Wednesday, June 4, 2014 Exit Glacier Gray-Cheeked Thrushes

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 4:41 am, sunset 11:12 pm for a total day length of 18 hours 30 minutes. Tomorrow will be 2 minutes and 44 seconds longer.

Another spectacular, blue-sky sunny day similar to yesterday but with a strong wind from the south instead of the north. Temps rose into the very pleasant mid-60s. Thursday is forecast to be mostly sunny, with a chance of rain starting on Friday through next week.

Today was a perfect day to go birding at Kenai Fjords National Park at Exit Glacier. I chose to walk a loop starting with the Glacier View trail which heads off the main trail and winds into the pioneering cottonwood forest with an understory of young spruce trees, alders, and willows.

I heard YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS and YELLOW WARBLERS all along the trail. The fluttering cottonwood leaves are fully out and easily hide a leaf-sized warbler, but with luck and persistence, it is possible to track at least a few for the pleasure of watching them sing. In the distance, I heard VARIED and HERMIT THRUSHES.

Back on the main trail, the emphatic warble of Mr. WILSON chimed in with the others. Walking slowly past the 1926 marker, I heard a different song, a ways back in the woods. A GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH! What a thrill to hear this northern breeder. Some years, I miss them completely. The voice is described on as a "complex song of burry flute-like notes, usually ending on a downslur."  Take a listen!

Back on the road, traffic was sparse so I drove slowly with the windows down. Another GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH called several times quite close to the road. I stopped and saw a flash of the bird flying to a nearby cottonwood, but was unable to get a decent view. This species has flown a long ways from Venezuela and Colombia to Alaska. It's just amazing how they manage to find their way back home!

I parked at the Welcome sign and walked along the road next to a babbling  creek. In addition to the YELLOW, YELLOW-RUMPED, and WILSON'S WARBLERS, I heard the loud, relatively slow, rich warbling of a NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH. This is another warbler that I don't always find every year. This area of shrubs and trees near the creek and wetlands is great habitat for them. The Northern Waterthrush overwinters in Central America and also south to Colombia and Venezuela.

Along Resurrection River by the bridge, I saw and heard a pair of SPOTTED SANDPIPERS. It is likely they are nesting here. A COMMON REDPOLL flew overhead, calling, also a local nester. It was nice to hear and see one as they did not show up this past winter as they normally do.

As warbler songs are tricky and sound is ephemeral, I found recording them with the video on my little point-and-shoot camera was invaluable. I highly recommend this technique. Even if you can't find the songster in the maze of leaves, listening to the audio and comparing it to any number of excellent on-line resources and apps will help identify the bird, solidify the sound, and make it more familiar.

I plan to return soon to listen for the Swainson's Thrush, who has flown from as far as Argentina to come home. Its beautiful song spirals upwards, which makes it easy to remember.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Go to the left.

No comments:

Post a Comment