Archive for May 26th, 2012
One of the cool things about spring migration in Interior Alaska is the arrival of the sea ducks, waterfowl that spend most of their lives on the ocean, but migrate far inland to breed and raise their young. Here’s a sampling.
Easily the most spectacular of the Interior ducks, the Harlequin Duck deserves its name.
This extravagant species breeds on white-water streams in the mountains. It’s common the Alaska Range, and occasionally seen on the upper Chena River. A birding day with a Harlie in it is always a treat. This photo is from Rock Creek, along the Denali Highway.
Another pretty amazing species that travels to interior lakes to breed is the Surf Scoter, one of the three North American scoter species:
The spectacular schnozz on this guy makes it one of the easiest field identifications in Alaska. Surf Scoters aren’t present in big numbers, so it’s always a treat to find one. This guy was at 48 Mile Pond on Chena Hot Springs Road, snacking on fingerlings.
Less spectacular but still very handsome is the Long-tailed Duck:
Until pretty recently, this species was called Oldsquaw. In large flocks on the ocean, the calls are very much like muttering old women. Political correctness, and probably the right thing to do, but still. This species breeds in alpine lakes; this photo was taken along the Denali Highway.
The last species isn’t a duck; it’s a grebe, Alaska’s largest grebe. And political correctness hasn’t struck here yet. This is a Red-necked Grebe:
This species also likes lowland lakes. But unlike the ducks, Red-necks won’t tolerate other species on the lake or pond and drive them off, including their smaller, handsome cousins, Horned Grebes. This photo was taken at Wander Lake, on Wedgewood’s nature preserve.
They aren’t here long, any of them. But they are an excellent part of spring and summer.