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December 6, 2016

Bird of the Week – Western Wood-Pewee

Western Wood-Pewee, Creamer's Refuge, Fairbanks

There are three species in this genus this small flycatchers, but only one, the Western Wood-Pewee, is commonly found in Alaska. This is a small, drab bird, but the slight crest, indistinct or missing eye ring and whitish belly and throat make it fairly easy to identify in field. At least is you are outside the range of Eastern Wood Pewees, and happily, in Alaska we are. Fairbanks is near the northerly limit of the species’ documented breeding range. They winter in Central and northern South America. Any bird that eats mosquitoes is a winner, in WC’s thinking. Which makes the…

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Alaskan Gifts for Your Lower 48 Friends… ok, and for your Alaskan ones too

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It’s Cyber Monday – the digital version of the shopping we did before the weekend when we shopped ourselves silly on Black Friday. This list of #mustbuys are all Alaskan. From nature photographers like Carl Johnson to oyster farmers, Alaska is chock full of awesome gifts to give to your friends in and out of the 49th state. This cyber Monday, support local… your friends will thank you for it. Where Water is Gold – Carl Johnson Mudflats contributor, Carl Johnson, who has been documenting the communities that would be affected Pebble Mine for years published the gorgeous Where Water is…

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Thanksgiving Goes into Overtime

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I’m hoping your Thanksgiving was peaceful. I know there was a lot of anxiety about it and how the holiday season is going to go. If there was a “Thanksgiving Bingo” game I would have won after hearing the term “vaginal overreach” in a conversation. We had a lot on our plates to talk about, as well as plenty of food. I’ve been trying to figure out where the Venn diagram overlaps are between our divided camps, and concentrate on them. Our similarities aren’t always obvious. Truth be told, the idea of the president-elect succeeding in his agenda could really…

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Bird of the Week – Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush, Creamer's Refuge, Fairbanks

There’s one more thrush that breeds in Alaska. The Hermit Thrush. The species is pretty common in spring and summer boreal forest under stories, usually in drier and brushier areas. Note the complete white eye ring, spotted breast and reddish tail and flanks. Hermit Thrushes are best known for their song, an ethereal fluting, with a long note followed by two or three higher, fading trills. It’s haunting and lovely, and often goes on all night during courtship. It’s WC’s favorite bird song of the boreal forest. For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

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The Manchurian Newscaster

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I think winter has come. I’m not sure I mean that in a seasonal way, or a “Game Of Thrones” way. The waterline has officially frozen from the pond and the lines have been drained. If my little bay was a snow globe, someone has definitely shaken it. I made friends with an ermine when he was still brown. He’s white now and all I have to do to see him is walk out on the porch and call him. “Herman? Herman?” He stays pretty close and I’m happy to have him for a neighbor. He kills shrews and other…

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Bird of the Week – Townsend’s Solitaire

Townsend's Solitaire, Fairbanks

In the winter of 2008, WC and Mrs. WC were lucky enough to have a Townsend’s Solitaire hang around their bird feeders most of the winter. That’s uncommon. Solitaires don’t usually visit feeders, and usually migrate south to the Lower 48 during the winter. A drab, gray bird with a strong white eye-ring and a small buffy patch on its flank, the Solitaire breeds in the mountains, near or even above tree line. The species isn’t well studied in its breeding range. But in spring, the male’s song is a beautiful keynote to the season. Praised as “one of the…

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Bird of the Week – Killdeer

Killdeer, Airport Ponds, Fairbanks

Killdeer, a species of plover, are uncommon in Alaska. Famous for the call that gives them their name and their remarkable broken-wing display they use to lead you away from the nest, are North America’s most common plover. Fairbanks is at or near the northernmost edge of their usual range. But Killdeer are present in low numbers year-round in Southeast Alaska. Unlike their smaller cousins, Semipalmated Plovers, Killdeer habituate to human activity and are common in parks, golf courses and sports fields. For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

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I’m not being racist here, but…

Photo by Redhawk at Standing Rock

Have you ever noticed right before someone says something racist, they say, “I’m not being racist here, but…”, and then they say something racist. You know what’s coming. A Denali tour pilot wrote something racist online and he’s feeling the brunt of many Alaskans who are tired of racism against Native Alaskans. Among other things, the pilot said “no Natives.” I realize he’s an out of stater, but part of the historical shame that magnified his comments were the “No Dogs, No Natives” signs that used to hang in too many of businesses. One of the commenters on the article…

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Bird of the Week – Black Turnstone

Black Turnstone, Chevak, Alaska

The Black Turnstone is the drabber cousin of last week’s Ruddy Turnstone. The Black Turnstone is a North American bird, breeding only on the western shore of Alaska. It winters along the Pacific coast, as far north as Kodiak Island and as far south as Baja California. This little 9.25 inch bird is about as belligerent as a shorebird gets. WC has watched them attack a Long-tailed Jaeger, a bird four times its size, screeching defiance the whole time. Unlike other shorebirds, presented with a threat, even an innocent photographer, a Black Turnstone runs directly at the threat, in a hunched-over…

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The Still Before the Electoral Storm

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If you’re paying attention, right before a storm comes, it gets really, really still. The blue herons and kingfishers seem to be the only birds still fishing. I wonder if it’s easier for them to see their tiny silver meals through the surface of the water when it is so quiet. From the porch you can hear whales surfacing and their tails whacking near to the channel. If you wait, you’ll see the wake ripple to the beach from their antics. The air smells like summer died. I have more devil’s club in my flesh than the devil does and…

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