We started this trip on a bad note. Our limo driver overslept! Instead of picking us up at 2:45 am, he didn’t arrive until 3:30. With many apologies, he put the pedal-to-the-metal and got us to the airport at 4:30 for a 5 am flight. Fortunately, we had TSA PreCheck, so we sailed through security and arrived at the gate just as the last passengers were boarding. Whew!
We got to Chicago on time and the flight from there to Anchorage arrived a little early. We got the car, checked in at the motel and headed out to shop. On the way, we stopped at Spenard Crossing, having heard that a pair of Redheads were there. That would be a state bird for us. We got them.
Also there, Barb spied a Mew Gull nesting 20 feet up in a spruce tree! We still are not accustomed to seeing gulls and shorebirds up in trees…
We got our shopping done, got supper, and crashed for the night.
Sunday morning, we headed up to Arctic Valley (as usual). Keith Confer, an Anchorage resident — a birder going out to Adak — had scouted the area out for Willow Ptarmigan — one of our nemesis birds. He had heard some up there and some friends of his had flushed some in recent days. So I walked up the trail and played the call and got a response! The bird was calling from a willow thicket that I could not get very near, as there were several inches of fresh snow and walking off-trail was treacherous. The bird did not call again and did not show itself. So my sum experience with Willow Ptarmigans at this point is finding feathers a couple of trips back and now hearing one. So I guess that makes it two-thirds of a lifer…
Although we didn’t see the ptarmigan, we did see a few of the regular species up there.
A very angry-looking Golden-crowned Sparrow.
A fairly cooperative Savannah Sparrow.
And plenty of Robins.
Robins are plentiful in Anchorage, but I just hadn’t taken the time to photograph one before.
We also saw several Snowshoe Hares — already in their summer coats.
We birded several other locations. There was a pair of Greater White-fronted Geese at Potter’s Marsh — a new Alaska Mainland bird for us — and finally ended up at Lake Hood. There we found a pair of Barrow’s Goldeneyes and the friendly Red-throated Loon was back.
On to Adak. Our flight left about a half-hour late.
We arrived, got to our house, and started unpacking. We go a call from Aaron Lang that there was a flock of about 30 Brambling up near where Isaac used to live! We had never seen more than one or two Brambling at a time out here and the maximum we had ever seen during our two-week stays was about six!
We finished unpacking, loaded up the truck with our birding gear and headed out. We set birdseed out at several of the usual locations. We had a pair of Tufted Ducks on the Airport Ponds. We did a quick run up to Clam Lagoon and Shotgun Lake. We didn’t see anything obviously different, so we headed back down to look for the Bramblings.
As we dove through the area, Stefan, from Hi-Lonesome Bird Tours was also looking. He went one way, we another. He called us shortly after we split up to say he had found them. We went to his location and watched as a large flock of Bramblings worked their way up the roadside and finally disappeared up a hillside. I was unable to get photos, as they stayed just far enough ahead and kept moving. Maybe tomorrow. It was still pretty exciting.
There are 18 other birders here besides us. Lots of eyes and ears!
It is midnight here so I am signing off and will fill you in with the details of the other groups here tomorrow.