Archive for June 7th, 2010
The eastern half of the Denali Highway is an under-explored, world-class birding destination. WC and Mrs. WC headed down that way last weekend, based out of the nicest lodgings in the area, Denali Highway Cabins. The goal was just to see what was around and what might be photographed. We were rewarded with excellent weather and even more excellent birds.
Smith’s Longspur is one of the tougher North American birds to find. They don’t ever seem to be abundant. But a little work and might turn one up:
Smith’s Longspur (male)
and the equally handsome female:
Smith’s Longspur (female)
The much more common cousin of the Smith’s Longspur is the Lapland Longspur, with its plaintive whistle call and skylarking courtship flight:
Likely in the same area you can find the improbable-looking Whimbrel, one of Alaska’s longer-billed species:
Nesting the same area you will likely find the handsomest bird on the alpine tundra, the American Golden-Plover,
which will almost certainly give you a broken wing display and lead you away from its nest.
At Maclaren River Lodge,you can ask the lodge owners to show you their Say’s Phoebe nest, perhaps the most westerly breeding of its species:
And in one of the clearwater streams like the Gulkana River or Rock Creek, you may get lucky and find an American Dipper:
It’s about the best birding you can find on the Alaska road system. And each species is within a quarter mile of the road. A longer walk might get you Snow Buntings, Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches, or Long-tailed Jaeger. It’s an amazing area. If you’re a birder, you need to give it a visit.