Ring Neck Ducks already migrating?

June 28, 2016

Five male an two female Ring Neck Ducks have been resting and preening on the pond. Have seen them diving on the lake as well. Are they migrating through? Non-breeders? We have had a pair of these ducks here this summer. Haven’t seen any young.


the strength of Fireweed

Fireweed is starting to bloom…and birds are taking advantage of the strong stems. They use them as ancillary perches that are close to the feeders. The Fireweed stems bend nearly to the ground but do not break. We have seen many species use this perch….chickadees, redpolls, white-crown sparrows and an occasional warbler chasing insects.

Trumpeter Swan Cygnets

June 26, 2016

What a wonderful surprise this morning when a pair of Trumpeter Swans parade a family of 4 cygnets down the slough. (We presume) this is the pair that have been coming back here for 7 years and it is their first successful nesting season. Last year’s nest was destroyed by a bear. So they really hid their nest well this season. Total and wonderful surprise to us.

Swans pair  for life,  not breeding until their third to fifth year….or in our swans’ case 6 years. They begin nesting as early as spring thaw permits, selecting a nest site in an undisturbed marsh such as our slough and adjacent to a small lake. Uprooting plants nearby they build a nest mound that may be used year after year.  Last years nest was 8 feet or more in diameter and 3-4 feet above the waterline, quite visible from several hundred yards distance. When I checked it later in the season it had been leveled. The old site was not used.

Generally the trumpeter female (‘pen’) takes care of the nest while the’cob’ defends a territory. The cob begins a wing feather molt during incubation leaving him flightless for about a month. After 31 to 35 days of incubation, the cygnets hatch. The adults defend their cygnets until the fly off in September or early October. This is when the adult female completes her molt. Busy times for Swans.


There have been Rough-legged Hawks, Goshawks and Eagles flying over the area regularly. The swans and other ducks utilize the high grasses as the edge of the marsh to hide their young while they are so vulnerable.


Morning wake up call

June 21, 2016

The sharp call of the Lesser Yellowlegs greets us. They preen and bathe, and preen again in a small indention, a little bay along the mossy shoreline of the pond filled with predatory beetles, fairy shrimp an a variety of flies and water bugs in amongst the White-flowered Buckbean.

Very excited Lesser Yellowlegs

June 20, 2016

Lesser yellowlegs can really raise a rucous when Lucy and I walk by. As they nest in a depression on the ground, we try to give them adequate space. But they are very territorial and follow us for over a hundred yards from their nesting area. Lesser Yellowlegs populations have declined in the last 40 years causing US Fish & Wildlife Service to add this species to its List of Birds of Conservation Concern 2008 as a species of “National Concern.” We have 2 breeding pairs locally at the lake.

Red Throated Loon

June 19, 2016

A pair of Red-Throated loons nest in a small pond close by. It  is the smallest of the loons, sitting low in the water, the bill is slightly upturned. Took out the spotting scope and began the sketch as it was spending quite a bit of time in the same place.

I spent some time trying to get the proportions correct, finally taking a few distant photos that gave me some additional shape and contour in the dimly lit rain soaked afternoon.


I watched the loon preen, dipping and splashing, water falling across its back. It would finally raise its body to wing flap, then fall back into preening.

Northern Wheatear

Common to high alpine, I have seen the Wheatear many times in Denali National Park. It  is thought to be the only regularly breeding passerine bird of North America that migrates to wintering grounds in sub-Saharan Africa.