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January 23, 2017

Bird of the Week – American Three-toed Woodpecker

American Three-toed Woodpecker, Upper Chena River Valley

We’ll go back to woodpeckers for a while. The American Three-toed Woodpecker is a medium-sized black-and-white woodpecker. The male has a small yellow patch on his forehead. The feet do indeed have only three toes, instead of the more common four: 2 forward and 1 backward. (The Black-backed Woodpecker has the same configuration.) The Three-toed can be a difficult bird to find. Unlike other woodpeckers, it doesn’t drill. Instead, it flakes off pieces of spruce bark to get to insects. It prefers spruce bark beetles, but is otherwise a generalist. Three-toeds will drum to establish territory, often picking a dead…

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Bird of the Week – Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Creamer's Refuge, Fairbanks

The smallest songbird in the New World boreal forest is the Ruby-crowned Kinglet. The red spot on the species’ head is only present in males and even then not all the time. Even ithout the red spot, the broken white eye ring, two white wingbars and incredible hyperactivity make this a pretty easy bird to identify in the field. If you can keep your binoculars on it as it frenetically jumps around. For a tiny bird, this little kinglet has an amazingly loud and long song. It’s a wonderful sign of spring. For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

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Bird of the Week – Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Creamer's Refuge, Fairbanks

The smallest songbird in the New World boreal forest is the Ruby-crowned Kinglet. The red spot on the species’ head is only present in males and even then not all the time. Even ithout the red spot, the broken white eye ring, two white wingbars and incredible hyperactivity make this a pretty easy bird to identify in the field. If you can keep your binoculars on it as it frenetically jumps around. For a tiny bird, this little kinglet has an amazingly loud and long song. It’s a wonderful sign of spring. For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

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Sen. Murkowski, Stand True To Your Word

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Many of us are counting the days down for America to be great again. I still haven’t heard an answer to the question of when it stopped being great, but being great sounds, well, great! So let’s do it. First things first. We have got to get rid of that health care disaster that has enslaved millions of Americans by creating access to a doctor. Enough! Because of Obamacare, college-age kids have been rafted up to their parents’ policies like parasites. Those pre-existing conditions — the warning flags to companies that don’t want your sick behind dragging down their profits…

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Bird of the Week – Canvasback

Canvasback, Airport Ponds, Fairbanks

Back when WC was working through waterfowl earlier in this series, he overlooked an uncommon but widely distributed duck, the Canvasback. The bird is hard to overlook; the drake’s red eye and canvas-white back are very distinctive. It’s also the largest of the diving ducks. The very long bill is equally distinctive; only the Northern Shoveler has a bigger bill. The Canvasback is closely related to and can hybridize with the somewhat similar Redhead. Which also occurs in Alaska but, alas, WC doesn’t have an Alaska photo of the species. For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

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Bird of the Week – Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper, Cordova

If December 17’s Red-breasted Nuthatches usually climb down trees, Brown Creepers usually climb up. The cryptic coloration and very high-pitched vocalization on this species can make it tough to find. And populations have been greatly reduced by clear-cutting and removal of dead and dying trees, its preferred foraging area. The creeper uses its slender, decurved bill to capture invertebrates—mainly insects, spiders, and pseudoscorpions—from furrows in tree bark. It was not until 1879 that ornithologists discovered Brown Creeper’s unique habit of building a hammock-like nest behind a loosened flap of bark on a dead or dying tree. Those nests are incredibly hard to find. For more…

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Carl Johnson’s “Where Water is Gold” Book Launch Party

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January 14th, 2017 – 6pm to 9:30pm – Taproot Book launch party for “Where Water is Gold: Life and Livelihood in Alaska’s Bristol Bay.” Presentations by Vic Fischer, Alaska Constitutional Convention Delegate, commercial fishermen, contributing writers, and photographer Carl Johnson.  [RSVP on Facebook] Join us for stories, photos, and video from people like commercial fishermen and homesteaders and enjoy a glimpse into this amazing region. Partake in some salmon from Bristol Bay! Partners in this event include the Alaska Marine Conservation Council and the National Parks Conservation Association. Proceeds from the event will go toward these organization’s efforts to protect the…

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Bird of the Week – Hairy Woodpecker

Male Hairy Woodpecker, Fairbanks

For Christmas Eve, we’ll have a bird with a splash of Christmas color, the male Hairy Woodpecker. Only the males have red on their heads; females are just black and white. The Hairy Woodpecker is Alaska’s largest woodpecker. They are sometimes difficult to find in the forest. Tracking them down by their drumming is the usual approach. But they are enthusiastic about suet feeders, especially in the interior. Hairys dig nest cavities in trees. Looks for piles of wood chips around the base of a tree. Once the eggs hatch, the kids are noisy and the nest is pretty easy…

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The Frozen Chosen – Alaska’s Three Electors

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I keep hearing people say, “It’s probably going to get worse before it gets better.” Is that supposed to make us feel better? Hey! I know you really feel uncertain and worried for the future of our democracy with the Russian hacking and whatnot, but don’t worry, it will get worse before it gets better. Who says that in your everyday life? Your oncologist? If your family, like ours, just had the 12 days of Christmas turned into 20 days of radiation, you know this is not a phrase your doctor uses. This week the Electoral College meets to cast…

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Bird of the Week – Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch, Fairbanks

You usually hear the characteristic “tinhorn” yank yank call of the Red-breasted Nuthatch before you see the bird. This species famously climbs head downward on tree trunks, distinguishing itself from the much-drabber Brown Creeper, which climbs up. The species is found across the United States and Canada, wherever there are spruce of fir trees, its preferred habitat. In Alaska, it’s common in southcentral and southeast, but uncommon in the interior and accidental further north and west. Unlike chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches rarely use nest boxes or existing cavities. In the winter, they join mixed flocks to forage, and are enthusiastic visitors to birdfeeders….

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