Friday, June 16, 2017 Exit Glacier search for American Redstarts

Seward, Alaska

While scanning through the daily eBird Alert on June 13, I just about jumped out of my chair. Reported the previous day were “numerous” AMERICAN REDSTARTS along the trail and surrounding the parking lot at Exit Glacier, heard singing repeatedly. Yikes! That would be a lifer!

ASAP I headed out and drove the 12 miles to Kenai Fjords National Park. While walking slowly in the parking lot and down the trail, I enjoyed a concert featuring the sweet songs of SWAINSON’S THRUSH, GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH, HERMIT THRUSH, VARIED THRUSH, ROBIN, WILSON’S WARBLER, YELLOW WARBLER, ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH, YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER,  FOX SPARROW, CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEE, COMMON REDPOLL, and a very loud Woodpecker that remained unseen.

The full, green leaves of the surrounding cottonwood, alders, and willows concealed almost all the singers. Fortunately, a Gray-cheeked Thrush chose a bare branch for his performance and I was able to actually see and photograph him as he cooperatively turned to show me his front and back.

While watching and listening for the Redstarts, I followed a dainty Arctic White butterfly as it purposefully fluttered from one bouquet of white Rock Cress to the other. It always amazes me how such a fragile insect can actually get where it wants to go, even in strong winds.

I returned the next morning to search for the Redstarts again, scouring the parking lot more thoroughly. A black and orange warbler, if here, should not be that hard to see! I added RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET, DARK-EYED JUNCO, and PINE SISKIN.

I walked down the path again, watching and listening intently. In a nice long break from pedestrians, a fledgling Robin hopped alongside the trail, searching and finding something to eat. His dad stopped by, but the baby would have none of it and tried to drive him away. Independent little guy! Dad hovered, uncertainly, but did not try to feed him. Did the baby know what a dangerous world it is? Just yesterday, I watched a very upset adult Robin, maybe this devoted dad, evade a pursuing SHARP-SHINNED HAWK.

Skunked, I returned on Friday morning. Driving along the road from the bridge with the windows open, I passed one beautiful song after another: GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH, HERMIT THRUSH, RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET, YELLOW WARBLER, YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER, ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, WILSON’S WARBLER, COMMON REDPOLL.

Again I parked in the parking lot and immediately began walking away from the entrance to the park, listening and watching, as everyone else headed the opposite direction for the glacier. Suddenly a magnificent Canadian Tiger Swallowtail butterfly flew through the RV parking lot. I followed it and in a short time it landed on an alder leaf, opening its tiger striped wings wide to soak in the sun. What a delight to find this huge, beautiful butterfly here!

As I walked along the path, I was surprised how quiet the birds were here compared to the previous days and along the drive in. The season is moving along!

Despite my failure to find those American Redstarts, it was tantalizing to know they had been here and might be again. Meanwhile, I really enjoyed my visits to Kenai Fjords National Park at Exit Glacier. What a treasure!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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