Thursday, May 16, 2013

Alaska Trip- Day 2

On Saturday, 5/11, I woke in Homer. Scott and I birded a bit around Homer before he dropped me off at the boat launch where I hopped on a small enclosed boat with an open back. Glaucous-winged Gulls greeted me at the harbor.

Glaucous-winged Gull
As I was walking down to the boat, I thought to check the shore as I've seen Wandering Tattlers here in the past. Wouldn't you know it, a Wandering Tattler was present.

Wandering Tattler
I was relieved to see the Tattler since they can be very hit or miss. This particular bird only stuck around for about a minute before heading elsewhere. It would turn out to be the only Tattler I saw all weekend.

Once on the boat, I was saddened by the news that the captain hadn't seen Yellow-billed Loon, Red-faced Cormorant or Tufted Puffin, three big targets, on any of his previous tours this spring. I figured they had to be out there somewhere and kept a watchful eye. Sure enough, one of the first birds I spotted on the way to our first destination was a showy Yellow-billed Loon. The captain turned around so all aboard could enjoy.

Yellow-billed Loon
This got me excited. Anything could be out in Kachemak Bay. As we cruised around the shoreline at our first destination, we scanned for Black Oystercatchers. None were seen in the traditional spots, but the captain had one more idea of where we might find them. We found a pair loafing, then feeding along the rocky shore.

Black Oystercatcher
Things were looking good! We ran into a few more of my targets as we cruised the shore including Black Turnstone and Surfbird.

Black Turnstone

To finish off the new shorebirds seen in Kachemak Bay, thousands of Red-necked Phalarope were scattered. Luckily, the water was like glass which made finding them easy.

Red-necked Phalarope
We made a stop at Gull Island where a huge nesting colony of Black-legged Kittiwake was in full swing. Surrounding the islands were thousands of alcids. Common Murre were the most numerous.

Common Murre
I knew now was the time to find a Puffin. If they were back, they would be alongside the Murres. Things looked hopeless until I spied two Tufted Puffins swimming by themselves, completely separated from the massive Murre flocks. Bingo!

Tufted Puffin
Also present in the bay in many locations were Pigeon Guillemots. They were busy pairing up and chasing each other around. I could even hear the high pitched calls they gave. Pretty cool!

Pigeon Guillemot
Murrelets nest in the mountains surrounding the Kachemak Bay. Marbled Murrelet is the most common, usually quite abundant. We saw pairs scattered all around the bay. Some were in full alternate plumage, while others were still in basic.

Marbled Murrelet in basic plumage
Kittlitz's Murrelet is much less common in the bay, but still present. I only saw one Kittlitz's this time. It was also in basic plumage, providing a nice comparison with the basic Marbled. Notice the white face compared to the black face of the Marbled.

Kittlitz's Murrelet
Red-faced Cormorant was my last big target for the boat trip. Unfortunately, there weren't many cormorants around. As I picked through the available cormorants, all I could find were Pelagic Cormorants. Red-faced would be my one big "miss" this trip.

Pelagic Cormorant
The trip was over by 3:30pm, leaving plenty of time to bird the Homer spit. Once Scott picked me up, he received a call about some Pacific Golden-Plovers in a grassy area long the spit.

Pacific Golden-Plover
This was turning out to be a fantastic day! The birds were all being very cooperative. After we left the plovers, a small group of Brant were seen in the bay off the spit. Yet another new year and photo bird.

White-winged Scoters were also present in the bay. While most were seen from a distance, we got pretty close to a few while on the boat.

White-winged Scoter
The last new year bird for the day was this Eurasian Wigeon. They were quite numerous on Saturday. Up to 8 individuals were reported from various locations around Homer. I missed the one I chased in Michigan, so this was a nice backup.

Eurasian Wigeon
So, day 2 of my quick Alaska trip was another great success. Sunday (5/12) would be my last day in Homer and Alaska. I was still missing Aleutian Tern, among a few other birds. You'll have to check back soon for the next update!

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