Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Friday, August 26, 2011

It Keeps Getting Better

After a week of cool and rainy weather, the sun came out today. It was about 15 degrees colder than the last time I hit the Coastal Trail, but it sure felt good to me. This time there was no weasel, but I shot this photo of a bumblebee on a Dandelion flower. The size comparision shows how diminutive our Alaska bumblebees are.
It may not look like it, but this bird is in serious trouble. At least it's species is. Can you guess what it is? It's overall population has dropped by about 90% in the last few decades. There have been many studies to understand why, but no cause is apparent. Most researchers believe that the problem lies somewhere on the bird's wintering grounds in the Midwest.
There were about a half dozen Rusty Blackbirds next to Westchester Lagoon today. The first I have seen in a number of years. They were still easy to find when I first moved to Alaska 14 years ago. The bird above is a female, or a subadult male.
Nearby, there was this Belted Kingfisher, along with one Greater Yellowlegs and an unidentified peep. Also Greenwings, Mallards, Widgeons, Shovelers, and scaups.
There were also some subadult Bonaparte's Gulls. Someone reported seeing a Common Black-headed Gull, (Old World species). It looks the same, but has a red bill. I looked for it, but did'nt see it.
I was delighted to find 3 Sandhill Cranes on the mudflats. This time, the light was good, and the cranes were only about 100 ft, (30 meters) away from the trail.
There were 4 of them here in the springtime. The same birds minus one? Probably not. Someone saw 9 more of them further down the trail today
.A small crowd of bicyclists and hikers gathered to watch the cranes. I honestly believe that most of them never would have noticed the cranes if I was'nt there, snapping photos like a madman.
It's hard to imagine that I could ever get a better photographic opportunity with Sandhill Cranes. That does'nt mean that I won't  keep on taking photos of them. I wanted to get some shots of them with their wings spread. They would not oblige me.
There is a low fence beside the trail that conceals the lower half of people. I think that barrier is why these cranes were so unconcerned by all the people.
When you get this kind of opportunity, you have to keep shooting photos. I took at least 80 photos of the cranes. I got so many great shots that I would like to post, but these photos will suffice.
Within a stone's throw, (literally) of the cranes, the Bald Eagle was on the other side of the trail. It was in the same tree where I saw it on the last several visits to the area. This time it had some company.
Four tourists from out of state showed me another approach to the eagle tree. In the dozens of visits that I have made to the place, how is it that I never noticed that little side path?
Mt. Mckinley, North America's highest peak, was visible across Cook Inlet. It is only visible from Anchorage about a half dozen times a year. I think that it is about 265 miles away from Anchorage as the crow flies.
A Canada Goose family on Westchester. The adults are in the front and the back. The young goslings already have their adult plummage. There were lots of good birds today. Monday is predicted to be even warmer. Will I waste another day at the Coastal Trail? I ought to go somewhere else for loons and swans. Maybe I'll just stay home and paint. Decisions, decisions.


Suz said...

Oh thank you for posting these...I so love bird watching
So sorry to hear about the blackbirds decline..midwest you say...like in Illinois? I hope not
But here in Illinois people are mostly disconnected from nature in the urban areas...where most of the people live...some efforts to save wetlands....really a joke effort....no consideration for the ground around it that drains into it...But I am so joyful that Alaska still has wild areas
keep posting your photos...I do enjoy them...I'll never get to go to Alaska...so bring her to me with your camera

john said...

Thank you for your comments Suz. Rusty Blackbirds migrate through most of Illinois. They do winter in southern Ill. and points south.
My only experience with Illinois are some short layovers at O'hare. I do remember reading about some tallgrass prarie restoration programs in the state. Habitat restoration really improves the quality of life for people, as well as wildlife.
We have a saying, Come to Alaska, B4U Die. I hope you make it here someday.