Wednesday, June 24th: We left the hotel and headed south along the Seward Highway. We picked up a few city birds on the way out. Pretty soon, we were headed east along the north shore of the Turnagain Arm.
Our first stop was at Potter Marsh, which I had visited on my own on the 16th. A singing Townsend's Warbler was a bit of a surprise. We added Greater Yellowlegs (some with Lesser Yellowlegs) and Belted Kingfisher from the boardwalk. We also found Bald Eagle, a bird we would see many of throughout the day. We then went to the east end of the marsh in search of Horned Grebe. We didn't find it, but we did hear a Common Yellowthroat singing. They're not supposed to be here! Barry and Brennan got the word out by phone and on the internet. Soon after we left, local birders started arriving to see the yellowthroat. From a South Florida perspective, it's hard to graps that a Common Yellowthroat would be a serious rarity, but it was.
We continued along the Turnagain Arm. Our next stop was at a cliff where we spotted some Dall Sheep. Finally, we got to the east end of the Turnagain Arm and the Portage Valley. We went a short way up the valley to the Williwaw Campground, where we birded for an extended period of time.
The highlight at Williwas was a pair of American Dippers near the entrance. They were nesting under the platform, and we were even able to see part of the nest by looking between the planks. We returned to the main road and headed south through the Kenai Peninsula.
Our first stop in Kenai (except for road construction delays), was at Granite Creek Campground. We drove in a bit and walked a loop through the campground area. It was quite birdy there. Golden-crowned Kinglet was a new bird. We also found Pine Grosbeak, Boreal and Black-capped Chickadees, lots of Hermit Thrushes, Lincoln's Sparrows, Townsend's Warblers, and other birds.
We had lunch at Summit Lake Lodge. After lunch, we checked the lake. Only a few birds were out there, but one was a Common Goldeneye.
Further south along the Seward Highway, we pulled over at a spot known to often have Mountain Goat. High up on the mountainside, we saw two Mountain Goats.
On the outskirts of Seward we stopped at some feeders belonging to a woman named Ava. The new bird was Rufous Hummingbird, but we also got excellent looks at Pine Grosbeak, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers (feeding chicks), a horde of Pine Siskins, a (Sooty) Fox Sparrow, and Varied Thrush (not at the feeders).
While we were waiting to check in, I went out on the hotel deck overlooking the harbor. I noticed two Pigeon Guillemots in the water, and called the rest of the group over. A bit later, we had dinner at Chinock's. Some of us went looking for more birds after dinner. We found a female Common Merganser and chicks in a pond. Driving a little south of Seward, we found Steller's Sea Lion and Harbor Seal, as well as Harlequin Duck and Marbled Murrelets. The duck and one of the murrelets were close to shore. Two of us followed the murrelet as it fed its way up and down the coast in order to get photos. It wasn't spending much time on the surface.
I ended the day with 56 species of bird, 9 of them new for the trip. This brought by trip total to 151 species of bird including 4 lifers. No new mammals means the mammal count stands at 15.
Holiday Inn Express, Seward