Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Birds of Resurrection Bay--Alaska Day Six

Alaska 2014 continued:

It is not lost on me that my trip to Alaska was a year ago already, and I'm only halfway through blogging about it. So many other things are going on, so many other places to write about, but I just can't keep up! I will be gone for several weeks in June, doing shows in the Midwest, so let's see if I can get through a few more posts before then.

Our tour of Resurrection Bay and the Northwestern Glacier was without a doubt one of the highlights of our trip. It was, however, much better for mammal watching than for bird watching, although we did see some spectacular birds. I'm saying this mostly from a photographer's standpoint--it was difficult to get good pics from such a large boat. The tour of Kachemak Bay from Homer was much more intimate and we got better looks at the birds, but I would not suggest skipping the Kenai Fjords tour if you're reason for being in Alaska is to bird. It was just too spectacular to miss.

In all I counted 32 species on Wednesday, including the ten we saw on our early morning walk in Seward (asterisk denotes new species):

Wilson's Snipe
Tree Swallow
Violet-green Swallow
Chestnut-backed Chickadee*
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
Yellow Warbler
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow

On the boat tour I added sixteen species, four of which were new:

Parakeet Auklet*

Parakeet Auklet, one of several Alcids we saw on Resurrection Bay. Birds in the Alcidae family spend their lives out on the open water, coming ashore only to nest.

Harlequin Duck
Double-crested Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Bald Eagle
Kittlitz's Murrelet*

Kittlitz's Murrelet. It has adapted to the cloudy waters of glacial run-off, able to feed where many others cannot. They nest above the tree line on south-facing slopes on inland mountains, and have not been studied much.

Glaucous-winged Gull
Pigeon Guillemot
Marbled Murrelet
Rhinoceros Auklet*

Rhinoceros Auklet. This bird is a close relative of the puffins.

Tuffted Puffin
Horned Puffin

Horned Puffin on takeoff. This is how we saw most of the birds--they were usually seen either from behind, swimming away from the boat, or taking to the air.

Ancient Murrelet*
Common Murre

Common Murre. We got good looks at this bird at Gull Island in Kachemak Bay, but they are worth another look. 


A flock of Brandt fly by our boat.

Rock Dove
Northwestern Crow
Black-legged Kittiwake

We'd seen lots of Kittiwake on Gull Island as well, but I love this shot of a nesting
pair having a conversation.

Once we were back on solid ground and had eaten dinner, we visited Ava's Place, a private residence outside of town. This woman has a whole bunch of feeders that bring in a whole bunch of birds. We had stopped by the previous evening looking for the Rufus Hummingbird with no luck, so we returned Wednesday, and this time got lucky.

Varied Thrush
Pine Siskin
Downy Woodpecker
Rufus Hummingbird*

Not the best photo of a Rufus Hummingbird the world has ever seen, as I was shooting out the van window, but I'll take what I can get!

Next: We visit Exit Glacier before heading up to Anchorage and Westchester Lagoon.

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