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October 4, 2015

Bird of the Week – Varied Thrush

Varied Thrush Male, Cordova, Alaska

The sad, burry song of the Varied Thrush haunts the western Boreal forest. You will hear this species more often than you see it, but its dramatic orange and black plumage make it distinctive. It’s slightly smaller than a Robin, with a similar orange breast, but the black mask and “necklace” make it impossible to confuse the two. Varied Thrush prefer mature spruce forests; they are a species of concern because of habitat loss. Camera geek stuff: f5.7, 1/250, ISO250 For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

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Bird of the Week – American Robin

American Robin feeding on Mountain Ash

Even birders get tired of shorebirds. Let’s switch to thrushes. And by far the most common and the largest thrush in North America is the American Robin. WC has seen American Robins on the north side of the Brooks Range, in Nome, in the Yukon Delta, in Valdez and in Hyder, as well as all points in between. It’s also a species that adapts well to human-altered terrain. This fellow is showing feather wear; he’s likely about to molt into fresh chest feathers. The Robin’s song is one of WC’s favorite signs of spring. Camera geek stuff: f4, 1/400, ISO500,…

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Bird of the Week – Wilson’s Snipe

Wilson's Snipe, Tanana Lakes, Fairbanks

Any guy who ever went to camp likely went on a Snipe Hunt. For those who never did, it’s a mild form of hazing, involving pillow cases, expeditions in the dark and getting left in the woods to feel foolish. So it may comes as surprise to learn there is such a thing as a snipe. Specifically, Wilson’s Snipe. This is a bird that is heard much more often than it is seen. Snipe courtship involves “winnowing,” a spectacular courtship flight, during which individuals produce a haunting, tremulous sound (the winnow) with their outspread outer tail-feathers. It is “produced by airflow…

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Big Ideas for a Big State


By Howard Weaver President Obama’s recent attention to Alaska — especially in Dillingham, Kotzebue and Seward — provides a welcome focus for looking beyond the bleak landscape of oil price collapse and budget cuts toward a brighter, more sustainable future. For perhaps the first time since western contact, Alaskans may be motivated to turn away from the love-em-and-leave-em dynamics of extraction to embrace their genuine treasures: the cultural diversity and frontier spirit of its people; an abundance of renewable resources that can be managed and sustained forever; and indigenous wisdom from the North that can benefit all mankind. Seward, then…

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Bird of the Week – Black Oystercatcher

Black Oystercatcher, Kachemak Bay, Alaska

About 15 years ago now, WC was in Valdez to start a Birdathon – in fact, a record-making Birdathon – when he encountered a drunken fisherman on the docks of the small boat harbor in Valdez, Alaska. The guy saw the binoculars and was able to conclude we were birders. “Yeah,” he slurred, “We just saw a Double-crested Oystercracker.” Which was probably a Black Oystercatcher. That’s a bird bill to remember, WC thinks you will agree. This is a true shorebird, spending its entire life along the rocky shores of the Pacific Ocean, found from the Aleutian Islands to Baja…

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Palin and the “Dogs” of a ‘War’ Against Police

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Here’s video of Sarah Palin calling #BlackLivesMatter protesters dogs. — Jesse Berney (@jesseberney) September 9, 2015 Here’s the latest Palin stupidity working its way around the interwebs. Palin: “Oh, and you know, since our president won’t say it, since he still hasn’t called off the dogs, we’ll say, Police officers and first responders all across this great land, we’ve got your back, we salute you! Thank you, police officers!” The video was captured by a writer for the lefty BlueNationReview at the anti-Iran deal protest in Washington, DC today. The video picks up somewhat mid-statement so we’re not quite…

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Sarah Palin, Speaking American, and Donald Trump


Authors note: Since every other blog and news site on the planet has commented on this, I felt that the Mudflats should share in at least some of those clicks. Because let’s be honest here, the only reason any of us are covering her at this point is for the traffic; she doesn’t have the influence to really  justify it. So with that statement out of the way, enjoy the slow moving train wreck. You’re reading this because, like me… you quietly hate yourself. But look at it this way; you didn’t have to transcribe 15 minutes of Palin-Speak.  There seems to be two out…

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The Weekend Off – News You Missed


  Alaska ADN – Locals, biologists free polar bear caught in fishing net in Arctic Alaska Kaktovik residents and visiting biologists worked together to free a large polar bear that became entangled in a fishing net near a Beaufort Sea barrier island Saturday night. Smithsonian – Denali and America’s Long History of Using (or Not Using) Indian Names For American Indians, place names always tell something about the location, they aim to express the essence of the place, or its dominating characteristic or idea. As Europeans settled on the continent and early pioneers explored, they often gave places new names…

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Bird of the Week – Black-bellied Plover

Black-bellied Plover, Tanana Lakes, Fairbanks

Oh Lordie, another shore bird? Yep. There’s a lot of them. At least this one has a name that makes sense, even if it only makes sense in breeding season. The European name for this species, Gray Plover, fits a lot better in non-breeding plumage, but WC doesn’t have a photo of a bird in non-breeding plumage. This handsome plover breeds along Arctic coastal Alaska and Canada, and in the Yukon Delta. It winters along both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of North America. Camera geek stuff: f13, 1/500, ISO6400. For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

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Obama Comes to Alaska: We Have to Break the Ice, so We Can Save It.


As I drove, I imagined having to explain to a Secret Service agent that the reason my boots set off the sniffer dog is because the last two places I wore them were a pig farm and a gun show respectively. So, there was a perfectly good explanation why I smelled of gunpowder, and fertilizer. “No really! I swear! I still have the pictures on my phone!” I was glad I had allowed extra time. I had allowed so much extra time, it turns out, that I was the first member of the press at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson (JBER) and waited in…

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