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Alaskan Interior Work Trip

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Old Tuesday 5th October 2004, 03:23   #1
Joe H
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Alaskan Interior Work Trip

Greetings! I recently spent a week in the interior of Alaska (Delta Junction, Tok, and Fairbanks). There was little time for serious bird watching and the weather ranged from Fall in Anchorage to unquestionably Winter in Delta Junction and Tok. Even with the lack of time and cold weather, the trip turned out to be interesting from a birding perspective so I thought Id share my observations with any who might be interested in what Alaska has to offer at this late in the year. Most bird sightings were noted from the highways connecting these cities and only an 8 power binocular was used (no spotting scope, which would have been most useful on this trip). There were no spectacular sightings noted but the large number of birds seen was surprising to me so I thought the members of this forum might be interested as well.

27 September, about 350 road miles from Anchorage to Delta Junction along the Glenn and Richardson Highways. The drive skirts the Chugach and Talkeetna Mountain Ranges and crosses the Alaska Range. The trip started out beautifully with great views of early Fall colors and snow capped peaks against a clear blue sky. This was a day that made a 6 hour drive seem like a privilege. By the time Id driven about 200 miles North the blue sky was gone and so were the early Fall colors. The low Taiga forests up North were covered in light snow and most of the road-side lakes were frozen. I had to resort to 4 wheel drive to prevent spinning up the hills through the Alaska Range.

Even given the weather, I was surprised by the number of birds that were easily seen from the road, or in many cases feeding along the snow free edges of the highway. Heres the list: 1 Bald Eagle, a dozen Common Raven, 20 Black-billed Magpies, six Grey Jays, 66 unidentified birds (mostly Black-capped Chikadees and Pine Siskens, but I did not have time to stop to identify each small group that was feeding along the highway), three Northern Shrikes, 118 unidentified ducks (here a spotting scope and more time would have been invaluable), two mallards, one Northern Harrier, one unidentified hawk, one unidentified hawk being chased by an unidentified small bird, and two probable immature Red-necked Grebes.

Also seen were 16 Caribou and one Porcupine.

28 September, in Delta Junction and with only about 20 minutes to look for birds. I drove to Quartz and Lost Lake, which are a few miles West of Delta. Sighted were an immature Robin and Varied Thrush, two Slate-colored Junkos, 10 unidentified ducks on Lost Lake (needed scope), flocks of Dark-eyed Junkos and Black-capped Chikadees.

Also seen were four Moose.

29 September, drove from Delta Junction to the Canadian Border and returned. During these 400 miles, I saw a Northern Hawk Owl (number 143 on my 2004 Alaskan bird list), three Spruce Grouse, 15 Snow Buntings, a Merlin, 15 small birds that were feeding along the road (mostly Dark-eyed Junkos but a few buntings as well), 15 Ravens and 10 Magpies.

30 September, very little birding. I did see three Northern Harriers along fields in Delta, and a flock of 10 Robins feeding on seeds in an ornamental tree.

1 October, the only new birds seen were Rock Doves in Fairbanks and Surf Scotters along the Richardson Highway. In total, I saw 53 ducks (Mallards, Bufflehead, and Scotters), six Common Raven, and six possible Dark-eyed Junkos. I returned to Anchorage by air and no birds were sighted during the flight.

Total species identified (20) and total numbers seen (approximately 400) were surprising to me. With more time and a spotting scope Im sure many of the ducks could have been identified and the species count would have increased. I hope this trip report was of some interest to readers of this article. This is my first year bird watching and I had no idea so many birds could be found this late in the year or were likely to winter that far North in Alaska. Ill try to write up some previous trips I took this year which were to more interesting places (Kodiak Island in Fall, Homer during the Spring shore bird migration, the Denali Highway in Summer). Thanks for reading!
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Old Tuesday 5th October 2004, 03:42   #2
Dave B Smith
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Joe,
Definitely an interesting report. I hope to return to Alaska some day to pick up some of the myriad of species I missed on my first trip.
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Old Tuesday 5th October 2004, 04:02   #3
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Nice report Joe,

There would be a few new birds (and mammals) amongst those for me!

Thanks for sharing it.

Cheers,

Andy.
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Old Thursday 7th April 2005, 14:13   #4
albatross02
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Birding in great nature area

Hallo,

it takes a time to find report about the best nature ( most spectacular ) place in US. Mountains are not so high like Himalayas, but the different altitut between valley and piks are the same or even more than Himalayas.
I been only in Skagway and Haines ( Eagle valley ).
Nearby Haines are lots of Bold eagles. Also possible to see Hummingbirds,
I suppose them only in tropics before.


Best regards
Dieter
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Old Friday 8th April 2005, 07:14   #5
Joe H
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Thanks Dieter, or should I say Vielen Dank?

I lived in Berlin for a few years back when the Wall came down. I wish I had been a bird watcher back then. All I did was drink beer and bicycle (I biked around the Wall twice, before and after the fall). All I can remember from those days are the Mallards and Starlings. And who could forget the Berliner Kindel!?!

I'll get a chance to visit Skagway this Summer so I'll let this forum know if I see any of those humming birds. I'm off to Chickaloon (about 113 miles north of Anchorage) this weekend to see if the raptors are migrating back for the summer.

Take care,

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Old Friday 8th April 2005, 15:04   #6
albatross02
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Alaska

Hallo Joe,

I supposed the most report from US should come from Alaska and Hawaii islands. Few minutes ago I posted questions about Hawaii islands ( even there is no beer on this island, a german song sayd ).
In Alaska I came from Whitehorse to Skagway and with a ferry to Haines.
I heard in July the weather is very unstable, maybe May is better.
In my office I have a map of Kenai Fjords national parc.
Every year we have the biggest tourist exhibition in the wourld in Berlin ( March ).
See You in Alaska.


Best regards
Dieter
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Old Friday 8th April 2005, 15:43   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by albatross02
Hallo Joe,

I supposed the most report from US should come from Alaska and Hawaii islands. Few minutes ago I posted questions about Hawaii islands ( even there is no beer on this island, a german song sayd ).
In Alaska I came from Whitehorse to Skagway and with a ferry to Haines.
I heard in July the weather is very unstable, maybe May is better.
In my office I have a map of Kenai Fjords national parc.
Every year we have the biggest tourist exhibition in the wourld in Berlin ( March ).
See You in Alaska.


Best regards
Dieter
Of course you realize that Whitehorse is not in Alaska?
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Old Saturday 9th April 2005, 09:46   #8
Joe H
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Greetings,

Now that travel out to the Western Aleutians is no longer easy to arrange, those North American rarities are less likely to be reported from Alaska. I suspect Texas may have a larger bird population than we do up here. I may have a work trip down there in the next few weeks so I'll pack by binoculars. I did visit Hawaii (Oahu) last month on a short business trip. I suppose I should send in a trip report but I didnt see anything particularly rare. I did manage to add 26 birds to my life list but this is only my second year keeping track so that wont impress anyone. By the way, there is a Kona Brewing Company that sells bottled beer in the stores and drafts can be had in some restaurants/bars. Not a bad beer at all, I can personally assure you!

Take care,

Joe H

Last edited by Joe H : Sunday 10th April 2005 at 09:19.
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Old Monday 11th April 2005, 10:46   #9
albatross02
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Alaska

Hallo Snowyowl,

sorry I did not recommend, mainly I been in Canada.
I started in Whitehorse which is maintown of Yukon ( Canada ).
From there I traveled into US to Skagway.
From Haines I drove back to Canada in direction of Kluane lake, because the wheather is more stabil in July.
In every case Yukon is worth to see. And very interesting is the strong plant change nearby whitepass.
Kluane national parc ( Yukon ) maybe is the best spot to see Grizzly bears.
In south of whitehorse is also Atlin ( British Columbia ) absolut worth to see.
Later I traveled to Vancouver ( incl. Vancouer island, Pitt lake and so on ).
From there I drove to Mount Baker national parc in Washingtion ( US ).
On the evening ferry trip from Vancouver to Victoria, I was very fascinated from the view to Mount Baker.


Best regards
Dieter
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Old Monday 11th April 2005, 14:06   #10
snowyowl
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Quote:
Originally Posted by albatross02
Hallo Snowyowl,

sorry I did not recommend, mainly I been in Canada.
I started in Whitehorse which is maintown of Yukon ( Canada ).
From there I traveled into US to Skagway.
From Haines I drove back to Canada in direction of Kluane lake, because the wheather is more stabil in July.
In every case Yukon is worth to see. And very interesting is the strong plant change nearby whitepass.
Kluane national parc ( Yukon ) maybe is the best spot to see Grizzly bears.
In south of whitehorse is also Atlin ( British Columbia ) absolut worth to see.
Later I traveled to Vancouver ( incl. Vancouer island, Pitt lake and so on ).
From there I drove to Mount Baker national parc in Washingtion ( US ).
On the evening ferry trip from Vancouver to Victoria, I was very fascinated from the view to Mount Baker.


Best regards
Dieter
It sounds like a great trip, Dieter. I've been in the Yukon and northern British Columbia and loved it there.
I'll be in Yellowknife in the North-West Territories next month.
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Old Monday 11th April 2005, 14:40   #11
albatross02
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Yukon/Alaska

Hallo Snowyowl,

some from Canada ( met in Wilsons Prom, Australia ) recommend me, it is a must for nature interested people come to Canada.
Recommeded was Rockies like Jasper, Banff and so on.
My friend sayd better visit area around Vancouver.
I saw a report ( TV ) about Yukon.
After this vacasion I would also say "Yukon the true north".
Grizzlys, fields of flowers smelled like a cosmetic shop, wild sheeps, hugh glaciers, very wild landscape and of course the white nights.
Hopefully You will create a homepage about Northern Territories and also Nunavut ( if You travel there, I suppose it is difficult and expansive to come there ).


Best regards
Dieter
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