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July 30, 2015

President Trump Wants Palin in Cabinet

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I’d like Sarah Palin to be in a cabinet too – preferably one that is soundproof. But, we don’t always get what we want. Loudmouth fake political celebrity, and bad hairpiece-wearing reality TV star Donald Trump is running for office. And he’d love to have loudmouth fake political celebrity, and bad hairpiece-wearing reality TV star Sarah Palin in his cabinet in the unlikely event he is elected President of the United States. When you think about it, it’s really amazing these two haven’t connected long before now. I mean, ok, there was that awkward first date where they both ate…

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Bird of the Week – Spotted Sandpiper

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We’re back to the peeps, the sandpipers. It doesn’t take many weeks to see all of Alaska’s hummingbirds, after all. But there are lots and lots of shorebirds. The Spotted Sandpiper is fairly common in Alaska. The signature spots are only present during breeding season. But the Spottie also has a distinct, teetering or rocking behavior that makes it pretty easy to recognize in the field, even after it loses its spots. Spotted Sandpipers are among a small minority of birds that have reversed sex roles; i.e., females are more aggressive and active in courtship than males, and males take the…

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Bird of the Week: Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird, Kachemak Bay

We’ll take a break from the pesky shorebirds and take a moment to look at one of nature’s marvels. Just one of the 338 known hummingbird species breeds in Alaska, the Rufous Hummingbird. The Rufous Hummingbird is nothing less than astonishing. This tiny little 3.5 gram bird migrates thousands of kilometers, from the shores of Cook Inlet to northern Mexico. If you don’t find that amazing, your sense of wonder must be lost. The female builds the nest and in just a few days after arriving, lays and starts incubating eggs. Three weeks later, the kids are fledged and after building fat…

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Mudflats Goes Militia in Talkeetna

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Friday 13:00, Tesoro Station Mini-Mart, Talkeetna, Alaska The Tesoro gas station mini-mart in Wasilla does not carry potatoes. As a matter of fact, they do not carry produce of any kind. I am supposed provide dinner tonight for my little corner of the militia encampment. Yes, I’m going back again this year to the Alaska Prepper/Survivalist/Militia Rendezvous, and instead of PB&J like last time, I’ve got steak, and asparagus – but I left the potatoes sitting on the counter at home. After a couple laps up and down the tiny aisles, I have to make a call. The closest thing…

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Bird of the Week: Solitary Sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper, Chena Hot Springs Road, Fairbanks

Another sandpiper that doesn’t have much to do with sand, the Solitary Sandpiper nests in trees in the boreal forest. There aren’t many tree-nesting sandpipers, which makes the Solitary pretty unique. It gets its name because it’s different in another way, too: it migrates alone, not in a flock. This is a slender, fairly small, dark sandpiper, about 8 inches long. Its upper parts are dark olive-brown, finely spotted with whitish-buff to cinnamon-white. It has a white throat and belly, yellow legs and that distinctive narrow white eye-ring. The bird’s dark underwings contrast with white belly in flight. Camera geek stuff:…

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Bird of the Week: Upland Sandpiper

Upland Sandpiper, Delta Barley Project, Delta Junction

The Upland Sandpiper is a little different. Unlike most shorebirds, the Upland Sandpiper has only incidental contact with the shore. It spends its winters on the grasslands of South America and its summers on the grasslands of North America, including the fields of the Delta Agricultural Project, southeast of Delta Junction. Uppies have an amazing call, exactly a wolf whistle. This fellow was, literally, singing in the rain. This is a bigger sandpiper, 12 inches tall. The large, dark eye in a small head and the long, pale yellow legs make this an easy identification, even if he isn’t singing…

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Bird of the Week: Semipalmated Sandpiper

Semipalmated Sandpiper, Hartney Bay, Cordova

Even birders struggle to distinguish Semipalmated Sandpipers from Western Sandpipers. Generally, Semipalmateds are paler than Westerns, less rufous in coloration. The bill is a bit blunter. But Semipalmateds can be pretty rufous, and generally sandpipers’ bills are probing the mud, making comparison tough. As WC said, it’s a tough identification in the field. This photo catches a field mark that is quite hard to see in the field but definitive: note the webbing between the toes. That’s the “semipalmated” business in the bird’s name. This is another photo taken while laid out flat in the Hartney Bay mud. WC would…

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Bird of the Week: Western Sandpiper

Western Sandpiper Flock, Hartney Bay, Cordova

We’re continuing with the hard ones, the sandpipers. This week it’s Alaska’s most common peep, the Western Sandpiper. Truly spectacular numbers of Western Sandpipers move through southcentral Alaska in spring migration. This flock was photographed at the Copper River Shorebird Festival in Cordova, Alaska. The birds hang out in Hartney Bay to re-fuel, foraging for in the mud and resting. This shot was taken by WC while prone in the mud of Hartney Bay. Not a task for those of a delicate sensibility. Camera geek stuff: f5.7, 1/400, ISO200. For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

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Bird of the Week: Rock Sandpiper

Rock Sandpipers, Homer Small Boat Harbor, Alaska

You’ve seen a lot of sparrows, the Little Brown Jobs or LBJs of birding, and they are admittedly hard to identify in the field. Now, let’s spend some time with birds that are even harder: sandpipers, the peeps of the birding world. Rock Sandpipers winter on the rocky shores and breakwaters of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. But they breed on the Bering Sea Coast, mostly on mudflats and intertidal zones, which kind of makes you scratch your head about the species common name. Most sandpipers are cryptic, quite hard to see in their environment. Rock Sandpipers are a champion…

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Alaska Lemming Caucus Over the Edge

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This has been a difficult week for many Alaskans. So much uncertainty as 10,000 pink slips go to our friends and neighbors working for the state. Fairbanks Sen. Pete Kelly argues they aren’t pink slips, because there’s an “if” in them, as in “You’re not laid off if a handful of senators get their poop together.” Of course, we know there’s no chance Pete and his collaborators will get their poop together. Instead of pink slips, people online are calling them “Pete slips.” Our current legislative crisis is the handiwork of a small cabal of senators who refuse to compromise their misguided ideology. The…

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