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October 1, 2016

  • Pacific Golden Plover, Gambell, St. Lawrence Island

    Bird of the Week – Pacific Golden Plover

    Until 1993, American and Pacific Golden Plovers were thought to be one species. In that year, the Bird Gods – the American Ornithological Union – split them. In breeding plumage, it’s pretty easy to tell them apart: the Pacific’s white stripe extends all the way down the side, where the American Golden Plover’s ends at the shoulder. If you’ve been to Hawai’i, you’ve seen these birds on the lawns and golf courses. They are distinctly more approachable there than breeding territory. Pacific Golden Plovers are awesome migrants. They fly directly from Hawai’i to Alaska, for example; nonstop. The next time…

  • begichlisamiller

    Driving To Alaska’s Political Madness

    My parents first came to Alaska in the ’60s, driving a red and white Volkswagen bus. They came from Virginia and like so many Alaskans, they came for one year – that was almost 50 years ago and they never left. I’m happy to report I’m making the trip they did, though by a more northerly route. It’s a bit of a shock to my Alaskan mind to drive through four states in a day without going through a foreign country. There is so much to take in on open road and border crossings. You can drive for days on…

  • wm-ows-flyers-scanned-1-of-10

    OWS – 5 Years Ago Something Big Started

    Five years on and what has changed? Some might say nothing. We still have candidates of the 1% – this time one of them proudly running as the king of the Billionaires, the other just your standard SuperPAC funded politico. Transparency in government and in the business world sure as hell hasn’t gotten any better. Wells Fargo defrauds thousands and no one gets in trouble, Clinton runs a private e-mail server to avoid FOIA laws and transparency and she just gets a scolding. But what did we expect? Did we ever dream that OWS would have changed all that? A…

  • Brandt's Cormorant, Small St. Lazaria National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

    Bird of the Week – Brandt’s Cormorant

    We’ll finish up cormorants with the Brandt’s Cormorant. Unlike the other three, this species breeds only in North America, and reaches the northerly limit of its range at Kodiak Island. This species’ life history and populations are tied to the rich upwelling associated with deep upwelling currents like the California Current. Long-term monitoring of the population at Farallon Islands, California, the single largest colony of the species, has helped establish the relationship between breeding success and the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which determines the timing and degree of nutrient-rich upwelling, and hence food availability. It’s pretty easy to tell this species form the other…

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    Open Thread: The Shrimp Whisperer

    Indie Alaska, a project of Alaska Public Media has released this amazing short doc on Al Laudert and his shrimp art pieces. It’s just too fun not too watch.


Pelagic Cormorant, Sitka Sound, Alaska

Bird of the Week – Pelagic Cormorant

Sep 3, 2016

The Pelagic Cormorant is the smallest and most widely distributed of six cormorant species commonly seen in North America and the four species of cormorant seen in Alaska (we had a look at a Red-faced Cormorant sometime ago). This is another mis-named bird species. Despite its name, Pelagic Cormorants are in-shore specialists, It feeds primarily on solitary fish and invertebrates on the bottom. It can be difficult in the field to tell a Pelagic from its cousins, the Double-crested, Brandt’s and Red-faced, but with a little practice the smaller size and comparatively small bill are pretty good field marks. Pelagics have an extensive…


It’s Time for Rep. Cathy Munoz to Resign – Your Letters Show Your True Self

Aug 28, 2016

Originally published in I’ve been following politics for a long time. Right out of the gate I was convinced most elected officials were geniuses for figuring out how to screw over the lowest rung on the ladder for their own benefit. That was before the FBI raided and charged 10 percent of our Legislature with taking bribes. I still think the feds missed a few. Still, after having sat through those trials, I became a believer in Hanlon’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.” I keep wondering about that rule while following a…

Hooded Merganser, Sitka, Alaska

Bird of the Week – Hooded Merganser

Aug 27, 2016

The third species of Merganser that breeds in North America is the Hooded Merganser. The male likely wins the prize for snappiest headgear among North American birds. Hoodies are the smallest of the three mergansers, and the only one that breeds only in North America. A cavity nester, it prefers cavities – or manmade nest boxes – in old trees near or over water. Hoodies have extensive courtship displays, including the upward neck stretch. Hoodies have an attitude that is much larger than their diminutive size. They’re fun to watch. Unfortunately, humankind’s relentless cutting of old growth forests, where it’s…


The Weekend Off – News You Missed

Aug 22, 2016

Alaska The Guardian – ‘Next year or the year after, the Arctic will be free of ice’ Scientist Peter Wadhams believes the summer ice cover at the north pole is about to disappear, triggering even more rapid global warming KUOW – Threatened By Rising Seas, Alaska Village Decides To Relocate Rising sea levels have eroded an Inupiat Eskimo village for decades. Now, residents of Shishmaref, Alaska, have officially voted to relocate. – The Arctic Circle may be more than 400 miles north, but Seward has become an Arctic port In this picturesque Alaska port town more than 400 miles south…


Looking for the Tree of Knowledge in Homer

Aug 21, 2016

Originally published in I’m spending a few typical August days with my parents in Homer. There’s lots of catching up to do with old classmates or the random co-worker from my teenage job at the Sourdough Bakery. Lots of fishing and addressing what we refer to as Pop’s “halibut insecurity” when the freezer levels dip below a certain amount. I’m writing this column while mom, a retired primary teacher, is volunteering at the local elementary school to organize backpacks for children who don’t have what they need to start school next week. Pop and I have been discussing what…

Red-breasted Merganser Male, North Fork Chena River

Bird of the Week – Red-breasted Merganser

Aug 20, 2016

All three species of North American mergansers breed in Alaska, although one rarely makes it past the Panhandle. We’ve looked at the Common Merganser already. Now we’ll have a look at the other two. The Red-breasted Merganser is the most northerly breeding of the mergansers, found all the way to the North Slope. It’s also the bird with the second-snappiest hair-do (feather-do?), trailing only next week’s species. This is a diving duck, foraging as deep at 15-20 feet underwater for fish, especially smolts. Red-breasted Mergansers don’t breed until they are two years old, and breed late in the season, with…

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Reacting to the ‘Syrian Boy’

Aug 18, 2016

During her daily CNN show Kate Bolduan started to cry while discussing the video of the small Syrian boy. The video is going viral on facebook even after the footage of the 5 year old boy – Omran Daqneesh had already hit the news cycle. Bouldan wasn’t trying to make the story about her – she was just responding as I am right now as I write this. I’m not sure how we’re supposed to respond to this as journalists, as commentators or just as human beings. Walter Cronkite in an interview with Terry Gross spoke of the moment that he told America that President…


19th Amendment Solutions

Aug 15, 2016

It’s not a secret that every few years I’m asked who the Democrats should run against Republican Rep. Paul Seaton of Homer. Every time I tell them they’d be better off spending their money against one of the Republican Future Felons from the Mat-Su. Mr. Seaton is a respected fisherman and responsible legislator, one held in high regard by his community. The nastiest races in our fair state are often the Republican-on-Republican primaries. Outside interests pay to flood our boxes with scary flyers promising gloom and doom if we elect their unchosen. Oh, the horrors! According to them, Homer’s Seaton…


The Mudflats Endorses Jeff Landfield in the Republican Primary

Aug 13, 2016

It’s last-minute classless attack ad time, and lookie what came in the mail! Craig Johnson quoted us and everything. Because Craig Johnson thinks that even we – the godless, tree-huggin’ bunny-smoochin’ libruls believe that he, Craig Johnson, is the better choice for Senate District L. That would make Craig Johnson WRONG. While our social style is a little less… freewheeling than Mr. Landfield’s, we have found him to be sincere, hard-working, smart, willing to listen to and consider all sides of an issue, and even downright likeable. Craig Johnson on the other hand is a humorless, closed-minded, oil guzzlin’ blowhard….

Parasitic Jaeger on a Nest, Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge

Bird of the Week – Parasitic Jaeger

Aug 12, 2016

Back in June, we looked at a Long-tailed Jaeger. This is one of that species’ relatives, the Parasitic Jaeger. Even among gulls and jaegers, Parasitic Jaegers are unsavory characters. A major part of their diet is obtained through kleptoparasitism. They steal food from other birds, either by harassing the other birds till they drop if or, if it’s been swallowed, until the victim regurgitates it. Alaska-breeding Parasitic Jaegers aren’t exclusively kleptoparasites, unlike their east Atlantic cousins. Alaska’s birds also hunt and, truth be told, steal eggs. Hey, it’s a living. Parasitic Jeager are among the least known, least studied birds that…