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July 6, 2015

  • Upland Sandpiper, Delta Barley Project, Delta Junction

    Bird of the Week: Upland Sandpiper

    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…

  • Semipalmated Sandpiper, Hartney Bay, Cordova

    Bird of the Week: Semipalmated Sandpiper

    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…

  • NYC Reacts to Gay Marriage  Ruling at Stonewall Inn

    At the Historic Stonewall Inn – Gay Marriage Celebrations in NYC

    On a week of historic Supreme Court decisions and non-stop breaking news, the decision that gay marriage was constitutional has swept the Nation like a cool breeze on a Summer day in Fairbanks. I’m stuck in New York City for the time being so hearing the news, I ran to the Stonewall Inn, the place many call the home of the LGBT rights movement in the USA. The celebrations were just ramping up as it was only an hour after the official announcement from D.C. but the crowd was certainly celebratory. Here’s a couple of my best shots – I’ll…

  • Western Sandpiper Flock, Hartney Bay, Cordova

    Bird of the Week: Western Sandpiper

    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.

  • Rock Sandpipers, Homer Small Boat Harbor, Alaska

    Bird of the Week: Rock Sandpiper

    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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Golden-crowned Sparrow, Cordova, Alaska

Bird of the Week – Golden-crowned Sparrow

May 16, 2015

One last sparrow, and WC has saved a handsome one for last. The Golden-crowned Sparrow is easily identified by the strong golden line on the crown of its head. The gold crown contrasts nicely with the otherwise black head. It also has easily recognized call, “oh-deary-me.” It’s a bit secretive, lurking in dense brush, but the males perch on shrub tops during breeding season, to establish territories and attract mates. This bird was photographed on spring migration on the Copper River Delta. Camera geek stuff: f5.7, 1/320, ISO250. For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

Fox Sparrow, Valdez, Alaska

Bird of the Week – Fox Sparrow

May 9, 2015

We’re not quite done with sparrows just yet. The Fox Sparrow is probably Alaska’s most variable sparrow, ranging from Sooty or Pacific subspecies shown here to the Red or Taiga species seen in Interior Alaska. There are at least four subspecies in Alaska; perhaps as many as 18 in North America. It’s also one of the Alaska largest sparrows, and kicks up leaves jumping and hopping as it forages. Unlike some other songbirds, it is perfectly, well, reasonably, confortable in the rain. Which in places like Valdez is a good thing. The Fox Sparrow also has one of the most…

Lincoln's Sparrow, Peat Ponds, Fairbanks, Alaska

Bird of the Week – Lincoln’s Sparrow

May 2, 2015

We’re still on sparrows. There are lots of sparrow species, the Little Brown Jobs or LBJs. This one is the Lincoln’s Sparrow, a boreal forest specialist. Because the species breeds only in boreal regions, has a distinct preference for dense shrub cover, and is secretive in nature, much of its biology remains poorly documented. And it can be difficult to photograph. (It’s not a great photo; it’s a little soft and the shadow across the head is a distraction. This is a target species for this coming summer.) The Lincoln’s Sparrow is a microhabitat specialist, preferring low willow cover with dense ground vegetation and…

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A 6-Pack of Reasons Amy Demboski Should Never Hold Office

Apr 30, 2015

Shockingly there are still Anchorage residents who are answering “undecided” when asked who they will vote for on May 5th in the mayoral election. Maybe their brains are stricken with spring fever, or cabin fever, or a controlled substance of some kind (#YesOn2). We’re about to make it easier for you to decide, and the decision has little to do with policy and everything to do with integrity, honesty, and ethics. We’d like to believe that those things, when utterly lacking in a candidate of any political persuasion, render that candidate unsuitable to hold office in the eyes of the…

Savannah Sparrow, Steese Highway, Alaska

Bird of the Week – Savannah Sparrow

Apr 25, 2015

The distinctive yellow eyebrow – technically, the supercilium – and buzzy sa-sa-sa-savannah call make this a pretty easy species to identify. The yellow eyebrow can sometimes be a little indistinct and hard to see in the field. Savannah Sparrows prefer grassy meadows, cultivated fields, lightly grazed pastures, roadsides, coastal grasslands, sedge bogs, edge of salt marshes, and tundra. They are common along brushy roadsides in Interior Alaska.  Camera geek stuff: f7.1, 1/400, ISO200. For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.  

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Mudflats Meets the NRA (Video)

Apr 23, 2015

The Mudflats’ Zach Roberts, Marcus DiPaola and I were in Nashville recently, submersing ourselves in the gun culture at the NRA convention which was held this year in Nashville, Tennessee. We’re busy processing what we saw, and will have some more posts coming soon about our experiences there. Here’s a little preview of the convention for your amusement.

White-crowned Sparrow, East Denali Highway

Bird of the Week – White-crowned Sparrow

Apr 18, 2015

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.

(Photo: J Devon)

Photos: The NRA Takes Nashville

Apr 17, 2015

Three days in the center of gun country celebrating the Second Amendment – we saw big rifles, small handguns, Presidential candidates and so much more. Here’s a selection of photos from myself and Jeanne Devon of our time at the National Rifle Association’s Annual Meeting – this year in Nashville, Tennessee.      

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Anchorage Secessionist Wants to be its Mayor

Apr 14, 2015

I’ve been lucky enough to reside in several parts of Alaska. When I lived in Fairbanks, I heard constantly how Fairbanksans were “real Alaskans” and people in Anchorage couldn’t handle a real winter. Anchorage, on the other hand, barely acknowledges the existence of Fairbanks — you mean that little town with ridiculous weather and bad air? Southeast Alaska is viewed as North Seattle. And Kodiak is a rock with rockets — more Pacific island than piece of Alaska. But the real “us and them” is between residents of the Mat-Su Borough and Anchorage. That rivalry has barbs. I’m not sure…

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks at the NRA Leadership Forum in Nashville.

NRA Leaders Speechify – Aloha Akhbar?!

Apr 11, 2015

For a weekend conference designed to celebrate and protect Americans’ second amendment rights, the Leadership Conference at the annual convention of the National Rifle Association sounded a whole lot more like a fire and brimstone tent revival to quash the political aspirations of future Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana “The leader of the vast left wing conspiracy will be announcing her candidacy,” said Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, during an unscheduled moment with the press before the event started. Jindal described this event in vague terms as an unholy alliance between big business and the Hollywood elite….