Friday, September 9, 2011

North, to Alaska - Life Birds Galore! (152-156)

I just got back from a 2.5 week trip to the West Coast, and when I say I just got back, I mean I just got back. I haven't even finished unpacking but my bird blog is calling!!! This may be a little less interesting to local birders, but so exciting for me.

I didn't announce my trip to  many people, and certainly not on the net, since I've had my house broken into when I was on vacation so it always makes me a little paranoid. Anyways, I'm back, it was fabulous, and I can't wait to tell you all about it! I'm going to have to go over a series of posts: there is so much!

This was my first trip out there since becoming bird brain so....that means TONS of lifers! Over 20...unbelievable! The ONLY downside is that since we're entering fall, winter plumage identification is the name of the game (boo). Unfortunately I took the wrong bird book...My National Geographic does a way better job of including all plumages, including juvenile, winter, and illustrations of birds in flight. That's why when I got home I realized that we got even more lifers than I thought.

So this was not intended to be a birding trip by any means, but any time you are in a new place there are lots of new birds, and we dedicated ourselves to birding on a few occasions. We (me, Matt and my dad) headed to Anchorage, Alaska and had a few days to ourselves before meeting with a huge group to board a cruise to Vancouver, and then hang out for a week in Point Roberts, Washington.

STOP 1: Anchorage, Alaska
We flew into Anchorage super late but had the following day just to explore and so we headed south along the coast. Such an amazing drive, and Alaska is absolutely stunning. At one roadside stop (Bird Creek),we saw one of these beauties, but shortly after we realized that they are absolutely everywhere in Anchorage. I can't believe how astounded by these common birds, and the locals must have thought I was crazy going gaga over the equivalent of a robin or a blue jay here.

152: Black-billed magpie; Bird Creek parking lot, Alaska; August 23, 2011

153: Harlequin duck; Bird Creek, Alaska; August 23, 2011
Bird Creek was a really neat place and lots of locals were fishing at the mouth of the creek where it opens to the ocean, since the salmon were spawning (an amazing sight in itself).  At the time we assumed these were scoters and it wasn't until I got it up on the computer screen that I realized that it's actually a Harlequin!  This is exciting because it's a bird I really wanted to see, but I really still want to see the breeding male, which is EXQUISITE.

154: Varied Thrush; Potter's Marsh, Alaska; August 24, 2011
This beautiful bird is another common one in Alaska, but darn exciting for me who has never seen one.

#155: Greater Scaup; Potter's Marsh, Alaska; August 23, 2011
Now, I'm sure I've seen greater scaup before but I have never been confident enough to tell them apart (I think my life list would be a lot longer at this point if I was good enough to make some tough calls). Anyways, these ones helped a girl out since only the greater are in that part of Alaska, and also because the white ear patch is unmistakable. :) Those are some American wigeon between them.

#156: Greater Yellowlegs; Potter's Marsh, Alaska; August 24, 2011

It seems that I might have screwed up and called #101 a lesser yellowlegs when it was probably a greater, but I did see lessers on this trip as well, so I'm not going to mess up my counting system haha. Will include photos of the lessers in a later post. Anyways, they are still a little hard for me to distinguish but I think I am starting to get it; here are a few articles on distinguishing the two:

Potter's Marsh was a great spot - lots of ducks, including gadwall, American wigeon, greater scaup and mallards. Also belted kingfisher, a merlin, sandhill cranes overhead, swans, sandpipers and yellowlegs. Here's part of it from the boardwalk (which was very nice btw). A really nice spot on the drive from Anchorage to Seward. 

Next installment will be Whittier and Seward, Alaska....and it included some of the birding highlights of the trip...coming soon!


Tiffanie said...

Sounds like an amazing trip! I love the landscape picture! While you were in Alaska (my absolute dream vacation destination!), I was in Ottawa :). I managed to get a one life bird while there (a White-Breasted Nuthatch) visiting my brother. I can't wait to see the rest of your pictures!

dwaynejava said...

Jenna, one word... Awesome! Going out west is exciting enough without the added excitement of lifers. :-) I'm downright jealous of the Thrush. I heard them in Banff but could never find one. Can't wait for the rest of the series! DM

Funkysandman said...

jeez, now I'm think about a trip out west! The birding and photography element must make it even more fun to experience. It's cool how you inspire others!

Jeremy Medina said...

Beautiful shot of the marsh!