June 1, 2012 Yakutat Aleutian Tern Festival Part 2

Friday: Birding and Tlingit culture in Yakutat

After checking in at the festival headquarters at the high school, I checked into my room at Leonard's Landing. The lodge, along with one other, offered a discount to festival participants, which I appreciated. I also appreciated the lodge location at the end of the road, right on Monti Bay.

I took a leisurely walk back along the road, enjoying the beautiful day just birding and taking photos. I watched a male ROBIN hop along the edge of road next to the melting snowberm, his beak full of earthworms, yet able to nab one more. Because he was saving them, I knew he was taking them back to his hungry babies. Quick start, those robins!

Two female RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRDS buzzed in a clearing, then sought out the lovely pink salmonberry flowers and searched for insects in the willow flowers. I sat down to watch two napping female GOLDENEYES floating in a quiet pond that still had ice covering the back third. A loud "seeppp" right behind me alerted me to a BROWN CREEPER, too close to photograph. It busily worked its way up the lichen-dotted spruce and spiraled around the back.

Bits of the tropics, bright WILSON'S, YELLOW, YELLOW-RUMPED, and ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS flitted in the willows and sang their lovely territorial songs. FOX SPARROWS scratched noisily in the wet leaves then paused to sing their version of their home song. The melodies of ROBINS, VARIED and HERMIT THRUSHES floated through the dense hemlock and spruce woods. I heard a woodpecker drumming briefly, but could not locate it.

A COMMON RAVEN croaked from the top of a spruce, hunching a bit when BALD EAGLES soared overhead. MEW and GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS cried and laughed overhead, a striking white mobile against the pure blue sky.

A small dark bird flew out from the willows, snatched an insect and looped back to the tree. Hmmm. Just like a flycatcher. I watched and tried to get photos. After a while, it flew across the road to a dead snag and posed. Click, click, click! It was mostly a soft gray with a light grayish-white throat and belly, and a thin bill. I found out later that it was a WESTERN WOOD-PEEWEE. Apparently there was a mini-invasion of this migrant and many were seen during the festival.

At 3 pm it was time for the afternoon field trip. I caught a ride to the high school and loaded into the van for the Monti Bay/town tour. The first stop was Sandy Beach where we found about 20 SANDERLINGS busily working the shoreline, several BONAPARTE'S GULLS both juvenile and black hooded adults, MEW and GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS, NORTHWESTERN CROWS, a single PELAGIC CORMORANT just offshore, BALD EAGLES and RAVENS soaring overhead, and WARBLERS singing from the adjacent willows and alders. Kids ran barefoot on the beach and splashed in the cold water, celebrating the rare sunshine.

I decided to stay at this interesting spot, catching the tail-end of a photography workshop with Bob Johnson. After he left, I practiced taking photos of all the birds, especially the sanderings and eagles, experimenting with manual exposure and different settings. The bald eagles were very cooperative and repeatedly flew right overhead. Click, click, click! Another flew over and as I clicked away, I suddenly realized it was an OSPREY! I have been looking for the osprey in Alaska for a long time, but never got a satisfactory look that counted. This very cooperative bird looped over the beach once then sailed off down the bay, quickly becoming a speck bird. Wow! I only hoped I had decent camera settings! What a thrill!

That evening, festival participants and locals enjoyed a delicious fund-raiser dinner of tender king salmon. Afterwards, Yakutat's Mt. St. Elias Dancers performed. Both the junior and senior groups delivered riveting, outstanding performances. The regalia they wore were stunning; I understand many of the beaded designs were family heirlooms. This cultural experience is first class and a special bonus of the festival.

The evening was so lovely, it was hard to go to bed. But the next day started with a songbird field trip leaving at 7 am, so I forced myself to go to sleep, smiling about the osprey and the vibrant dancers.

No comments:

Post a Comment