Saturday, July 7, 2012

Alaska: Ketchikan June 17, 2012


After a rocky day at sea (we won’t discuss my first bout ever with seasickness), we docked in Ketchikan right on time at 8 a.m. A bit later we picked up our rental car and ran to the Parnassus Bookstore to replace the Sibley’s Guide we accidentally left with our son back in Seattle.

Then we set out along the North Tongass Highway to do some birding.

Our first stop was Refuge Cove State Park, where Avie got his first look at a Red-breasted Sapsucker. We heard a lot of birds, but were unable to locate them in the thick cover of the Pacific Northwest Rain Forest.

Next stop was Totem Bight State Park, with a wonderful collection of Totem Poles.




We took the trail around the park, and walked a bit on a gravely beach. We picked up a small Marbled Murrelet diving just a bit off the shore.


On the way out of the park Avie saw an American Robin fly into its nest to feed some babies. When I got my binoculars on them I was fascinated to see the adult pick up a rather large fecal sac and, rather than remove it from the nest, swallow it – a behavior I’ll have to research when I get home.

We shared the Robin’s nest with one of the rangers, and she shared a nearby Bald Eagle nest with us. A fair exchange!

From there we drove up to Settler’s Cove State Park, where the highway ended. We found a parking spot overlooking the Cove and began scoping. Far out on the water was a Western Grebe as well as three Surf Scoters accompanied by a Bufflehead. We also had a beautiful pair of Red-breasted Sapsuckers.

Our final birding destination for the day was up Ravilla Road. An interesting stop here was not for birds, but to check out a pullout with over 100 shotgun shell cases.


Apparently this is a popular target practice site, with cans, plastic containers, and hanging metal cases all with various sized holes from the different gauges of shot used.

We turned right onto Brown Mountain logging road. This was where we really came across birds and incredible vistas.




We also came across some fresh bear scat in the road, something which caused a slight bit of concern. But we figured we were in the car, rather than hiking, so we just continued on, keeping an eye peeled just in case.


Avie finally got his Varied Thrush here and we found a new life bird for both of us: a Gray-cheeked Thrush. We both saw a Spotted Towhee which, according to the bird list for Ketchikan, is not a bird which is supposed to be here this time of year.

I posted it on the Alaska Birding Email Loop when we got home and received quite a response. I was told the bird would be a second record for Ketchikan and only the tenth for Alaska. I’m hoping, in spite of the time lapse, someone can refind the bird.

On the way back down, while we stopped to check out the Gray-cheeked Thrush, Avie put the car into park and couldn’t get it out. We tried several different things and finally, afraid we would miss the ship, Avie started walking down the road to try and find either people or cell reception. Meanwhile, I found the car’s manual and read a little, finding out there was an override. I pulled open the stop, put a pen into the hole and pushed. Magic! I was able to get the car into drive, catch up to my poor, brave husband. And, believe me, the bear was on both our minds during our travails.

We went back to town and had lunch at a chips place on Creek St. While we sat outside and ate, we watched Cedar Waxwings, a Townsend’s Warbler, Barn, and Tree Swallows.



We also heard Bald Eagles chirping and calling most of the time we were out there.

A little shopping for gifts and we returned to the ship. However, our birding day didn’t end there. We took the scope and our binoculars to the rear of the ship and watched Eagle families perch, fly, and interact.

As we pulled out we picked up both Black-legged Kittiwakes and Mew Gulls over the water.

And now I leave you with some Bald Eagle photos for the day, another shot of some spectacular scenery, and as our bird list.




The list:

Surf Scoter
Western Grebe
Bald Eagle
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Black-legged Kittiwake
Mew Gull
Marbled Murrelet
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Red-breasted Sapsucker
Northwestern Crow
Common Raven
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
American Robin
Varied Thrush
Cedar Waxwing
Townsend’s Warbler
Spotted Towhee

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