Around Seward

Friday, June 26th: Today we started by heading out Nash Road. A stop at a roadside marsh yielded nesting Trumpeter Swans, a singing Red-winged Blackbird, displaying Wilson's Snipes, and a Mallard with chicks.

We birded the suburban Nash Woods area, getting good looks at Townsend's and Orange-crowned Warblers, a brief look at a Rufous Hummingbird, and our main target birds: Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Pacific Wren, and Steller's Jay. The Chestnut-backed Chickadees insisted on staying up in the trees. The Pacific Wren reponded strongly to the tape, coming close and singing on an open branch. The jays eventually gave reasonable looks, as did a Varied Thrush.

We returned to the hotel, packed up, and checked out. We didn't go far though. We crossed the street to Benny Benson park. Benson grew up partly in Seward. At the age of 13, his design for the Alaskan flag won the contest to determine the territorial flag. Alaska still uses that flag. We found several species in the park, most notably, the dark and large kenaiensis race of Song Sparrow.

This was the third time I've seen these, but the first where I've gotten a photo. My first encounter was on my 2001 trip to Alaska. I was doing a little pre-breakfast birding on my own, and one of these popped up. I didn't know what to make of it. At first, I thought it might be the sooty form of Fox Sparrow (it has the size and is dark enough), but I eventually realized it wasn't a Fox Sparrow. After some more study of the bird, I decided it was a Song Sparrow. Later, I was able to consult a field guide and confirm it. That was then, this is now and I expect the Song Sparrows here to be big and dark. I was very glad to get some photos of this unusual type of Song Sparrow.

The song is very similar to the song of eastern birds, so I doubt it will ever be considered a different species. Rather, it illustrates some of the variation that is possible within a single species (as does the fallax race present in parts of the desert southwest).

After that, we headed north on the Seward Highway. Our next stop was at Primrose Campground, where we found a nice collection of finches feeding on the road: Pine Grosbeaks, Pine Siskins, White-winged Crossbills, and a dark “Common” Redpoll. We got better looks at Steller's Jays here. I think this is also where we saw some Boreal Chickadees.

We had planned to eat lunch at Summit Lodge. However, their restaurant was closed in preparation for an event tomorrow. This created something of a problem. We could either backtrack to Moose Pass (or perhaps Copper Landing) or head on to Girdwood. We opted for the last, and ate at the Silvertip Grill in Girdwood. We made a couple stops along the Turnagain Arm to check for Belugas, but without success. Eventually, we were back in Anchorage. Before going to the hotel, we made one more stop, at Lions Club Park on Lake Hood. Some Bonaparte's Gulls were present on the lake. In years past, Western Wood-Pewee has occurred here. We didn't find any. We did complete the chickadee trifecta with Black-capped Chickadee. We also found a very streaky juvenile White-crowned Sparrow.

We checked to the Holiday Inn Express for the 4th time. Dinner tonight was at the Brew House. Although the name may give a different impression, it is a pretty good restaurant.

I ended the day with 41 species of bird, 1 of them new for the trip. This brought by trip total to 161 species of bird including 4 lifers. No new mammals means the mammal count stands at 16.

Holiday Inn Express, Anchorage