I managed to make it to Kenai Fjords National Park, at 8:30 this morning before the traffic picked up, in search of the elusive NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH. Barely inside the boundary, I parked at the pullout by the park sign and wandered along and in the road nearby and back to the bridge. This area is a rich riparian area with wet lowland thickets interspersed with cottonwoods, willows, and alders. Perfect habitat for warblers and many other species.
The “skulking ground dwelling” Waterthrushes sang loudly and emphatically from perches high in the cottonwoods and willows on both sides of the road. The few I could actually see did not exhibit any characteristic rapid tail bobbing, and were the “whitish” variety, ie no yellow wash. The males sang, then listened as other males nearby answered. It was a lovely, musical exchange of territorial declarations.
YELLOW, ORANGE-CROWNED, WILSON’S, and YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS joined the morning concert, their songs entwined with the Waterthrush as they darted through the willows, gleaning insects. Tiny RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS belted out their song, one from the very tip of a spruce tree, about the same size as a cone. VARIED THRUSHES blew their umpire whistles, HERMIT THRUSHES played their sweet flutes, the notes floated gently through the trees. FOX SPARROWS sang about the beautiful day. A distant SNIPE winnowed in the air. PINE SISKINS and COMMON REDPOLLS flew overhead.
As I approached the bridge over Resurrection River, I heard the ringing “tew-tew-tew!” of a GREATER YELLOWLEGS. The shorebird landed at the very top of a spruce tree and stood there, calling, while he watched me walk past. It always seems odd to see a shorebird in a tree, especially one with such long, yellow legs and long, black bill.
Closer to the spruce forest at the Resurrection River Trail, I heard another warbler, the TOWNSEND’S. Missing today was the Blackpoll Warbler’s thin, insect-like song. CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES fussed about the spruce branches.
While reading the trail register, I heard a massive splashing over the normal gurgling, rushing sound of the river. I slammed the cover down and ran back towards the bridge just in time to see a giant moose (aren’t they all?) walking steadily across the river against the current. The water was surprisingly shallow, barely below the moose’s belly. When it reached the opposite shore, it stopped to take a long look at me, then easily climbed up the bank and quickly disappeared into the willow thickets. What a thrill to watch!
By 10:00 am, traffic was increasing, and so I headed to the main parking lot. Scanning the mountainside for bears, instead I found an adult GOLDEN EAGLE hunting just above the newly emerging false hellebore and grasses.
Knowing there was so much more to see and hear, but out of time, I reluctantly drove away. But I will be back to visit my National Park!
Carol GriswoldSeward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter