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April 19, 2015

Bird of the Week – White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow, East Denali Highway

In the spring in Alaska, it’s hard to walk along a road or trail and not hear a White-crowned Sparrow. It’s often described as an “elegant little bird,” and it is certainly handsome.   Unlike some sparrows, the White-crowned is a bit of a generalist, occupying a wide variety of habitats and foraging on insect as well as seeds and fruit.  The distinctive white stripe on the op of the head makes this an easy bird to identify in the field. Camera geek stuff: f6.3, 1/500, ISO400. For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

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Bird of the Week – American Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow, Denali Highway, Alaska

The American Tree Sparrow is mis-named. It breeds in Alaska and Canada, north of the treeline, far from trees. Early European settlers thought it looked like the Eurasian Tree Sparrow, an unrelated species, and the name stuck. The handsome, brown-capped little sparrow breeds in alpine habitats across Alaska, between the Brooks Range and the Coastal Range. This is one of the smaller Alaska sparrows, best seen in spring when the male perches on top of low bushes, singing to establish his territory and  to find a mate. Camera geek stuff: f4, 1/250, ISO200. For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather…

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Bird of the Week – Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow, Copper River Delta, Alaska

The Song Sparrow is one of the most diverse and widespread songbirds in North America, with 24 diagnosable subspecies (52 named) breeding from Newfoundland to the Aleutian islands here in Alaska and south to central Mexico. Coastal southcentral Alaska is the northerly limit of its breeding range. Individuals vary 150% in body mass over this range—the largest subspecies breed in beach grass in the Aleutians, the smallest in California salt marshes. The species commonly seen in mainland Alaska is at the larger end of the size spectrum. While the species generally winters in the western states, birds regularly over-winter in southeastern Alaska…

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Bird of the Week – Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Spring Migration, Delta Barley Project

By far the most common warbler in the boreal forest, the Yellow-rumped Warbler, the “Butter-Butt,” prefers the canopy, the tops of trees. As a result, it’s probably the most common cause of “birder’s neck,” neck strain from looking straight overhead. The species winters in the southern United States and Central America. The Yellow-rumped Warbler has two different forms: the Audubon’s and the Myrtle. They were once thought be be separate species, but were “lumped” into a single species a little while back. Alaska sees the Myrtle Warbler form. Camera geek stuff: f8, 1/640, ISO6400. For more bird photos, please visit Frozen…

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Bird of the Week – Arctic Warbler

Arctic Warbler Male, Denali Highway

There’s been a request for bird songs and call as well as photos. WC is a photographer. But the among birders, Xeno-canto is the go-to site for bird songs. We’ll try an embedded bird call from Xeno-canto and see what the Boss thinks.  The Arctic Warbler, unlike the majority of warblers, is an Old World warbler. It’s also another incredible migrant, traveling to Alaska from Southeast Asia to breed in the alpine and sub-alpine hills of Alaska. After such an epic migration, you might expect the males to rest and feed up before staking out their territories. You’d be wrong. The…

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Bird of the Week – Blackpoll Warbler

Blackpoll Warbler, Denali Highway

This post is a little late. Sorry. Realy good concert last night. The Blackpoll Warbler breeds in the Boreal Forest south of the Brooks Range and across Canada. It’s a very cool bird for several reasons. First, its breeding and non-breeding plumages are so different that for many years it was thought to be two different species. Here’s a Blackpoll Warbler in breeding plumage along the Denali Highway. And here’s a bird in non-breeding plumage, photographed by Tom Johnson off the coast of Maine in early October. Next, there’s the bird’s song, which is among the highest pitched of any bird…

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Bird of the Week – Northwestern Crow

Northwestern Crow, Cordova, Alaska

There are four species of crow in North America, but only one breeds or commonly occurs in Alaska, the Northwestern Crow. Smaller than the American Crow, there’s a lot of disagreement among ornithologists about whether the Northwestern Crow may just be a subspecies of its American Crow cousin. For now, based on the size difference and their quite different calls, the American Ornithological Union thinks it is a different species. Camera geek stuff: f8, 1/250, ISO1000. The white drops are rain. For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

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Bird of the Week – Black-billed Magpie

Black-billed Magpie, southwest of Delta Junction

WC is staying with corvids – birds of the crow family – a little longer, this time we’ll have a look at the Black-billed Magpie. A bird of myth and legend, like the Common Raven, the species is expanding its range, breeding in the Fairbanks area in recent years. The species readily habituates to people, in fact, when Lewis and Clark first encountered magpies in 1804 in South Dakota, these birds were bold, entering tents to steal meat and taking food from the hand. Magpies sometimes seem to WC to model themselves, showing off their flashy feathers for a photographer. How…

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Bird of the Week – Common Raven

Common Raven, Fairbanks, Alaska

You knew it would happen eventually. The Common Raven, Corvus corax, is found essentially everywhere in Alaska, all year around. A lot of folks, WC included, think that the Common Raven should be the state bird. Smart, tough, adaptable and clever. The subject of myth and legend. This is the quintessential Alaska bird. Camera geek stuff: f5.7, 1/250, ISO 125 For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.  

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Bird of the Week – Gray Jay

Gray Jay, Chena Hot Springs Road, Alaska

This is likely the North American bird with the most nicknames: Camp Robber, Whiskey Jack, Canada Jay, lumberjack, meat-bird, venison-hawk, moose-bird and gorby. A signature bird of the Boreal Forest, the Gray Jay is also one of the species that most easily habituates to people. It has a huge repertoire of vocalizations, including the soft “cheo” and “chef chef chef” that are mostly commonly heard in the woods. A master of caching food, it’s a species that succeeds and prospers through the long subarctic winter. Camera geek stuff: f5.7, 1/1600, ISO 200 For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.  

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