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Alaska 2004

Part 7:  Seward and Kenai

We got to sleep in a little before heading towards Seward, stopping for a few minutes at Potter Marsh, a lovely place with Mew Gull chicks right out the van window! We added a couple of trip birds, the most "important" of which was Red-winged Blackbird (Marshall didn't get quite as hysterical as he did with the Starling, but he was close)! We also had another Rusty Blackbird, and both Redhead and Canvasback showed up for those who hadn't seen the ones at Hood Lake. In fact, we witnessed an altercation between a Red-necked Grebe and Mama Canvas with her chicks! We had fun with a Herring Gull with a "black eye" (he was missing some feathers there), and a couple of distant mystery birds that turned out to be snipe and Lesser Yellowlegs respectively. (Marshall already knew what they were but he wanted to have some fun with us; I couldn't even find the branch the yellowlegs was perched on!) We also had a pair of Gadwall on the way out.

   

Potter Marsh, just outside of Anchorage

 

Looking for goodies...

      

Left:  Redhead, rather rare in Alaska (or at least on this tour route).  Center:  American Wigeon.  Right:  Gadwall pair

   

Left:  Herring Gull that got in a fight...  Right:  Mew Gulls

   

Marshall checks out a Mew Gull family

We stopped for lunch at a cute little restaurant by a lovely lake, and some of us checked out the gift shop before continuing on (and they do indeed jack up the price of those ivory sculptures from Gambell!). I couldn't get over how much the road reminded me of the road to Voss next to the fiords that Frode took me on in Norway! Before long we came to Chugach National Forest and in particular Trail River Campground, where we spent the next couple of hours beating the bushes for Spruce Grouse and Three-toed Woodpecker. We started out on a logging road that was pretty quiet except for a singing Townsend's Warbler and a couple of aggressive dogs that belonged to some bike-riders (they said they weren't used to encountering people up here, but Kevin had his bear-sized pepper spray ready!). At the campground, the plan was to split up and literally bush beat through the campground, but the Covills went with me along the roads (I was given one of the radios so we could keep in touch), and we didn't have much more than singing Hermit Thrushes and Orange-crowned Warblers. We sure got our exercise simply walking the roads: we covered one campground loop then headed down into the day use area, where we met up with Pat who had lost Sue! When we got up on another road (Pat stayed in the DUA) we found Sue, so Ray bellowed back to Pat while being shushed good-naturedly by Ruth! Immediately I heard an exchange on the radio that went, "Marshall, did you just yell?" -- "No!" (Meanwhile Ruth and I were practically in stitches!) Presently we met up with Marshall who had the woodpecker, so we went traipsing through the woods trying to find him and it, only it shot in front of us and kept going, never to be seen again! (My initial impression was of a young Gray Jay with baby tail feathers, and looking at the Sibley illustration you can kinda see that…) After awhile Ruth and Ray finally pooped out so we all convened at the vans and then piecemeal made our way to the shelter in the DUA, where Pat found a National Enquirer type rag and entertained us by reading the various headlines… Eventually Jim's voice came over the radio that "law enforcement" was at the vans, so we all scrambled back up, and of course Marshall and Kevin were nowhere to be found (they did show up eventually...)! They had the proper permits, of course, and the ranger was very congenial (he had a big Chesapeake Bay Retriever in his truck whom he used to not only find lost humans but dig up illegal substances as well).

   

Left:  Heading to Seward along the Cook Inlet, whose tidal range is second only to the Bay of Fundy!  Right:  Ray checks out a train with a built-in snow-blower!

   

Scenes along the way

   

   

Judy approves!

   

Lake at a lunch stop

   

Black-billed Magpies

   

"So you think it's worth risking getting eaten by a Grizzly to try for Spruce Grouse?"  "Not particularly..."

   

At Chugach NF, Ray's willing to bush-beat for a grouse while Sue prefers to beat the bushes from the safety of the pavement!

       

Left:  Ruth checks out the pump!  Center:  Red pine cone.  Right:  Trail River

We made it into Seward, but unfortunately Kevin's cold came back with a vengeance, and he looked pretty miserable all through dinner (which was fabulous: I had steamers--which weren't "real" steamers according to Jim, but they were still yummy--and their house salad, plus King Crab legs, and that stuffed me to the gills). The hotel offered a free coffee mug, so some of us checked out the gift shop after dinner; I had to buy a knit cap anyway because I left mine at Anchorage (not on purpose this time), but I also found the perfect gift for my friend Judy Pike (and I'm not giving it away here! ☺ The weather was again threatening, and I was praying it wouldn't rain for the big boat trip to the fiords the next day.

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