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October 26, 2021

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Return of Bird of the Week: Black-backed Woodpecker

Females Black-backed Woodpecker, Alaska

Ornithologists called the Black-backed Woodpecker “enigmatic” and the term is apt. It’s a bit of a specialist, inhabiting by preference damaged forests. Historically, in Alaska it was found reliably in recent forest fire burns, but with the increased numbers and extent of wildfires, it seems to be more dispersed now. It also prefers forests invaded by various tree-eating/wood-boring beetles, yet has not extended its Alaska range into southern Alaska in response to the massive invasion of bark beetles there. This is primarily a boreal forest species, ranging across the forests of central Alaska and Canada, but is also found in…

FAKE NEWS COMES TO ALASKA! SAD!

Gov. Mike Dunleavy didn’t come out and call it “fake news” but he may as well have. In his journey down the Trump copycat trail, he’s now blaming the media as a convenient excuse to not have to answer uncomfortable questions. Here’s the headline that got the governor’s nose out of joint. He said it was inaccurate. He would have preferred a headline that read: “The legislature chose that $1600 value of the Permanent Fund Dividend and he decided not to veto it.” And for the want of that awkward headline, he’s decided not to talk to the press anymore….

Gov. holds education funding hostage

TALL TALES from Juneau Eyes on the Dunleavy/Babcock administration The Final Battle CONVENIENTLY UNCONSTITUTIONAL This week the discussion in the Capitol focused a lot on education and its funding. The first thing to know is that the Alaska Constitution requires adequate funding for education. It’s pretty cut and dried. That’s the backdrop. The conflict comes because – remember how the governor and his people were all fired up about slashing public education funding this year? His first budget called for hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts. But what they hadn’t counted on is that education had already been forward-funded…

The call is coming from inside the House!

The End is Just the Beginning…       DAY 122 IS DAY 1 The regular legislative session is over. The constitution says that the 121st day shall be the last! Unless of course they extend it for 10 days. Or unless someone calls a special session to deal with particular legislation, which is exactly what happened last night. Before legislators gaveled out, or had the chance to call themselves back to special session, Gov. Mike Dunleavy summoned the press to tell them that he’d be calling a special session on the crime bill, the PFD, and the budget. No…

Return of Bird of the Week: Alder Flycatcher

Alder Flycatcher, Creamer's Refuge, Fairbanks

Identification of flycatchers can be hard. Really hard. But now that we’re warmed up with all those yellow, black and white flycatchers, let’s continue our examination of some reallyhard birds: the infamous Empidonaxgenus, the “Emps.” Because after you’ve done Emps, nothing will seem as hard. Last week we looked at the Hammond’s Flycatcher. This week we’ll have a look at the Alder Flycatcher. This species has an impressive migration: it winters in South America, mostly in Brazil but as far south as Argentina. It’s a later arrival in the boreal forest, where it joins other Emps to torment birders. Here’s the…

Return of Bird of the Week: Hammond’s Flycatcher

Hammond's Flycatcher, Creamer's Refuge, Fairbanks

Identification of flycatchers can be hard. Really hard. But now that we’re warmed up with all those yellow, black and white flycatchers, let’s look at some reallyhard birds: the infamous Empidonaxgenus, the “Emps.” Because after you’ve done Emps, nothing will seem as hard. In Alaska, at least. the commonest Emp is the Hammond’s Flycatcher. We’ll start there. All Empids are drab. All have pale eye rings and wing bars. Identification depends on subtle differences in voice, size, bill shape, the extent their primary wing feathers project beyond the tail, and tail length. Hammond’s Flycatcher, Empidonax hammondii, is small with a disproportionately large…

The Simple Truth Behind Ballot Initiative No. 1

There is a lot of money being spent to get Alaskans to “Vote No” on Ballot Measure No. 1, with those opponents painting pictures of certain doom for Alaska’s economy. But what those opponents don’t say speaks volumes as to their motivations. Unfortunately, the messaging about what Ballot Measure No. 1 truly does is rather scattered, so let’s bring it all together. First, let’s start with a little history. One of the principal reasons for becoming a state, which was discussed over and over again at the Alaska Constitutional Convention in Fairbanks in November 1955, was the mismanagement of our…

Time to Jump Back In

Dear Reader, When last I wrote you, we were still waiting on salmon runs, the Red Sox were coming on strong, and the country seemed a little less insane than it does now. Sadly, too many of us are still waiting on the fish to come or have been shut down because of depressed returns. The Red Sox are first in the league and breaking their own records every week, and for this I am grateful. I’ve spent a few days wearing rain gear — not to keep dry, but to keep the mosquitoes from sending me to town for…

Return of Bird of the Week: Barred Owl

Barred Owl, Bois, Idaho

Maybe WC should call this a Bard Owl: it was photographed on the grounds of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival in Boise, yesterday. Bad puns aside, this species is rare in southeastern Idaho. And controversial. Range expansion into the Pacific Northwest has brought the Barred Owl into contact with the closely related cousin, the Spotted Owl. The more aggressive Barred Owl has been known to displace and even hybridize with the Spotted Owl, a further threat to that already endangered species. This is North America’s third largest owl by size, smaller than the Great Grey Owl and Great-horned Owl. It’s a generalist…

Fred Dyson’s Alaska Winter Driving Safety

Special Guest Post from Assemblyman Fred Dyson (Eagle River) WHEN THE ROADS GET SLICK AND THE FOOLS ARE OUT DRIVING (ADVICE FROM AN OLD RACE CAR DRIVER) The first snowfall of the year brings a rash of ditch divers and car crashes.  My kids and I used to have a game of rating the wrecks when we drove between Eagle River and Anchorage.  The ditch divers, whom we scored as a 10, managed to cross four lanes of traffic, clear the guardrail, do a complete roll or summersault, and land on their wheels without hitting another car.  You can come up…