Friday June 2, 2017 Yakutat Tern Festival morning


8-11 am Mist Netting and Bird Banding Demonstration
Licensed bird bander Denise Turley and her helpers set up the bird banding operation in the large roofed pavilion behind the high school. Five black mist nets waited quietly, tucked into narrow clearings in the nearby alders and willows. Periodically, these were checked for entangled birds.

The first bird was a female ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER who lacked a brood patch. She was banded, measured, weighed, and examined before an eager volunteer was allowed to release her back to her busy life, bearing bling. The next bird was a female FOX SPARROW with a large brood patch, probably en route to get a bite to eat or gather food for her newly hatched babies. She was quickly banded, processed, then released.

I was impressed with the knowledge and interest of the school kids, many of whom have participated in previous bird banding demonstrations. They are learning a lot!

At this point, I had the opportunity to join an impromptu field trip to Strawberry Point. This is where the famous Situk River enters the Situk-Ahrnklin Estuary. Fishing shacks lined the slough, waiting for the subsistence and commercial salmon runs. Strawberries bloomed just about everywhere.

We strolled along the sandy beach, strewn with driftwood. The usual BALD EAGLES festooned several of these perches. As I watched several eagles circling upwards in the rising morning breeze, an odd gull-like bird caught my eye. It was already pretty high, but it turned into an OSPREY! This is a rare species, according to the Yakutat Birds Checklist.

Black Sand Spit to the west across the slough is home to one of the world’s largest nesting colony of Aleutian Terns. ARCTIC TERNS and ALEUTIAN TERNS flew past, frequently diving with a big splash for small fish. The terns were mostly silent, but occasionally the Aleutian Terns chirped sweetly like a song bird, and the Arctic Terns let loose their raspy growl. A giant CASPIAN TERN joined the other terns fishing. What a huge red bill! And a prehistoric-sounding BLAAARRRRHHHH!

MEW and GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS joined the Terns fishing. Ten male COMMON MERGANSERS, then a mixed flock flew past. Going the opposite direction, a WHIMBREL flew by. It was quite a surprise to see one so late; they are frequent in the spring but rare in summer.

TREE SWALLOWS and a few BARN SWALLOWS swooped along the sand snapping up insects. A GREATER YELLOWLEGS called in the distance. Away from the beach, FOX, LINCOLN, and SAVANNAH SPARROWS sang from the scattered willows and alders. We watched ROBINS and a STELLER’S JAY.

We also found brown bear scat on the roadway, deer tracks, and possibly mink or ermine tracks in the sand.

This is a place one could observe for a long time and continue to make cool discoveries, but lunch called and we headed back. On the way, we stopped at a stream and found a SPOTTED SANDPIPER along the bank, bobbing its tail. The next stream had a SOLITARY SANDPIPER, a wonderful comparison.  CLIFF and TREE SWALLOWS zipped up and down the stream feasting on insects. Bright yellow marsh marigolds bloomed by the stream. Chocolate lilies, yellow paintbrush, and magenta salmonberry flowers bloomed nearby. VARIED THRUSHES and HERMIT THRUSHES sang from the spruce. Lots going on!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Traveling Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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