Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Ship Creek Wonders

If you regularly read this blog, then you know that the majority of my local birding is done at Spenard Crossing, Westchester Lagoon, and the Anchorage Coastal Trail. That means that I neglect other prime birding locations. One that I seldom visit is actually closer to my home than the other locations, Ship Creek.
Ship Creek is a greenbelt that winds through the industrial part of town. It is a sliver of paradise in the midst of an ecological wasteland. That helps to explain why I seldom go there although I am always telling myself to go.
On Friday the office was closed so I had an extra day off. Instead of painting at home like I should have done, I took my new camera to Ship Creek. I started out upstream and worked my way to the coast, hearing loud industrial noises all around but seeing a more natural setting before me. Right away I spotted this male Harlequin Duck through the vegetation above. I could hardly believe that I was seeing a Harlequin Duck right in town. Not the first time that I have seen a Harlequin in Anchorage, just an unexpected joy in such a marginal site.
There was a lot of thick vegetation between myself and the duck. I tried to find a clear view so I moved from one vantage to another. My attention was so focused on the male Harlequin that I did not even notice the female as I took this photo.
Eventually I noticed the female Harlequin but I did not even notice the female Common Merganser that was squabbling with it. I never noticed the merganser until after the harlequins had drifted off.
I finally got more unobstructed views but I was still a good distance away. I regretted not having my HS-50 with its more powerful zoom lens.
In all I saw 3 pairs of Harlequins although these were the only ones that I photographed. I guess they breed in Ship Creek although I did not know that. What a treasure.
Just downstream from the Harlequins I found this Belted Kingfisher on some industrial debris.
A few miles downstream I got close to this male, Common Merganser.
It appears to be enjoying that scratch. What a foot. At this point I was plenty tired of lugging that heavy Sigma lens.
There were lots of White-crowned Sparrows. I also saw plenty of warblers, starlings, redpolls, juncos, Ruby-crowned Kinglets etc. There was a few Spotted Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, many gulls, other species of ducks including a single, White-fronted Goose at the mouth where Ship Creek enters the ocean. I missed seeing Dippers which nest along the creek. A reason to go back soon I hope.
I have made some progress on the swan painting.


Jeremy Pearse said...

I'm really enjoying your recent photos (especially the ones of the ducks) and am looking forward to seeing the swan painting completed. Interestingly, we saw a pair of Harlequin ducks a few weeks ago in Washington State when we were visiting - amazing birds and a first for me.

john said...

Thanks for your comment Jeremy. Those Harlequins are almost too psycadelic to be real. I really like the Bald Eagle study on your latest post.

John Holmes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Holmes said...

Nice series.....Harlequins are fabulous ducks, it must be a thrill to find them locally .

P.S. Deleted comment was me: couldn't work out how to correct a "typo"...I will now go and seek out coffee.