Monday, 11 June 2012

The Chronicles of Alaska: Birdy Old Men

And I say that with affection.  Heck I am 51 and my guides for the day in the Kenai,(pronounced Keen-eye) Peninsula were older and much more experienced than me.  Then again, there are kids in Elementary school who are more experienced birders than me.  Ken and one of his friends, who summers in Alaska, took me on an inland tour hoping to find a nice mess of Alaska birds, but it was a grey and sometimes rainy day and though we were seeing birds, there were not the numbers they were used to.  Everywhere we stopped, they told me about a terrific bird that would have been a lifer for me, that they had just seen the day or week before.

We drove around for about 7 hours and had a lot of fun and I enjoyed their company and learned a lot from the two of them.  The big score of the day was another Sandy Komito nemesis from 1998, the Great Grey Owl.  We drove up a back road on the chance it might still be there, as it had been reported days earlier by the wildlife folks.  And had we driven up a few minutes later we'd have missed it.  It just happened to have taken flight as we were passing by, swooping down from a tree into a small bush.  We got the scope on it and had some great looks at a great owl.  My ninth owl of 2012 and number 384 for the year.

After a few more misses, the American Three-toed Woodpecker, for instance, we had a close encounter with a Brown Bear, a "brownie" as the locals call them, and that was pretty exciting and even worth the miss on the woodpecker.  Afterwards,  we went down to the mud flats where we scored a Parasitic Jaeger. a Semipalmated Plover and a Northwestern Crow.

Back at Ken's Cabins, we waited a second time for the Stellar's Jay, but it just wouldn't show.  The Bank Swallows did fly in and that pushed my Big Year total to 388.  I had a great time, though, birding with these guys and they always had a good story to tell and served a good picnic lunch in the car along the way, complete with cookies.  Even though I didn't get to see as many new Lifers and Year birds as I had hoped for, it was an honour to have Ken take me around his own stomping grounds and teach me a thing or two that I can put to use on future Alaskan trips.  He also put me on to locations where I could find an American Dipper and Chestnut-backed Chickadee in the Seward area.  But that was for another day.

Great Gray Owl,(Taken with iPhone through scope):

Parasitic Jaeger,(He was a long way away):

Semipalmated Plover,(He was closer):

Northwestern Crow,(Can you tell the difference?):

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