Saturday, May 28, 2016 Exit Glacier

Seward, Alaska

Eighth sunny day in a row! Sure seems like summer!

This morning, I visited Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park. It’s so easy to go, I often forget there’s a spectacular national park virtually in my back yard. My target species were the NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH, SWAINSON’S THRUSH, and GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH.

After I drove over the Resurrection River Bridge marking the park’s boundary, I heard the NORTHERN WATERTHRUSHES calling from the willows and alders near the wetlands alongside the road. I parked and walked, looking in vain for this loud ventriloquist. My main bird remained hidden in the dense thicket as he rhythmically called and listened for the responding Waterthrushes, never moving to reveal his location.

A nearby ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER was easy to spot as it flitted through the spruce, willow, and cottonwood trees. YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS proved harder to spot, but sang their slow warble near the creek.

Traffic was surprisingly light, so I could drive slowly with my windows open, listening to more Waterthrushes singing along the road as long as there was water nearby.

Birdsong continued in the parking lot. I chose the 0.4 mile walk on the paved path to the Outwash Plain. In the distance, I could hear the upward spiraling song of the SWAINSON’S THRUSH. Yea! I soon located the songster at the very top of a leafy cottonwood. He also sang and listened, as another Swainson’s responded in turn, a beautiful duet.

WILSON’S WARBLERS sang their rapid “sewing machine” song all along the path. Just past the shelter and junction to the Edge of the Glacier path, is a nice grove of willows. A YELLOW WARBLER flashed from tree to tree, a little yellow tropical splash, singing his little heart out.  

I walked to the start of the outwash plain where I once heard a Gray-cheeked Thrush. No luck this time.

Turning back, I then took the Edge of the Glacier path (formerly the Nature Trail). Exit Creek is fairly loud along the trail, making it hard to hear the birds, but the view of the glacier is excellent. Once the creek is left behind, the birdsong returns. I traced a loud, rapid drumming to a little DOWNY WOODPECKER. He had found a perfect drum, an old, dead cottonwood.

Throughout my walk, I also heard VARIED THRUSHES, ROBINS, HERMIT THRUSHES, RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS, a BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE, and more WILSON’S, YELLOW, ORANGE-CROWNED, and YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS. I did not hear the other common warbler, the Townsend’s.

I recorded many of the bird songs using the video option on my point-and shoot camera. A smart phone recording would work as well. Playing the recordings later is a great way to review and remember the songs. A plus is the video of the habitat, and if you’re lucky, a glimpse of the bird singing.

Go early if you can to beat the noisy crowds. If you can’t go early, go anyway. The birds sing all the time and often there are breaks in the people parade. I expect this concert will continue until early to mid June and then it will diminish as nesting and family duties intervene.

The glacier is still impressive and there’s always something interesting to see no matter when you go. Visit YOUR National Park soon!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Reporter

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