August 1, 2010
Bulletin #118 – Alaska #6 – passerines
I had a great trip to Alaska with TOS (Texas Ornithology Society). They run an annual trip to Alaska in early June. We visited Anchorage, Nome, Barrow, Denali Highway and had a pelagic trip out of Seward. It was a fantastic trip with most usual birds seen and photographed along with numerous mammal species.
Just as with shorebirds, there are a number of songbirds (passerines) from Asia that regularly extend their range into western Alaska. We saw several of these birds including Bluethroat and Eastern Yellow Wagtail but didn’t manage to get good photos. However, I did get photos of 2 species.
The Arctic Warbler (Phylloscopus borealis) is a member of the Old World Warbler family (Sylviidae) that also includes the gnatcatchers. The Arctic Warbler is a dull olive backed bird with a light eye line. It is best IDed by voice. This was a life bird.
Another Asian bird was the Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe). It is a member of the thrush family (Turdidae). The breeding male has a gray back, pale breast washed with buff, and a black mask. In flight, they have a distinctive white rump and tail with a black terminal band.
The male Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius) is similar to the American Robin, but it has orange stripes on the face and wings. There is also a dark stripe across the breast. This was only me second time to see this bird.
We saw several species of wood-warblers including Yellow, Yellow-rumped, Wilson’s, Orange-crowned, Blackpoll and Northern Waterthrush. I was surprised that we didn’t find a Townsend’s Warbler, as their range extends into southeast Alaska. The only photos I took were of a male Blackpoll Warbler (Dendroica striata). This black and white warbler has a solid black cap and white face. The legs are orange or pink.
2 members of the sparrow family were lifers for me. The male Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) is a striking white bird with black wings. These birds was found in Barrow.
The other bird was the Lapland Longspur (Calcarius lapponicus). We saw lots of these birds in the Nome area. The stunning breeding male has a black head and throat, reddish collar across the back of neck, brown streaked back and white breast.
The American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) is the only aquatic songbird. It feeds by hopping into swift flowing streams and walking along the bottom to catch insect larvae. It is overall dark gray with a short tail. We found a family of them using a nest box at a fish hatchery on the Denali Highway. I had never heard of these birds using a nest box, so I took a photo of it. It was on open rectangular box and they used moss as nesting material. Here is the bird with food in its mouth and the nest box.
The White-winged Crossbill (Loxia leucoptera) is a finch. They use their unusual crossed bill tip to pry open cones of evergreen trees to get the seeds. The male is reddish with white wing bars. The female shown here is yellowish.
The Boreal Chickadee (Poecile hudsonica) has a brown cap rather than black.
The last bird is the Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia). This black and white bird with a long tail is a member of the crow family. It is unmistakable.
I will be leading a 9 day bird photography tour to Costa Rica in conjunction with Lillian Scott-Baer of Baer Travel March 3-11, 2011. We have worked out an itinerary to visit La Selva Preserve, Savegre Mountain Hotel in the central mountains for Resplendant Quetzal and other montane species and Wilson Botanical Gardens (Las Cruces). We have also retained the services of local guide Rudy Zamora to accompany us and locate and ID the birds for us to photograph. We will also have beautiful flowers and hopefully some mammals - tamanduas, monkeys etc.
I will be giving several talks in the evening on bird photography, Photoshop etc.
The price will be $1960 double to $2380 single. This includes hotels, all meals, guide, transportation in Costa Rica etc. The only other cost will be airfare and personal purchases (alcohol, souvenirs etc) . Space is limited to 10 persons to maximize our opportunity to see and photograph the birds. I have birded in Costa Rica previously. It is a wonderful country to visit and the bird life is exceptional. I hope that you can join us.
Here is the schedule of payments for the trip.
$ 25 reservation fee (not refundable)
$ 575 due April 30, 2010
$ 600 due July 30, 2010
$ 740 due January 15, 2011
Please send deposits to:
34 Galway Place
The Woodlands, TX 77382
There are only 2 spaces left for this trip as of today, so please email me, if interested.
All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.