Birding in the rain

Jun 25, 2012 | 0 comments

The day started out lazily, with everyone in the bunkhouse sleeping in after our busy Saturday. I spent most of the day reading, writing, and finishing organizing my room. It’s really hard to stay organized, because A) I will be moving downstairs in about a month and don’t want to fully unpack, and B) there’s nowhere to put anything. Nonetheless, it looks and feels a little more like home now.

Around 3pm, everyone was getting pretty restless, so 4 of us decided to take a walk down to a local seafood distributor.. It was a decent walk down the road toward the airport and just past the cemetery in the industrial outskirts of town. Old gold dredgers littered the sides of the road, and giant shipping trucks roared past us, spraying mud into the air.

It was cool and rainy again, the sky displaying every shade of grey.

The seafood place was just a small shop attached to a big warehouse. There was an odd selection of various spices, Asian-market type foods, fish T-shirts, rain gear, and a couple freezers with fresh and frozen fish displayed.

As we walked back I smelled the distinct aroma of a wood fire; every yard was a junkyard full of rusty pieces of metal and equipment, and old oil barrels, some draped with drying muskox hides. At one point I looked over to see an old man gold panning in a homemade sleuce in his front yard, a fire ablaze to melt down the gold he was recovering. It struck me again how important gold mining is to this town.

Well, as we arrived back at the bunkhouse, I saw Seth heading out with binoculars around his neck. “Are you going birding?” I asked, possibly a little too enthusiastically. Fortunately, he had been looking for me before to go, so I was back just in time.

I ran inside to grab my binoculars and pull on some tall rubber boots, since we would be hiking through the marsh behind the bunkhouse.

Luckily Seth knows Alaskan birds much better than I do, so I learned a lot. He pointed out White-crowned Sparrows and Hoary Redpolls before we even got to the marsh. Once in the marsh, after spotting a little ground squirrel we also saw a Long-billed Dowitcher, some Western Sandpipers, a Raven, an Arctic Tern, and some Mew Gulls.

We hiked for about an hour, across a stream, over a road, around a lake, through lots of mud, and back through the marsh, identifying Red-throated Loons, Red-necked Phalaraopes, Grey-cheeked Thrush, Glaucous gulls, Long-tailed Ducks, and a Fox Sparrow among others. Less than halfway through our hike, it started pouring rain. Well, as pouring as it gets here — rather than the big raindrops we get at home, this was more like a cold heavy shower that evenly soaks you head to foot.

Nonetheless, we managed to see 17 species of birds, most of them new to me, and I learned of some other good birding areas to check out later. It seems that even the laziest of days here can turn out to be quite fascinating.


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