy Corner along the Seward Highway to see if we could see any Dall Sheep coming down the mountain face.  We weren't successful in finding any sheep but saw a great waterfall so off to the Marsh we went.  Once there we talked to several other birders/photographers who were standing on the Turnagain Arm side of the road to find out what the they seeing. They reported a Horned Grebe pair with 3 chicks.  We stayed to watch for the Grebes and within a few minutes we were rewarded with great looks at them.  The chicks are really adorable.  I see Horned Grebes in the winter in Cape May County but seeing them in breeding plumage was so cool. Plus seeing the chicks was one of the highlights of this trip.
Dad feeding fish to chick

Horned Grebes - Chick with fish

After spending a good bit of time observing the Horned grebe we went back over to the turnout where we parked and saw a Red-necked Grebe catching fish and feeding on them. (below)
Mew Gulls chicks (below)

Once we we were done watching the Arctic Terns, their chicks plus the Mew Gulls and their chicks we drove to the main parking area, parked and walked along boardwalk.  Among the birds there were Mallard's, Green-winged Teal's and their chicks, Alder Flycatcher (life bird), Tree Swallows, Black-capped Chickadees, Bald Eagle and Common Ravens.  We saw moose.  What a great spot for birding and wildlife and so close to Anchorage.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Soldotna to Anchorage, Alaska

Today's trip was from Soldotna to Anchorage across the Sterling Highway on the Kenai Peninsula.  I was very sorry to be leaving but anxious to move on and see what adventures Anchorage would bring to our vacation.  It's sad our vacation is drawing to a close and there is so much more of Alaska to explore.  I know that I would like to return and see more in the future.  The only stop we made was at the Kenai River Lookout where we saw some Lesser Yellowlegs and a variety of gulls.  Then we didn't stop anywhere until we reached Tern Lake as I wanted to take some pictures of the Arctic Terns flying but the winds had picked up and the skies were very dark so we stopped long enough to eat some lunch and kept going after eating. We stopped at several pullovers along Turnagain Arm before arriving at Potter's Marsh which is about 15 minutes outside of Anchorage.  We had heard that Potter's Marsh had flooded on Monday so we really weren't sure what to expect in regards to viewing the birds and other wildlife.  We were excited to see some nesting Arctic Terns and nesting Mew Gulls (life bird) along with Arctic Terns and Mew Gulls with chicks. We also had good looks at a Red-necked Grebe (life bird) and some Crackling Geese and goslings.

Mew Gull and chicks
Mom, I'm Hungry
Not this fish, Mom! it's too big!!
Oh, look I am off the ground.
Oh look, I am getting higher off the ground.  Soon I'll be able to fly!
As it was still fairly early we checked out the boardwalk but decided to come back tomorrow and walk it plus see the chicks again.  Driving into Anchorage wasn't bad and we went over to the Quilted Raven Quilt Shop where Jenny bought a pattern for a bag and some batiks to use in making the bag.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tustumena Lake, Alaska

Next stop was driving down the Tustumena Lake Road to the lake.  The is the largest freshwater body on the Kenai Peninsula.  It is glacial fed and features 45 degree water temps and it is notorious for sudden severe winds.  Once at the boat launch I saw a Red-breasted Merganser pair flyby and some shorebirds fly across the lake but far enough away that I couldn't ID them without a scope.  Then I decided to walk along the edge of the lake for a bit.  I was surprised to have some Bonaparte Gulls (life bird) dive bombing me which usually means there is a nest nearby.  As I walked a little farther I saw a Yellow Legs on a little island of rock.  Then I saw a Bonaparte Gull with 2 chicks behind it.  How great it is to see the chicks.
Bonaparte Gull with chicks

Kachemak Bay and Gull Island

Our plans for this morning were to take a boat ride out to Gull Island before leaving Homer.  We chose Bay Excursions lead by birder Ken Stoltzfus.  He is a well known Alaskan birder and his trips come highly recommended.  His boat holds about 15 people and there were 11 birders on our trip.  At the dock we met a couple from Santa Barbara, CA.  Turns out Dolores is from our hometown in PA and that her parents rented my parents their first apt.  As far as we know we've never met before.  Later in the cruise we met a birder from Cornell who knows our brother-in-law, Bert.  They know each other from birding in NJ & both have participated in the World Series of Birding sponsored by NJ Audubon.  What a small world!
The trip took us first around Kachemak Bay where we saw Sea Otters and their calf's, Marbled Murrelets (life bird), Aleutian Terns (life bird), a Common Loon, Pacific Loon (life bird), Harlequin Ducks, American Bald Eagle, Brant,  and several species of Gulls.  Once out closer to Gull Island there were Horned and Tufted Puffin, Pigeon Guillemot, Pelagic Cormorant, hundreds of Common Murre and gulls, gulls and more gulls - Black-legged Kittiwake and Glaucous-winged gull.  It was an incredible sight.
Aleutian Terns

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Out & about at Beluga Lake

 Our cabin was along Lake Drive in Homer.  I decided that I would take a walk along the road to see what wildlife I could see.  There were flowers to be seen.  I saw Swaison's Thrush (life bird),  Orange-crowned Warbler (life bird), Yellow-rumped Warblers, Fox Sparrow and Greater Scaup.