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Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project

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  • George Matz
    2013 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project Session # Shorebirds Are Here!! On Thursday, April 23rd the Kachemak Bay Birders had its third shorebird
    Message 1 of 15 , Apr 24, 2013
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      2013 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project

      Session #



      Shorebirds Are Here!!



      On Thursday, April 23rd the Kachemak Bay Birders had its third shorebird monitoring session for this season. Nineteen volunteers made observations for two hours (3:15 pm - 5:15 pm) at five sites on the Homer Spit as well as Anchor Point. Sites on the Spit include Mud Bay, Mariner Park Lagoon, Mid-Spit (Green Timbers and Louie's Lagoon) and the Outer Spit (fishing hole and the boat harbor area). The Islands and Islets site (south side of Kachemak Bay) was not covered since Karl's boat is not yet in the water due to lingering ice. All of these sites are now eBird "Hotspots".



      Weather conditions at the Homer Airport (http://w1.weather.gov/obhistory/PAHO.html) during monitoring were as follows. At 2:53 pm skies were cloudy with light rain and the temperature was 41°. Wind was calm and the barometric pressure read 30.37 inches. At 5:53 pm the cold drizzle was tapering off and the temperature was 42°. Winds were from the SW at 5 mph and the barometric pressure was a bit lower at 30.35 inches.



      Wednesday was a warm, sunny, calm spring day by Homer standards. Nevertheless, in making a quick trip to the Spit I saw no shorebirds. But the change to unpleasant weather seems to have brought in lots of arriving shorebirds. Perhaps they rather feed and rest than continue to fly.



      Monitors at Mud Bay counted 88 Dunlin in breeding plumage. The flock was there for an hour and then flew south. Monitors at the Mid-Spit site picked up this flock and noted about 20 more. Mud Bay also reported 4 Black-bellied Plovers and 2 Greater Yellowlegs. The Mid-Spit area also had 3 Pacific Golden Plovers, 12 Black-bellied Plovers, and 6 Greater Yellowlegs. No shorebirds were seen at the Outer Spit or Mariner park lagoon sites.



      Beluga Slough reported 16 Greater Yellowlegs. Monitors at the Anchor River saw 1 Black Oystercatcher, 9 Greater Yellowlegs, 3 Lesser Yellowlegs, 18 Yellowlegs sp., and 4 Rock Sandpipers still in the area.



      Other birds seen by site are as follows,



      Mud Bay;

      Bonaparte's Gull - 2



      Mariner Park Lagoon

      Trumpeter Swan - 3

      Mallard - 6

      Northern Shoveler - 2

      American Widgeon - 2

      Mew Gull - 5

      NW Crow - 4



      Mid-Spit

      Black Scoter - 104

      White-winged Scoters - 5

      Bald Eagle - 3

      Common Loon - 2

      Red-breasted Merganser - 3

      Grebe - 3

      Common Goldeneye - 3

      American Pipit - 2



      Outer Spit

      Long-tailed Duck

      Common Loon

      Red-necked Merganser

      Rock Pigeon

      Song Sparrow

      Glaucous-winged Gulls

      Black-legged Kittiwake

      Bald Eagle

      NW Crow

      Barrow's Goldeneye

      Harbor seal



      Beluga Slough

      Cackling Goose - 40

      American Widgeon - 6

      Eurasian Widgeon - 2

      Northern Pintail - 24

      Mallard - x

      Green-winged Teal - 36

      Bufflehead - 10

      Common Merganser - 4

      Common Goldeneye - 6

      Long-tailed Duck - 6 on bay

      Common Loon - 3 on bay

      Greater Scaup - 6

      Canvasback - 2

      Sandhill Crane - 2

      NW Crow - x

      Bald Eagle - x

      Rock Dove - x

      Glaucous-winged Gull - x

      Mew Gull - x

      Herring Gull - ?

      Black Scoter - 3 on bay



      Anchor River

      NW Crow - x

      Greater White-fronted Goose - x

      Cackling goose - x

      Mallard - x

      Northern Pintail - x

      Common Goldeneye - x

      Common Merganser - x

      Sandhill Crane - 40

      Merlin - 1

      Herring Gull - x

      Glaucous Gull - 2

      Glaucous-winged Gull - x

      Mew Gull- x



      Things are getting busy. We are having fun.



      Next report in 5 days.



      George Matz


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    • George Matz
      2013 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project Session #5 New Arrivals. On Friday, May 3rd the Kachemak Bay Birders had its fifth shorebird monitoring session
      Message 2 of 15 , May 4 7:33 PM
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        2013 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project

        Session #5



        New Arrivals.



        On Friday, May 3rd the Kachemak Bay Birders had its fifth shorebird monitoring session for this season. Sixteen volunteers made observations for two hours (9:30 am - 11:30 am) at four sites on the Homer Spit as well as nearby Beluga Slough and Anchor Point (mouth of the Anchor River) which is about 15 miles from Homer. Sites on the Spit include Mud Bay, Mariner Park Lagoon, Mid-Spit (Green Timbers and Louie's Lagoon) and the Outer Spit (fishing hole and the boat harbor area). The inclement weather kept Karl from finishing the painting of his boat so he was not able to cover the Islands and Islets site (south side of Kachemak Bay). As a proxy, I am using shorebird observations from a field trip on Saturday morning. This note will also include the first report from the shorebird monitoring effort by Ken Tarbox and Toby Burke now underway at the mouth of the Kasilof River near Soldotna.

        The weather has been nasty with little resemblance of spring. Conditions at the Homer Airport (http://w1.weather.gov/obhistory/PAHO.html) during monitoring were as follows. At 8:53 am skies were gray with a steady, cold drizzle and the temperature was 41°. Wind was from the W at 12 mph and the barometric pressure read 29.83 inches. By 11:53 pm fog and mist had rolled in and the temperature dropped to 39°. Wind was from the W at 9 mph and the barometric pressure increased to 29.89 inches. The temperature continued to drop through the day, down to freezing overnight. Rain turned to snow with 2-3 inches on the Spit by Saturday morning (more in the hills above town).



        Though the inclement weather may be slowing down spring migration, it continues at a modest pace. Our last session recorded five species of shorebirds. This session we saw seven species of shorebirds at the Homer Spit and Beluga Slough, two more species were seen on the other side of the Bay on Saturday, and an additional two were seen at the Anchor River.



        Plover numbers continue to increase from a total of 31 last session to 75 this session. Pacific Golden Plovers were seen at Mid-Spit (14), and the Anchor River (3). Black-bellied Plovers were seen at Mud Bay (42), Mid-Spit (10) and Anchor Point (6). In addition, our expanding network of observers who are watching shorebirds at other times report an American Golden-Plover at Green Timbers on May 1.



        Greater Yellowlegs were seen at Mud Bay (1), Mariner Park Lagoon (3), Beluga Slough (4), and the Anchor River (4). Monitors at the Anchor River also reported 5 Yellowlegs sp. Lesser Yellowlegs were at Beluga Slough (1).



        Whimbrel's made their FOS appearance. They were seen at Mud Bay (1), Mid-Spit (7), Beluga Slough (4), and the Anchor River (48). In addition, large flocks have been seen at various places around the Spit. One Black Turnstone (FOS) was seen at the Anchor River.



        Dunlin's continue to trickle in. They were seen at Mud Bay (12), Mid-Spit (2), and the Anchor River (9). FOS sandpipers include Western Sandpiper at Mud Bay (1) and a Least Sandpiper (1) at the Anchor River.

        The boat trip on Saturday saw 2 Surfbirds at the entrance to the boat harbor and 18 on Lancashire Rock. Two Oystercatchers were seen on the beach at Hesketh Island.



        Monitoring on the Kasilof River took place on April 30th and lasted 1.5 hours. The protocol is to begin monitoring when the incoming tide is at mid-point. Shorebirds seen include;

        Black-bellied plover - 11

        Dunlin - 4

        Greater Yellowlegs - 11

        Lesser Yellowlegs - 2

        Dowitcher sp.- 3



        Other bird observations, by site, are as follows:



        Mud Bay:

        Trumpeter Swan - 3



        Mariner Park Lagoon:

        Green-winged Teal - x

        Mallard - x

        Northern Shoveler - 50

        American Widgeon - x

        Northwestern Crow - 10



        Mid-Spit:

        Harlequin Duck - 10

        Northern Pintail - 24

        Black Scoter - 52

        Mallard - 10

        Common Goldeneye - 1

        Common Loon - 3

        Bald Eagle - 1



        Outer Spit:

        Common Loon - 5

        Red-breasted Merganser - 11

        Common Merganser - 2

        Red-necked Grebe - 1

        Pelagic Cormorants - 8

        Rock Pigeon - 5

        Common Goldeneye - 1

        Glaucous-winged Gull - x

        Black-legged Kittiwake - x

        Bald Eagle - 5

        Common Raven - 3

        Northwestern Crow - x



        Beluga Slough:

        Cackling Goose - 305

        Greater White-fronted Goose - 119

        Trumpeter Swan - 2

        Green-winged Teal - 26

        American Widgeon - 26

        Northern Pintail - 24

        Northern Shoveler - 1

        Bufflehead - 6

        Mallard - 6

        Scaup - 1

        Common Goldeneye - 2

        Red-breasted Merganser - 4

        Common Loon - 1 on bay

        Bonaparte Gull - 1

        Mew Gull - x

        Glaucous-winged Gull - x

        Bald Eagle - x

        Rock Dove - 1



        Anchor River:

        Cackling Goose - x

        Greater White-fronted Goose - x

        Mallard - x

        American Widgeon - x

        Eurasian Widgeon - x

        Common Goldeneye - x

        Green-winged Teal - x

        Bufflehead

        Greater Scaup - x

        Common Merganser - x

        Harlequin Duck - x

        Black Scoter - x

        Surf Scoter - x

        White-winged Scoter -x



        Kasilof River

        Mallards - 15

        Green Winged Teal - 8

        Northern Shoveler - 25

        Bonaparte Gull - 1

        Mew Gull - 5

        Herring Gulls - 6

        Gull sp - 100 - too far away at river mouth to clearly see

        Arctic tern - 1



        Next report in 5 days.



        George Matz




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      • George Matz
        2013 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project Session #6 Still Waiting and a Big Alert. On Wednesday, May 8th the Kachemak Bay Birders had its sixth shorebird
        Message 3 of 15 , May 9 12:32 PM
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          2013 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project

          Session #6



          Still Waiting and a Big Alert.



          On Wednesday, May 8th the Kachemak Bay Birders had its sixth shorebird monitoring session for this season. A total of 22 volunteers made observations for two hours (4:00 pm - 6:00 pm) at four sites on the Homer Spit as well as nearby Beluga Slough and Anchor Point (mouth of the Anchor River) about 15 miles from Homer. Sites on the Spit include Mud Bay, Mariner Park Lagoon, Mid-Spit (Green Timbers and Louie's Lagoon) and the Outer Spit (fishing hole and the boat harbor area). We didn't have coverage of the Islands and Islets site (south side of Kachemak Bay). There was also a team of monitors the same day at the mouth of the Kasilof River, but at 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm due the difference in tides.

          The weather couldn't be better. At the Homer Airport conditions during monitoring were as follows (http://w1.weather.gov/obhistory/PAHO.html). At 3:53 pm skies were clear and the temperature was 47°. A light wind was out of the W at 8 mph and the barometric pressure read 30.25 inches. At 5:53 pm the sky was still sunny (but clouds beginning to form) and the temperature was 46°. The wind shifted to the SW at 8 mph and the barometric pressure dropped to 30.23 inches.



          Given the good travelling weather, I expected a large pulse of sandpipers (Calidris) to show up today; but there were even less today than the past day or two. Perhaps new flocks were not within a day's range. Plover numbers are still up but most yellowlegs seem to have moved on. What is interesting is that the large number of geese and ducks that have been hanging out in the Kachemak Bay area has significantly diminished. Conditions to the north have been well below freezing this "spring" until a couple of days ago - nothing very attractive to a waterbird. But it seems that within a day of when the winter released its icy grip the waterfowl headed north. How do they know this?



          Pacific Golden Plovers were seen in the grass at Mid-Spit (38). Black-bellied Plovers were seen in 3-4 flocks at Mud Bay (39), Mid-Spit (55 though it appears that about half were counted twice), Beluga Slough (1) and Anchor Point (22). In addition, we had Semipalmated Plovers at Mud Bay (7), Mid-Spit (6), and Beluga Slough (1).



          Greater Yellowlegs were seen at Mariner Park Lagoon (4), and the Anchor River (4). A Lesser Yellowlegs was seen at Beluga Slough (1).



          A Whimbrel was seen only at Mid-Spit (1). However, flocks of several have been seen most days since the last monitoring session five days ago.



          A FOS Wandering Tattler was seen at the boat harbor. In addition, Stan White (monitor for the Outer Spit) reported on eBird seeing Surfbirds (60 on the 5th and 75 on the 7th) as well as a Black Turnstone (on the 5th) at the entrance to the boat harbor.



          A Ruddy Turnstone was seen at Beluga Slough. This may be the same one that was seen by a couple of birders at Mid-Spit between sessions.

          Anchor River reported one Hudsonian Godwit. Other godwits seen between sessions includes a Bar-tailed Godwit (1) and Marbled Godwit (3) at Mud Bay on the 6th.



          Small flocks of Western Sandpiper and Dunlin have been seen every day on the Spit since the last session. The Western Sandpiper count includes Mud Bay (41), Mid-Spit (59), and Beluga Slough with 6 Calidris sp. Dunlin included Mud Bay (6), Mid-Spit (78), and Anchor River (26).

          Anchor River also had Least Sandpiper (2) and Semipalmated Sandpiper (1).



          Also seen were Dowitchers sp. at Mud Bay(5), Mid-Spit (1), and Anchor River (1). The Anchor River crew also reported a Long-billed Dowitcher (1) and Wilson's Snipe (1).



          Now, after all this suspense, the "big alert". Two Willets were reported as fly-bys on the Anchor River. Knowing that there has only been one reported in Alaska (last June on the Kenai River flats) I asked for more verification. Here is Michael Craig's reply.



          The 2 individual birds that we observed were flying north past our position on the beach. I believe that we or some other party may have flushed them off the beach somewhere just ahead of our position. The light was from behind, so the birds were very well lit. The first thing that was noted was their size, as they were distinctly larger than any of the other shorebirds that we had observed that day except the Hudsonian Godwit. The most distinctive mark was the very obvious, very white W pattern across the secondaries and leading margin of the primaries. The trailing edge of the primaries was the distinctive black. The greater primary coverts were black. The rump was distinctly white with some amount of discoloration to the tail feathers. Not having observed the breast area, I cannot say with certainty what stage of transition the birds were in between winter and breeding plumage, but the impression I got was of them still being in winter plumage. No vocalization was heard.



          All 3 members of our group observed the birds, but I had the best and longest view. All 3 of us have previously observed Willets, and I am very familiar with them having lived on the Central California coast for a number of years where they were one of the primary winter shorebirds.



          Given that these birds were headed north, there is a good likelihood that they will be in the Kasilof/Kenai River area. Keep an eye out.



          Speaking of the Kasilof River, here is their report. Connie and Ken Tarbox spent two hours (1:00 pm - 3:00 pm) starting when the tide was at half way. By 3:00 the birds were leaving the area because of the high tide. Shorebirds seen include;

          Hudsonian Godwit - 1

          Whimbrel - 9

          Short-billed Dowitcher - 33

          Peeps - 50 in one fly-by flock.



          Other bird observations, by site, are as follows:





          Mariner Park Lagoon:

          Green-winged Teal - 28

          Mallard - 2

          Northern Shoveler - 15

          Northwestern Crow - 6



          Mid-Spit:

          Brant - 31

          Red-breasted Merganser - 4

          Arctic Tern - 12



          Outer Spit:

          Glaucous-winged Gull - x

          Black-legged Kittiwake - x

          Black Scoter - 1

          Harlequin - 3

          Common Loon - 3

          Bald Eagle - 6

          Merlin - 1

          Rock Pigeon - 16

          Pelagic Cormorants - 16

          Red-necked Grebe - 1

          Red-breasted Merganser - 6

          Common Raven - 5

          Northwestern Crow - 8



          Beluga Slough:

          Sandhill Crane - 4

          Northern Pintail - 24

          Green-winged Teal - 6

          American Widgeon - 60

          Northern Shoveler - 8

          Bufflehead - 1

          Red-breasted Merganser - 2

          Mallard - 36

          Red-necked Grebe - 1

          Common Goldeneye - 1

          Lesser Scaup - 6

          Mew Gull - 45

          Common Loon - 1 on bay

          Harlequin - 2 on bay

          Scoter - 4 on bay

          Horned Grebe - 1 on bay

          Bald Eagle - 2

          Murre - 20 flying over bay

          Cackling Goose - 3

          Ring-necked Pheasant -2

          Boreal Chickadee - 1

          American Pipit - 12

          Common Teal -1



          Greater White-fronted Goose - 119

          Trumpeter Swan - 2

          Bonaparte Gull - 1

          Glaucous-winged Gull - x

          Rock Dove - 1



          Anchor River:

          Northern Shoveler - x

          Greater Scaup - x

          Belted kingfisher -1

          Merlin -1

          Glaucous-winged Gull - x

          Sandhill Crane - 1



          Kasilof River

          Mallards - 2

          Green Winged Teal - 4

          Northern Shoveler - 20

          Bonaparte Gull - 2

          Mew Gull - 2

          Herring Gulls - 2

          Gull sp - 25 too far away at river mouth to clearly see

          Cackling Goose - 19

          Canada Goose - 4

          Common Raven - 2

          Greater Scaup - 2



          Next report in 5 days. Keep on birding.



          George Matz




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        • George Matz
          2013 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project Session #8 Another pulse of sandpipers - and winter. On Saturday, May 18th the Kachemak Bay Birders had its
          Message 4 of 15 , May 20 12:19 PM
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            2013 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project

            Session #8



            Another pulse of sandpipers - and winter.



            On Saturday, May 18th the Kachemak Bay Birders had its eighth shorebird monitoring session for this season. A total of 22 volunteers made observations for two hours (7:45 am - 9:45 am) at four sites on the Homer Spit, nearby Beluga Slough, and Anchor Point/River. There were no observations at Islands and Islets (south side of the bay) because of rough water. Sites on the Spit include Mud Bay, Mariner Park Lagoon, Mid-Spit (Green Timbers and Louie's Lagoon) and the Outer Spit (fishing hole and the boat harbor area).

            The weather during monitoring was stable. Conditions, based on Homer Airport data (http://w1.weather.gov/obhistory/PAHO.html) were as follows. At 7:53 am skies were overcast with scattered snow showers and the temperature was 35°. The wind was from the NW at 8 mph and the barometric pressure read 29.70 inches. At 9:53 pm conditions were still overcast and it was still snowing. The temperature remained at 35°, the wind was now out of the N at 3 mph, and the barometric pressure stayed at 29.77 inches.



            Despite the unseasonably cold weather, a new pulse of sandpipers arrived at the Homer Spit. These intrepid creatures are not waiting for fair weather to complete their migration. Not to be outdone, our intrepid monitors were out there with them, at least for two hours. After that we retreated to the I&O Visitor Center to warm-up, have cookies, and discuss our observations for the day. But if it weren't for our obligation to follow protocol, few of us (maybe none) would have even been out birding that wet, cold, snowy morning and unique opportunities (as discussed below) would have been lost without our even knowing it.



            To continue our string of rare bird reports, we are reporting another "accidental" bird sighting. On our sixth session we reported the possibility of a Willet at Anchor Point. On our seventh session we reported a possible European Golden-Plover at the same site; both without photo documentation. But neither had any further sightings nor has there been any expert support for these possible observations. So it looks like we may need to amend our eBird submission.



            Now we are reporting on two Bristle-thighed Curlews seen at Louie's Lagoon (which is in the middle of Homer spit). According to the Checklist of Birds of Kachemak Bay, Alaska, the Bristle-thighed Curlew is "accidental" for the area, meaning "an exceptional occurrence of birds outside their normal range that might not be repeated again for decades." But this time we have two sets of photos as well as the support of two local experts.



            The Bristle-thighed Curlew observation was made by Gary Lyon who flushed two whimbrel-type birds while monitoring and noticed their pale buffy rump as they flew away. He followed them down the beach and got within photo range. Gary, following our new policy to "shoot first and ask questions later," was able to get some decent shots which he posted on the AKBirding list serve. After hearing Gary's report I went to Louie's Lagoon with Jeannie and the Buntings. Following Gary's instructions we were able to locate one Bristle-thighed Curlew and I was able to get some distant digiscope shots which I posted immediately on the KB birders list-serve. The low light due to heavy snow at the time forced me to use a slow shutter speed, so the images aren't that sharp, but some detail can be seen - maybe even the bristles. I added these shots to AKBirding in the George Matz folder. I also heard the flight call of the curlew when we got back to the car as it flew overhead heading west of the spit.



            Jeannie and I went back on high tide Sunday morning, but didn't see the Bristle-thighed Curlew. My hunch is that it may have moved on to the mouth of the Anchor River where Bristle-thighed Curlews were seen this time last year. Since conditions still may not be hospitable up north, maybe they will stay around awhile.



            Our caucus after this monitoring session was more spirited than usual. Not only did we have lots of interesting observations, but two controversial ones. One was the Bristle-thighed Curlew as described above. The were also three reports of American Golden-Plovers. George West says in Shorebird Guide for Kachemak Bay and Homer, Alaska that he observed an average of 20 American Golden-Plovers annually during his monitoring of the Homer Spit (1986-1994). Nevertheless, some experienced birders question whether the American Golden-Plover does visit the Kachemak Bay area during spring migration.



            Our discussion on how to report these observations centered around the conundrum of which is the worst mistake to make; to be venturous and report an American Golden-Plover even though there is some chance it might actually be a Pacific Golden-Plover, or to be cautious and go for the safe default (e.g., Pacific Golden-Plover) even though it seems that there is some chance that the bird observed may be something unusual or even rare (e.g., American Golden-Plover). On one hand, the venturous choice can be corrected if wrong by the vetting that usually takes place by expert birders. But the cautious choice, if wrong, loses forever an opportunity to enjoy something rare. (Aren't these choices a lot like life itself?) We choose a modified venturous approach. First we posted photos of the plover on list-serves, calling it an American Golden-Plover. We got feedback within hours which supported our call. So now we are entering the information in our report and eBird.



            Here is a summary of our shorebird observations from this session. In addition to these observations, birders in the Kenai/Soldotna area have been following our schedule to monitor shorebirds at the Kasilof River. Their reports have appeared as separate emails but will be included in our report for this spring.



            There are still some plovers around. Pacific Golden-Plovers were seen at Mud Bay (2), Mid-Spit (8) and Beluga Slough (4). American Golden-Plovers were reported at Mud Bay (1 with photo), Mid-Spit (1 with photo) and Beluga Slough (8). Black-bellied Plovers were seen at Mud Bay (15), and Mid-Spit (18). Semipalmated Plovers, which breed locally, were seen at Mid-Spit (14), and Anchor River (7). Beluga Slough also reported a flock of 28 Plover sp. flying overhead.



            Greater Yellowlegs were seen at Beluga Slough (3), and the Anchor River (4). Lesser Yellowlegs were at Mid-Spit (1), Beluga Slough (2), and Anchor River (4). The Anchor Rover also reported 1 Yellowlegs sp.



            Whimbrel were seen at Mud Bay (12), and Anchor River (1). Bristle-thighed Curlew (2) were seen and photographed at Mid-Spit.



            Bar-Tailed Godwits were seen at Mud Bay (3) and Beluga Slough (3). A Marbled Godwit had also been reported the day before at Mud Bay.



            Wandering Tattlers are here in numbers. They were seen at the boat harbor (36) and Anchor Point (1). Surfbirds were seen at Mid-Spit (5) and, as usual, the entrance to the boat harbor (266). Black Turnstones were at Mid-Spit (7) and the boat harbor (1).



            Sandpipers staged a second pulse. Our daily supplemental monitoring saw numbers drop off from the first pulse last week to another quick pulse of about 5,000 birds on the Spit that seemed to peak on Friday, the day before our scheduled monitoring. But numbers were down considerably by Saturday indicating a hurried stopover. The details for sandpipers are as follows: Western Sandpipers were at Mud Bay (1,725), Mariner Park Lagoon (250), Mid-Spit (553), the boat harbor (1), and the Anchor River (427). Dunlin were at Mud Bay (525), Mid-Spit (130), and Anchor River (20). Least Sandpipers were at Mariner Park Lagoon (11), Mid-Spit (6), and the boat harbor (1), and Anchor River (5). Semipalmated Sandpipers were the seen at Anchor River (2). Pectoral Sandpipers were at Mariner Park Lagoon (3), Beluga Slough (6) and many more in the area over the past couple of days. Peeps, a lumping of unidentified sandpipers that tend to be mostly Western's and Dunlin, were reported from Mid-Spit (100), boat harbor (20), Beluga Slough (118), and Anchor River (19).



            Short-billed Dowitchers were seen at Mariner Park Lagoon (12), Beluga Slough (2) and Anchor River (4). Long-billed Dowitchers were seen at Beluga Slough (3). Lumping of Dowitcher sp. was reported at Mud Bay (113), Mid-Spit (23), Beluga Slough (6), and Anchor River (5).



            Given that the late spring seems to have delayed spring migration and that it is still underway, we may have to consider an additional session after the last one we have scheduled on May 23. That might not be necessary if we see few shorebirds on May 23.



            Other bird observations, by site, are as follows:



            Mud Bay:

            Bonaparte's Gull - 3

            Northern Harrier - 1

            Sandhill Cranes - 6



            Mariner Park Lagoon:

            Green-winged Teal - 10

            Northern Shoveler - 2

            American Widgeon - 1

            Sandhill Crane - 2

            Northern Harrier - 1

            Northwestern Crow - 7

            Fox Sparrow - 1

            Ring-necked Pheasant - 1



            Mid-Spit:

            Harlequin Duck -2

            Brant - 12

            Common Loon - 4

            Merlin - 1



            Outer Spit:

            Harlequin Duck - 2

            Cackling Goose - 8

            White-winged Scoter - 1

            Black-legged Kittiwake - x

            Common Loon - 8

            Bald Eagle - x

            Glaucous-winged Gull - x

            Herring Gull - 2

            Rock Pigeon - 8

            Marbled Murrelet - 1

            Pelagic Cormorant - 3

            Northwestern Crow - 8

            Lapland Longspur - 1

            Savanna Sparrow - 1

            Song Sparrow - 1



            Beluga Slough:

            Greater White-fronted Goose - 20

            Cackling Goose - 14

            Goose - 210

            Black Brant - 4

            Green-winged Teal - 6

            American Widgeon - 20

            Eurasian Widgeon - 1

            Northern Shoveler - 4

            Northern Pintail - 7

            Mallard - 4

            Harlequin - 1

            Common Merganser - 4

            Sandhill Crane - 4

            Mew Gull - x

            Bonaparte's Gull - 1

            Merlin - 1

            Ring-necked Pheasant -1

            Fox Sparrow - x

            Swallow sp. - x

            Northwestern Crow - x



            Anchor Point/River

            Green-winged Teal - x

            Northern Pintail - x

            Northern Shoveler - x

            Mallard - x

            Greater Scaup -x

            Harlequin Duck - x

            Common Merganser - x

            Red-breasted Merganser - x

            Bald Eagle - x

            Northern Harrier - x

            Merlin - x

            Lapland Longspur - x

            Glaucous-winged Gull - x

            Glaucous Gull - x

            Mew Gull -x

            Bonaparte's Gull - x

            Arctic Tern - x



            Next report in 5 days. Keep on birding.



            George Matz






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          • George Matz
            Although we have fresh snow on the ground, shorebirds are beginning to work their way north to their breeding grounds. That means we need to start thinking
            Message 5 of 15 , Feb 23, 2014
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              Although we have fresh snow on the ground, shorebirds are beginning to work their way north to their breeding grounds. That means we need to start thinking about this years shorebird monitoring. This will be our sixth consecutive year. A report for each year can be viewed at our website http://kachemakbaybirders.org/ under the Citizen Science page. Last year we had a record turnout of volunteers and added the Anchor and Kasilof Rivers to our monitoring efforts. Hopefully, this year will match that effort.

              I’ll start things off at Monday’s Kachemak Bay Birders meeting by presenting the scheduled monitoring dates (see attached spreadsheet). We have been monitoring once every five days from mid-April till late May. The dates we use are based on starting from the Monday after the Shorebird Festival and then adding or subtracting every five days from that date. We do things this way so that our volunteer effort for monitoring doesn’t conflict with the festival where many of us also participate. The time we begin monitoring is based on the tides. We have previously determined that optimal shorebird viewing is when the outgoing tide reaches 15.0 feet. NOAA has tide tables online that I use to determine when the monitoring time is. The website (see attachment) is a but tricky to use but has invaluable data.

              Attached is the volunteer schedule from last year which lists individual volunteer the date and site. I have also included a blank for this year which we need to start filling out. Let me know what dates work best for you.

              George

              PS

              Those who are only on the AKBirding list can’t receive the attachments. If you want copies, send me an email and I’ll forward this to you.



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            • George Matz
              2014 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project Session #2 On Tuesday, April 22nd the Kachemak Bay Birders had its second shorebird monitoring session for this
              Message 6 of 15 , Apr 23, 2014
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                2014 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project

                Session #2

                 

                On Tuesday, April 22nd the Kachemak Bay Birders had its second shorebird monitoring session for this season.  Twenty-one volunteers made observations for two hours (9:00-11:00 am) at six sites in the Homer Spit area as well as Anchor Point/River.  Sites in the Spit area include Mud Bay, Mariner Park Lagoon, Mid-Spit, and the Outer Spit (boat harbor area), nearby Beluga Slough, and the Islands and Islets on the south side of the bay.  In addition, another team of birders monitored the mouth of the Kasilof River.

                 

                Despite the string of mild weather, shorebirds are slowly arriving.  At Mud Bay we had 2 BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER and 1 DUNLIN.  The mid-spit area also had 2 BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER.   Beluga Slough had 3 GREATER YELLOWLEGS.  Out on the water, 1 BLACK OYSTERCATCHER was seen at Gull Island and 4 SURFBIRDS were at 60-foot Rock.  Karl noted that this seems early for Surfbirds. The Anchor River team saw 1 BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER and 5 GREATER YELLOWLEGS.

                 

                Monitoring at the Kasilof River the first session found no shorebirds.

                 

                Other species seen at Mariner Park Lagoon include 4 SANDHILL CRANES, 2 MALLARDS, and 6 NW CROW.  Our monitoring reports include disturbances.  A small plane flying over the lagoon while landing at the airport didn’t seem to disturb the cranes, but a helicopter that soon followed flying down the Spit put them on alert. 

                 

                The mid-spit area saw 2 BALD EAGLES, 9 HARLEQUIN DUCKS, 13 BLACK SCOTER, 1 MALLARD, 1 PACIFIC LOON, 2 COMMON LOONS, and 8 LONG-TAILED DUCKS.  The Outer Spit had 14 PELAGIC CORMORANTS, 12 SCOTERS, 18 HARLEQUIN DUCKS, 4 COMMON LOONS,  17 GULLS (perhaps HERRING), 3 GLAUCOUS- WINGED GULLS, 500 BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES, 2 PIGEON GUILLEMOT, 2 COMMON MURRES, 8 BALD EAGLES, 5 NW CROWS, and 8 SONG SPARROWS.   

                 

                Beluga Slough once again had a good variety of birds. There were 3 SANDHILL CRANES, 24 MALLARDS, 12 NORTHERN PINTAILS, 12 AMERICAN WIDGEON, 12 GREEN-WINGED TEAL, 3 BUFFLEHEAD, 1 BALD EAGLE, 48 MEW GULLS, NW CROWS, 6 ROCK PIGEONS, and 4 LAPLAND LONGSPUR.  On the bay they saw 1 HORNED GREBE, 3 RED-NECKED GREBE, and 50 BLACK SCOTER. At Beluga Lake there were 2 COMMON GOLDENEYE, and 3 BUFFLEHEADS.  Heard was a VARIED THRUSH AND PINE SISKINS.  

                 

                Once again, we had mild weather which should be favorable to migration.  Based on NOAA’s web site (http://w1.weather.gov/obhistory/PAHO.html), at 8:53 am the temperature at the nearby Homer Airport was 47° F, wind was from the E at 3 mph and the barometric pressure was 29.88.    At 10:53 am the temperature was 50°, the wind was from the SE at 3 mph and the barometric pressure was 29.57.   

                 

                Next report in 5 days. 

                George Matz

                 

              • George Matz
                2014 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project Session #5 On Wednesday, May 7th the Kachemak Bay Birders had its fifth shorebird monitoring session for this
                Message 7 of 15 , May 8 12:59 AM
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                  2014 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project

                  Session #5

                   

                  On Wednesday, May 7th the Kachemak Bay Birders had its fifth shorebird monitoring session for this season.  Twenty-one volunteers made observations for two hours (8:45-10:45 am) at five sites in the Homer Spit area.  Sites in the Spit area include Mud Bay, Mariner Park Lagoon, Mid-Spit, and the Outer Spit (boat harbor area), nearby Beluga Slough, and by boat the Islands/Islets on the south side of the Bay.  Another four volunteers monitored the Anchor Point/River and a team of birders monitored the mouth of the Kasilof River.

                   

                  The weather changed Monday night going from high pressure for the past several days with sunny and warm temperatures in the 60s during the afternoon to low pressure with more typical cloudy and cool conditions and afternoon temperatures in the high 40s.  It seems as if the pace of shorebird migration has also changed.  Rather than the wide daily changes we had in sandpiper counts the past couple of days, the counts for today’s monitoring were about the same as yesterdays.  About 2,500 sandpipers were counted at Mud Bay.  Other highlights were a flock of about a dozen WHIMBRELS moving around the Spit.  Also, a large flock of over 900 SURFBIRDS were on the rocks near the barge basin.  And ROCK SANDPIPERS as well as a RED KNOT was seen at the Anchor River.  In addition, MARBLED GODWITS and EURASIAN WIDGEONS were seen at Beluga Slough.  This all bodes well for the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival which starts tomorrow.        

                   

                  A lot of SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS were seen this session, some going through mating moves (these will probably nest here). Mud Bay had 1 SEMIPALMATED PLOVER, the drier area at Mid-spit had about 40, the boat harbor had 3, and wetter Beluga Slough had 1.  BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS were still around with 4 at Mud Bay, 34 at Mid-spit, and 2 at the Anchor River.   

                   

                  Yellowlegs seem to be on their nesting grounds.  None were seen in the Spit area, but there were 3 GREATER YELLOWLEGS and 4 LESSER YELLOWLEGS at the Anchor River.

                   

                  A flock of about a dozen WHIMBRELS were seen at Mud Bay and the Mid-spit.  Another flock of 12 were seen at the Anchor River. 

                   

                  Monitors at Beluga Sleigh saw 4 MARBLED GODWITS.  This species, which has an isolated nesting grounds on the Alaska Peninsula, have been consistently present this year.

                   

                  The Mud Bay team saw 1 RUDDY TURNSTONE.  Both Mid-spit teams saw 15 BLACK TURNSTONE.  A flock of SURFBIRDS were moving between Mid-spit and the Outer Spit.  The best count was 915.  That will generate an eBird response.

                   

                  Karl, who was out on his charter boat from 9:00 am till 12:00 saw 2,000-3,000 RED-NECKED PHALAROPES.  He also saw 28 SURFBIRDS on Gull Island, and 2 BLACK OYSTERCATCHERS at Cohen Island.  Sometimes the RED-NECKED PHALAROPES come close to the Spit.  The Outer Spit team reported 1.

                   

                   

                  Should be good sandpiper populations for the festival, and maybe even better if a high pressure moves in over the weekend as forecasted.  Mud Bay had a flock of 2,500 that were 70% WESTERN SANDPIPER (1,750) and 30% DUNLIN (750).  There were 5 LEAST SANDPIPERS at Mariner Park Lagoon that were being harassed by a juvenile BALD EAGLE  A flock of about 40 LESA tried to land there, but the eagle spooked them and they flew off to Mud Bay.  One team at Mid-spit saw 3 flocks of WESTERN SANDPIPERS with a total count of 233 as well as 4 LEAST SANDPIPER and 40 DUNLIN.  The other team reported 150 peeps and another 500 that flew by as well as 150 DUNLIN.  The Outer Spit monitors saw two flocks of sandpipers from a distance and reported a total of 115 peeps.  Beluga Slough had about 120 WESTERN SANDPIPERS, 10 LEAST SANDPIPERS, and 6 DUNLIN.  The Anchor River had a nice mix of Calidris (sandpipers) with 108 WESTERN SANDPIPERS, 9 LEAST SANDPIPERS, 5 SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPERS, 32 LESA/WESA/SESA (our term for peeps), 1 PECTORAL SANDPIPER, 4 DUNLIN, 10 ROCK SANDPIPERS, and 1 RED KNOT.   If you are coming down to Homer for the festival, stopping at Anchor Point should be a must.   

                   

                  At Mud Bay they saw 7 DOWITCHERS.  The Beluga Slough team saw 2 LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS and at Anchor River they saw 3 SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHERS and 1 LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER.   

                   

                  Other species seen at Mud Bay include 2 SANDHILL CRANES.

                   

                  Mariner Park Lagoon “others” included 2 NORTHERN PINTAILS, 5 NORTHERN SHOVELERS, 3 GREEN-WINGED TEAL, 2 SANDHILL CRANES, 2 BALD EAGLES, 4 MEW GULL, 12 NW CROWS, 2 FOX SPARROWS, 1 DARK-EYED JUNCO, and 1 BLACK-BILLED MAGPIE.

                   

                  The Mid-spit area saw 3 NORTHERN SHOVELERS, 100 SCOTERS, 2 COMMON LOONS, 1 SANDHILL CRANE, and 8 BALD EAGLES. There was also a raft of about 200 sea otters just offshore.  

                   

                  The Outer Spit had 17 HARLEQUIN DUCKS, x SCOTERS, 2 COMMON LOONS, 4 BALD EAGLES, x MEW GULLS, x BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES, 2 GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS, 4 AMERICAN PIPITS, 13 ROCK PIGEONS, and 3 NW CROWS.

                   

                  Beluga Slough monitors saw 40 WHITE-FRONTED GEESE, 3 CACKLING GEESE, 24 NORTHERN PINTAILS, 12 GREEN-WINGED TEAL, 60 AMERICAN WIDGEONS, 2 EURASIAN WIDGEONS, 12 NORTHERN SHOVELERS, 7 MALLARDS, 8 SANDHILL CRANES, 16 BALD EAGLES, 3 ROCK PIGEONS, x NW CROWS, 5 BLACK-BILLED MAGPIE, 1 SAVANNA SPARROW, GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW (h), 1 LINCOLN SPARROW (h), 1 LAPLAND LONGSPUR, 1 RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET, and DARK-EYED JUNCO (h).  

                   

                  On Kachemak Bay they saw 5 LONG-TAILED DUCKS, 24 HARLEQUIN DUCKS, x SURF SCOTERS, x BLACK SCOTER, x WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS, 2 RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS, 1 COMMON LOON, 1 PACIFIC LOON, 40 RED-NECKED GREBE, 30 HORNED GREBE,  and 12 MARBLED MURRLET.

                   

                  On Beluga Lake they saw 30 SCAUP, x BUFFLEHEAD, and x RED-NECKED GREBE.

                   

                  Anchor Point monitors saw a single CACKLING GOOSE with a flock of GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE.  Sea ducks included all 3 species of SCOTERS and HARLEQUINS.  A NORTHERN HARRIER came through and was very rapidly harried away by several NW CROWS.

                   

                  Weather was back to normal.  Based on NOAA’s web site for the nearby Homer Airport (http://w1.weather.gov/obhistory/PAHO.html), at 8:53 am the temperature was 48°F, winds were calm, and skies overcast.  At 10:53 am the temperature was 48°, winds were from the SW at 5 mph, and skies were overcast.

                   

                  Next report in 5 days. 

                   

                  George Matz

                • George Matz
                  2014 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project Session #6 On Monday, May 12th the Kachemak Bay Birders had its sixth shorebird monitoring session for this
                  Message 8 of 15 , May 13 12:18 PM
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                    2014 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project

                    Session #6

                     

                    On Monday, May 12th the Kachemak Bay Birders had its sixth shorebird monitoring session for this season.  Twenty volunteers made observations for two hours (3:00-5:00 pm) at five sites in the Homer Spit area.  Sites in the Spit area include Mud Bay, Mariner Park Lagoon, Mid-Spit, and the Outer Spit (boat harbor area), nearby Beluga Slough, and by boat the Islands/Islets on the south side of the Bay.  Another three volunteers monitored the Anchor Point/River and a team of two birders monitored the mouth of the Kasilof River.

                     

                    In my session #4 report I stated that the peak of migration may occur before the weekend of the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival.  This prognosis was correct. At session #5 last Wednesday, we saw 2,500 sandpipers at Mud Bay and about 1,100 at Mid-spit.  The next day I estimated that there were 7,900 sandpipers at Mud Bay and about 100 at the Mid-spit area plus probably more on the other side of the barrier dune.  This appears to be the peak as daily estimates have since been declining.  This session, there were about 1,200 in these two areas.

                     

                    One issue with our protocol of monitoring once every five days is that significant numbers of shorebirds can come and go in-between scheduled sessions, particularly during the peak.  We compensate for this by getting daily estimates for two weeks during the peak.  This way we have some idea of what we missed.  Two years ago, there were three separate pulses instead of one nice pulse like this year, probably because of variable weather.  Fortunately, our scheduled monitoring data coincided with each of these pulses and it appears that our monitoring data counted most of the migration.  However, last year the monitoring dates were on the shoulder of the pulse and our overall count was a bit less than the previous year, even though the number of shorebirds seemed about the same.  But we could verify the difference by comparing our count data to our supplemental daily data.   

                     

                    What really helps us get a better handle on what we miss is all the other birders out there looking at shorebirds and recording their observations via eBird.  Fortunately we have a lot of other birders during shorebird weekend.  So thanks to all of you who submitted eBird reports.  We will go over this record and glean from it a better estimate of how many shorebirds were here daily during the past week.  All the data in this report will be on eBird.

                     

                    Just having a daily count doesn’t necessarily say how long the shorebirds are here.  But with sandpipers, we can get some idea by looking at the composition of large flocks.  For instance, if the size of the flock appears the same from one day to the next but the composition goes from 80% WESA and 20% DUNL one day to the opposite the next, good chance that these were not the same birds for both days.  Using this approach, it appears this year that sandpipers in particular have not been around for more than a day. Weather certainly seems to be a factor.  There haven’t been any storms this year, which tend to back up the migration.  Nor have conditions further north been much different than here.  So it is safe for the shorebirds to continue their journey.  

                     

                    Because weather has not been an issue for this year’s project, it will contribute to what we know about Kenai Peninsula shorebird migrations.

                    Another highlight this year has been the huge number of SURFBIRDS and RED-NECKED PHALAROPE we have been seeing throughout Kachemak Bay.  It certainly appears as if Kachemak Bay is an important staging area while these birds wait for spring to arrive in the tundra (both alpine and coastal).  This should be worth a study in itself.  But, it would have to be by boat to get a composite picture of all the birds here at the same time.  This is beyond the scope of our project, but maybe not for someone looking for a research project.

                     

                    On to the shorebird report.  Now that spring migration is waning, SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS have become the most numerous plover.  Many breed in the supralittoral zone of the Spit, an area vulnerable to human/dog traffic in the Mid-spit area.  Mud Bay had 12, Mariner Park Lagoon had 8, the Mid-spit area had 44, Anchor River had 5, and the Kasilof River had 1.  BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS were still around with 1 at Mud Bay, 8 at Mid-spit, 13 at the Anchor River, and 2 at the Kasilof River.  The Kasilof River also had 1 PACIFIC GOLDEN-PLOVER, a species not nearly as abundant at any site this year compared to last year.    

                     

                    Yellowlegs have mostly dispersed to their breeding areas.  There were 4 GREATER YELLOWLEGS at Beluga Slough, 1 at the Anchor and 4 at the Kasilof Rivers.  Beluga Slough reported 1 LESSER YELLOWLEGS, the Anchor River had 4, and the Kasilof Rover had 3.  

                     

                    Beluga Slough saw 1 WHIMBREL, Anchor River had 11, and there were 3 at the Kasilof River.  The last two years we have seen Bristle-thighed Curlews after the shorebird festival; so we will have to be on the alert for this possibility.   

                     

                    The only godwits seen were 3 HUDSONIAN GODWIT at the Kasilof River, which is closer to their breeding grounds than Kachemak Bay. 

                     

                    Last session we reported 850 SURFBIRDS in the Mid-spit and boat harbor areas.  The next day Aaron Lang topped this with an estimate of 1,500.  They have been around the Spit and Bay throughout the festival, to the delight of birders and photographers.  The Mid-spit saw 60 and another 724 were seen near the entrance to the harbor.  Hanging out with the Surfbirds were 1 RUDDY TURNSTONE, 30 BLACK TURNSTONE, and 1 ROCK SANPIPER in alternate plumage (two were seen the previous day).  We have great photos for all these species.  The Anchor River team also saw 17 BLACK TURNSTONE. Karl reported 14 SURFBIRDS and 4 BLACK TURNSTONE on Gull Island.  He also said that Bear Cover “had 243 Surfbirds, 10 Black Turnstones, 1 Red Knot, 4 Rock Sandpipers and 1 Ruddy Turnstone.” However, Bear Cove is not within the protocol area. 

                     

                    As said earlier, sandpiper counts are declining.  Mud Bay had 150 WESTERN SANDPIPERS and Mariner Park had 3 sandpipers.  The Mid-spit saw three flocks of WESA for a total of about 1,020 as well as another 56 sandpipers and 40 DUNLIN.  The Outer Spit had 2 sandpipers fly by, and Beluga Slough had 4 WESTERN and 12 LEAST SANDPIPERS as well as 24 DUNLIN.  Further north, the Anchor River had 7 WESTERNS, 3 LEAST, and 1 DUNLIN.  The Kasilof River had 400 WESTERN’S and 30 DUNLIN.

                     

                    Mud Bay saw 6 DOWITCHERS, Beluga Slough had 1 SHORT-BILLED and 20 LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS.  Anchor River had 6 SHORT-BILLED, 2 LONG-BILLED, and 2 just DOWITCHERS.  They also had a WILSON’S SNIPE.  Kasilof River had 30 SHORT-BILLED DOWITHCHERS and 1 WILSON’S SNIPE.

                     

                    The highlight at Anchor River was RED-NECKED PHALAROPE. To quote from their report, “For as far as we could see, from south to north, there was almost a continuous string of Phalaropes spread out in small flocks, good sized flocks, dispersed flocks, flocks in the air, flocks on the water.  Most of these were in the neighborhood of 1/4 to 1/2 mile off shore.”

                     

                    In terms of other species of birds, all sites reported fewer waterfowl.  There is a magical time in the spring when Kachemak Bay has both overwintering and migrating waterfowl, all dressed in their finest.  But time has come to move on and get down to serious breeding.

                     

                    Mud Bay reported disturbances to shorebirds from helicopters and Bald Eagles. 

                     

                    In addition to shorebirds, Mariner Park Lagoon saw 2 NORTHERN PINTAILS, 2  MALLARDS, 3 GREEN-WINGED TEAL, 2 SANDHILL CRANES, and 1 FOX SPARROW.

                     

                    The Mid-spit team didn’t observe any waterfowl, which they typically see. They also reported disturbances from helicopters, walkers, and a person flying a remote controlled model plane.   

                     

                    The Outer Spit saw 2 SCOTERS, 1 COMMON LOON, 7, PELAGIC CORMORANTS, 3 BALD EAGLES, x MEW GULLS, x BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES, and 2 SONG SPARROWS.

                     

                    Beluga Slough monitors saw 14 WHITE-FRONTED GEESE, 7 CACKLING GEESE, 32 NORTHERN PINTAILS, 24 GREEN-WINGED TEAL, 26 AMERICAN WIGEONS, 48 NORTHERN SHOVELERS, 6 MALLARDS, 3 SANDHILL CRANES, x BALD EAGLES, 1 GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL, x NW CROWS, 1 FOX SPARROW, 3 LAPLAND LONGSPURS, 1 HERMIT THRUSH, 80 AMERICAN PIPITS, 1 ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, and 1 DARK-EYED JUNCO. 

                     

                    On Kachemak Bay they saw only 6 HARLEQUIN DUCKS. We usually have small flocks of nonbreeders throughout the summer.

                     

                    Anchor Point monitors saw BALD EAGLES, AMERICAN PIPITS, LAPLAND LONGSPURS, 2 ARCTIC TERNS, and 1 PARASITIC JAEGER.  They also saw a pod of orcas, which is a first for this site.

                     

                    Kasilof River monitors saw 24 CANADA GEESE, 4 MALLARDS, 12 NORTHERN PINTAILS, 3 GREATER SCAUP, 3 SURF SCOTER, 12 BLACK SCOTER, 15 COMMON GOLDENEYE, 3 BALD EAGLE, 3 SANDHILL CRANES, and 1 RUSTY BLACKBIRD.

                     

                    NOAA’s web site for the Homer Airport (http://w1.weather.gov/obhistory/PAHO.html) said that at 2:53 pm the temperature was 48°F, winds were from the W at 10 mph and skies were mostly cloudy.  At 4:53 pm the temperature was still 48°F, winds were from the SW at 13 mph, and skies were mostly cloudy. But, as usual, there were stronger winds on the Spit.

                     

                    Next report in 5 days. 

                     

                    George Matz

                  • George Matz
                    2014 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project Session #7 On Saturday, May 17th the Kachemak Bay Birders had its seventh shorebird monitoring session for this
                    Message 9 of 15 , May 18 6:49 PM
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                      2014 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project

                      Session #7



                      On Saturday, May 17th the Kachemak Bay Birders had its seventh shorebird monitoring session for this season. Sixteen volunteers made observations for two hours (7:15-9:15 pm) at five sites in the Homer Spit area. Sites in the Spit area include Mud Bay, Mariner Park Lagoon, Mid-Spit, and the Outer Spit (boat harbor area), nearby Beluga Slough, and by boat the Islands/Islets on the south side of the Bay. Two volunteers monitored the Anchor Point/River and a one volunteer monitored the mouth of the Kasilof River.



                      Another interesting session. Although yellowlegs, plovers, and sandpipers have mostly passed through Kachemak Bay, shorebirds that breed in the alpine or Arctic tundra, where spring thaw is just starting, are either still hanging out here or just arriving. Hundreds of Surfbirds are still in Kachemak Bay, flocks of Whimbrel continue to come and go, and Wandering Tattler are arriving. These species breed in the alpine. So far no Bristle-thighed Curlew. Shorebirds that breed in the Arctic tundra are also arriving. Last week we saw a Ruddy Turnstone and this week we had a Red Knot. Maybe Sanderlings will show up next time. We will be looking.



                      Weather continues to be a non-issue in terms of migration. Rather than a couple of pulses of arrivals, punctuated by storms, there has been this relatively smooth Gaussian curve of shorebirds flocks that have come and gone. Homer has had an amazing string of mild weather this spring, which makes you wonder if we are using up our annual allocation too soon. But the nice weather also contributed to more disturbance in intertidal areas, particularly at Bishops Beach where people were driving in areas closed to vehicles. Monitoring at the Kasilof River stopped after about an hour because of 4-wheelers tearing around the beach. King salmon fishing is now open on the Anchor River, which always draws a crowd.



                      The most numerous plover this session was the SEMIPALMATED PLOVER, which nest in the area. Mud Bay had 7, Mariner Park Lagoon had 3, the Mid-spit area had about 37, the Outer Spit had 5, and the Anchor River had 3. BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS were few with only 2 at Mid-spit.



                      Karl saw a pair of BLACK OYSTERCATCHERS at Cohen Island.



                      There were 4 LESSER YELLOWLEGS at Mariner Park Lagoon Slough and 5 at the Anchor River. The Anchor River also had 9 GREATER YELLOWLEGS and the Kasilof River had 2. About 20 WANDERING TATTLER, which are in the same genus as yellowlegs, were walking around the boat harbor.



                      Beluga Slough saw 1 WHIMBREL, and the Anchor River had 6. No one reported any godwits although I did see 1 MARBLED GODWIT the day before at the Anchor River with a flock of 34 Whimbrel.



                      Monitors at Mid-spit saw about 130 SURFBIRDS and 2 ROCK SANDPIPERS on the move and those at the Outer Spit saw 146 plus 1 BLACK TURNSTONE. However, there are still many more in the area. On a Kachemak Bay Birders boating field trip on Saturday morning with Karl Stoltzfus we didn’t see any Surfbirds as we left the harbor at 9:00 am but saw hundreds foraging on the rocks at the harbor entrance when we returned just before noon. A low tide of -4.0 feet was at 11:05. Hanging out with the Surfbirds was 1 ROCK SANDPIPER and 1 RED KNOT which I photographed for verification. Attached is the photo, or for those on AKBirding check my file at George Matz. A ROCK SANDPIPER was also seen by the Outer Spit team during monitoring and the RED KNOT was seen at Mid-spit, both times in the accompany of Surfbirds. Those wanting to see the Red Knot should check for a flock of Surfbirds on the rocks at the entrance to the harbor by boat or from the small park on the other side and the then carefully look at each one. If you don’t see any Surfbirds there, check the rocks at the entrance to the Barge Basin which is near the skating rink.



                      Sandpipers are still around. With WESTERN SANDPIPERS Mud Bay had 63, Mariner Park had 65, Mid-spit saw 198, the Out Spit had 3, Beluga Slough had 24, and Kasilof River had 24. LEAST SANDPIPERS were seen at Mud Bay 1 and Mariner Park Lagoon had 22. Mid-spit reported 11 SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPERS. The Outer Spit team had 50 peeps fly by. DUNLIN were seen at Mud Bay 14, Mariner Park Lagoon 8, Mid-spit 86, Anchor River 2, and Kasilof River 1. Other sandpipers include 1 possible PECTORAL SANDPIPER at Beluga Slough and 7 at the Anchor River.



                      SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHERS were seen at Mid-spit 2, the Anchor River 5, and the Kasilof River 2. LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS were seen Beluga Slough 14, and the Anchor River 2.



                      It appears that the huge flock of RED-NECKED PHALAROPE that were here for a while have headed north.



                      Other Kenai Peninsula shorebird monitoring of note is this May 16th email from Toby and Laura Burke reporting on the Kenai River. It is interesting to speculate why such a concentration of Dowitchers and Pectoral Sandpipers here and not in other nearby stopovers. The Burke’s said; “There were two American Golden Plovers and a single Killdeer on the east side of Bridge Access Road between the shallow melt-water ponds at 5:45 pm Thursday. There were also 1,000 Short-billed Dowitchers, 800 Pectoral Sandpipers, 200 Western Sandpipers, 50 Dunlin, 15 Yellowlegs, 1 Hudsonian Godwit, and 1 Whimbrel in the ponds.”



                      Also, I am including at the end of this report a recent, short article in BirdWatching magazine about shorebird monitoring at the Fraser River. This should be of interest to all shorebird aficionados’.



                      Here is the report on other species of birds seen by area.



                      Mariner Park Lagoon saw 3 NORTHERN PINTAIL, 2 MALLARDS, 2 GREEN-WINGED TEAL, 3 AMERICAN WIGEON, 1 SANDHILL CRANE on a nest, 1 BALD EAGLE cruising over which caused the ducks to flee but not the yellowlegs, 2 AMERICAN ROBINS, 1 HERMIT THRUSH, and 1 FOX SPARROW.



                      The Mid-spit saw 2 MALLARDS, 33 WHITE-WINGED SCOTER, 500+ BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES getting nesting material, 1 JAEGER, and 12 GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS.



                      The Outer Spit saw 4 WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS, 2 HARLEQUIN DUCK, SCAUP, 7 PELAGIC CORMORANTS, 8 BALD EAGLES, 1 HERRING GULL, 15 GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS, x BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES, 1 hybrid gull, and 2 ROCK PIGEONS.



                      Beluga Slough monitors saw 6 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE, 4 CANADA GEESE, 27 NORTHERN PINTAILS, 24 GREEN-WINGED TEAL, 21 AMERICAN WIGEONS, 6 NORTHERN SHOVELERS, 9 MALLARDS, 11GREEN-WINGED TEAL, 3 SANDHILL CRANES, 5 BALD EAGLES, 17 GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL, 18 NW CROWS, and 1 AMERICAN ROBIN.



                      On Kachemak Bay they saw 2 HARLEQUIN DUCKS, 18 BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE, and 1,600 COMMON MURRES flying by.



                      Anchor Point monitors saw 6 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE, 1 SNOW GOOSE, AMERICAN WIGEON, GREEN-WINGED TEAL, COMMON MERGANSER, RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, AMERICAN PIPITS, LAPLAND LONGSPURS, SWALLOWS, and 1 SAVANNAH SPARROW,



                      The Kasilof River monitor saw 2 CANADA GEESE, 2 MALLARDS, 6 NORTHERN PINTAILS, 4 EURASIAN WIGEON, 4 NORTHERN SHOEVLER, 2 GREEN-WINGED TEAL, 50 GREATER SCAUP, 100 gulls, 2 ARCTIC TERN, 1 BLACK-BILLED MAGPIE, and 1 SAVANNAH SPARROW.



                      NOAA’s web site for the Homer Airport (http://w1.weather.gov/obhistory/PAHO.html) reported that at 6:53 pm the temperature was 61°F, winds were from the SW at 13 mph, and skies were mostly cloudy. At 8:53 pm the temperature was 56°F, winds were from the SW at 7 mph, and skies were fair.



                      Next report in 5 days.



                      George Matz



                      **********



                      BirdWatching: June, 2014



                      Monitoring confirms importance of Fraser River Delta to Western Sandpiper and Dunlin

                      4/22/2014 | 0

                      Dunlin at Presqu’ile Provincial Park, Brighton, Ontario, by newfoundlander61.

                      A fresh analysis of two decades of daily counts at one of three extensive intertidal flats in the Fraser River Delta, in British Columbia, has underscored the area’s critical importance to shorebirds that migrate every year along the Pacific Flyway.

                      According to researchers from Environment Canada and Bird Studies Canada, 600,000 Western Sandpipers and 200,000-250,000 Dunlins typically foraged and roosted at the flat, known as Brunswick Point, every spring between 1991 and 2013.

                      The estimates represent 14-21 percent of the total flyway population of Western Sandpiper (estimated to be 3.5 million) and 30-50 percent of the flyway population of Dunlin (550,000), and in some years, the percentage may have been higher.

                      Once uncertainties about length of stay and random variation are figured in, say Mark C. Drever, Moira J. F. Lemon, Robert W. Butler, and Rhonda L. Millikin, the median number of Western Sandpipers in 1994 may have been 1.8 million, or 42-64 percent of the total Pacific Flyway population.

                      What’s more, the researchers write that aerial surveys indicate the birds counted at Brunswick Point represent only about 40 percent of all the sandpipers that stop in the estuary each spring. Many thousands more Western Sandpipers and Dunlins, they say, use the two other intertidal flats, Sturgeon Banks and Boundary Bay (Hotspot Near You No. 173).

                      “Thus, it is possible that entire Flyway populations of both species may be found on the Fraser River Delta during migration, underscoring the overall importance of the entire estuary.”

                      Effective conservation measures for Western Sandpiper and Dunlin, conclude Drever and his colleagues, should focus on protecting the mudflats as feeding and roosting sites, and securing the sites from disturbance and pollution.

                      The Fraser River Delta was designated a site of hemispheric importance in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network in 2005.

                      Read the paper

                      Mark C. Drever, Moira J. F. Lemon, Robert W. Butler, and Rhonda L. Millikin, 2014, Monitoring Populations of Western Sandpipers and Pacific Dunlins during Northward Migration on the Fraser River Delta, British Columbia, 1991–2013, Journal of Field

                      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    • George Matz
                      Kachemak Bay Birders Homer, Alaska Media Release Report Available on 2014 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project October 28, 2014 For the past six years,
                      Message 10 of 15 , Oct 28, 2014
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                        Kachemak Bay Birders

                        Homer, Alaska

                        Media Release

                        Report Available on 2014 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project

                        October 28, 2014

                         

                        For the past six years, the Kachemak Bay Birders has been conducting the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project.  Our mission is to better understand population trends associated with migrating shorebirds that stop-over in Kachemak Bay and to use this information to advance the conservation of these species both locally, nationally, and internationally.  Our annual report for 2014 is now available, but only electronically.  To download a copy of the report or the spreadsheets with observation details, go to http://kachemakbaybirders.org/ and then click on our Citizen Science page.  No permission is needed to use information in the report.

                        To give you a preview of the report, below is a copy of the reports executive summary. 

                        For further information, contact George Matz, Project Coordinator at geomatz@....

                        Executive Summary

                         

                        In May 2014, Kachemak Bay Birders (based in Homer, Alaska) completed its sixth consecutive shorebird monitoring project.  The main purpose of this citizen science project is to attain a better understanding of the status of shorebird populations in the Kachemak Bay area, particularly during spring migration.  We continued our efforts to include monitoring at the nearby Anchor Point/River and the Kasilof River.  By comparing our current Homer Spit data to monitoring data collected by former Homer resident George West, who conducted counts of Homer Spit shorebirds during the 1980s and 1990s, we will have a better understanding of population trends.  Secondary purposes for this project are: 1) to contribute information that might be useful to others assessing shorebird populations across the entire Pacific Flyway: and 2) to use the monitoring data to help protect Kachemak Bay/Homer Spit shorebird habitat.

                         

                        Between April 17, 2014 and May 27, 2014 a record number of 45 volunteers participated in one or more or the this year’s shorebird monitoring sessions: 35 in the Homer Spit area, 5 at Anchor Point (including one who volunteered at both Anchor Point and Beluga Slough), and 6 at the Kasilof River.  At the Homer Spit we simultaneously monitored for two hours once every five days when the outgoing tide reached 15.0 feet (or at high tide if less).  These tidal conditions optimize shorebird viewing opportunity for this area.  In nine monitoring sessions we observed 25 species of shorebirds and counted a total of approximately 13,319 individual shorebirds.  Top ten taxa seen include Western Sandpiper (4,000), Red-necked Phalarope (3,006 of which 3,000 were seen by boat), Surfbird (2,644), Dunlin (1,530), LESA/WESA/SESA which is a lumping of Calidris species (987), Semipalmated Plover (251), Least Sandpiper (195), Black-bellied Plover (114), Pectoral Sandpiper (98), and Black Turnstone (56).  We noted some minor disturbances of shorebird flocks by loose dogs and low-flying aircraft, particularly helicopters.

                         

                        The number of shorebird species we counted this year (25) is the same as the average for all six years of monitoring.  One new species seen this year were four Red Phalarope mixed in with a large flock of Red-necked Phalarope at the mouth of the Bay.  We also saw a Red Knot, which is only the second time we have observed this late migrant during monitoring.  The number of Surfbirds this year was about twice our average.  A flock of about 1,500 was seen separate from our monitoring.  The total number of individual shorebirds counted this year (13,139) was about average for our six years of effort (14,832).  Unlike previous years, when a couple of pulses of migrating shorebirds would arrive at Kachemak Bay, this year there was just one continuous pulse.  It appears that the weather, which was benign throughout the migration, may have been a primary factor.  Since there was no need for shorebirds to wait out a storm, their stopover seemed to be for no more than a tide or two. 

                        Protocol shorebird monitoring data (once every five days) was compared to daily observations during the peak of shorebird migration (May 1-14).  These other sources of data were; 1) daily spot checks on the Homer Spit and 2) daily eBird submissions.  Although one of our scheduled monitoring dates was only two days off the peak, based on this data, it appears that scheduled monitoring accounts for about one-quarter of the shorebirds that stopped over at the Homer Spit this year. 

                        As in previous years, we compared our data to George West’s seven years of shorebird monitoring data (1986, 1989-1994).  West saw a total of 23 shorebird species.  Over the past six years of monitoring we have seen 31 species.  Perhaps our more intense coverage explains our higher number of species.  West’s average annual count was 90,326 shorebirds.  But comparison of this data with ours requires some adjustment.  West monitored daily and our protocol calls for monitoring once every five days.  Consequently, for the comparison we included only every fifth day of West’s data.  Also, since West’s observations were only on the Homer Spit, we need to exclude data from the Beluga Slough and Islands and Islets sites.  Based on these adjustments, West’s average shorebird count was 18,436.  Our adjusted count for this year was 9,402 shorebirds.  Our average for six years was 11,115 shorebirds; or 60% of West’s

                        In addition to the Homer Spit area we also continued shorebird monitoring at the mouths of the Anchor and Kasilof Rivers.  The Anchor River is located at the northern edge of Kachemak Bay about 15 miles north of Homer.  The volunteers that monitored here followed the same protocol used at Homer Spit.  They reported seeing a total of 19 species of shorebirds.  The count this year for the Anchor River amounted 5,476.  However, this includes a flock of about 5,000 Red-necked Phalarope that were seen offshore on May 12th. 

                        The Kasilof River empties into Cook Inlet about 40 miles north of the Anchor River.  The protocol for this site was to monitor the incoming tide starting when it was about half-way between low and high tide.  Monitors at the Kasilof River saw 15 species of shorebirds.  On May 16, which was a supplemental day, they saw a Baird’s Sandpiper.  The total count for the nine scheduled monitoring days was 958 shorebirds.  This is considerably less than last year, due primarily to not seeing as many sandpipers.  It is speculated that because of the mild weather, many shorebirds did not bother to stopover at the Kasilof River this year.  Observations for the Kasilof River were not that much different than the Anchor River if you deduct out the large flock of Red-necked Phalarope seen off-shore of the Anchor River.

                         

                        Plans are to continue this effort next year.  Since all monitoring is based on volunteer effort, the possibility of agency budget cuts is not a threat to us.

                        ###

                      • George Matz
                        Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project Session #2 On Tuesday, April 21st the Kachemak Bay Birders had its second shorebird monitoring session for this
                        Message 11 of 15 , Apr 23
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                          Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project

                          Session #2

                           

                          On Tuesday, April 21st the Kachemak Bay Birders had its second shorebird monitoring session for this season.  This is our seventh consecutive season.  Thirty-one volunteers made observations for two hours (6:45-8:45 pm) at six sites in the Homer Spit area as well as Anchor Point/River.  Sites in the Spit area include Mud Bay, Mariner Park Lagoon, Mid-Spit, and the Outer Spit (boat harbor area), nearby Beluga Slough, and the Islands and Islets on the south side of the Bay.  In addition, a team of four Keen Eye Birders monitored the mouth of the Kasilof River.

                           

                          The return to more normal weather (tug of war between winter and spring) the past couple of weeks may have tempered the migration fever.  So far the progression of species arrivals hasn’t been that much different than normal despite Homer having the warmest winter on record.  At the Homer Airport, the NOAA report (http://w1.weather.gov/obhistory/PAHO.html) said that at 6:53 pm the temperature was 42° F, wind was from the SE at 13 mph with gusts at 26 mph, skies were mostly cloudy, and the barometric pressure was 29.88.  At 8:53 pm the temperature was 43°, the wind was from the E at 7 mph, skies were still mostly cloudy and the barometric pressure was 29.87.  It had snowed the previous night and there were a few flakes in the air this afternoon.  Some say that Homer always has a few flakes in the air.  

                           

                          The only shorebirds seen this session in the Homer Spit area were 1 each GREATER and LESSER YELLOWLEGS at Mud Bay and 5 GREATER YELLOWLEGS at Beluga Slough.  Across the Bay Karl saw 4 ROCK SANDPIPERS on Gull Island and 5 BLACK OYSTERCATCHERS on Cohen Island.  At the Anchor River, observers saw 9 BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS, 8 GREATER YELLOWLEGS, 1 PECTORAL SANDPIPER, and 2 DUNLIN.  Keen Eye Birders saw 4 BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS and 1 DUNLIN.

                           

                          Other birds seen are as follows:

                           

                          At mid-Spit, observers saw NORTHERN PINTAILS, MALLARDS, MEW GULLS, GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS, and BALD EAGLES.

                           

                          Mariner Park had only 3 NORTHERN PINTAILS fly over.

                           

                          Two teams covering the mid-Spit area saw, collectively, 4 HARLEQUIN DUCKS, 6 MALLARDS, I NORTHERN PINTAIL, 1 LONG-TAILED DUCK, 6 WHITE-WINGD SCOTERS, 6 BALD EAGLES, 9 RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS, and a huge flock of about 600 GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS that headed over to Gull Island (of course) for the night. They also saw 1 sea otter.

                           

                          Despite no shorebirds, there were a lot of birds at the Outer Spit.  Seen were 16 HARLEQUIN DUCKS, 10 GOLDENEYES, 6 BLACK SCOTERS, 7 WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS, 6 LONG-TAILED DUCKS, 15 RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS, 2 RED-NECKED GREBE, 1 COMMON MURRE, 3 COMMON LOONS, 20 CORMORANTS, 30 BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES, GULLS, and 4 BALD EAGLES.  In addition, they saw some sea otters and harbor seals.

                           

                          Beluga Slough once again had a good variety of birds. There were 25 MALLARDS, 36 NORTHERN PINTAILS, 60 AMERICAN WIDGEON, 1 EURASIAN WIDGEON, 6 GREEN-WINGED TEAL, 6 BUFFLEHEAD, 4 COMMON GOLDENEYE, and about 100 GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS.  In the Bay were 32 HORNED GREBE, 48 SURF SCOTER, and 1 WHITE-WINGED SCOTER.  At Beluga Lake there were 2 NORTHERN SHOVELERS, 1 COMMON MERGANSER, and 1 SCAUP.  There were also about 60 NORTHWESTERN CROWS and 2 VARIED THRUSH were heard.  They also noted cars on the beach.  As some of you know, an issue lately in Homer is the Parks and Recreation Commission efforts to keep vehicles from illegally going east of the Bishop’s Beach parking lot and out of Beluga Slough.  This not only disturbs birds that are foraging and resting, but the barrier dunes and in some cases endangers those walking the beach.  Check online the local papers (Homer News and Homer Tribune) if you want more information.

                           

                          The Kasilof River crew, which has different tides and optimal shorebird viewing conditions, monitored from 3:40 to 5:10 pm. They reported mostly cloudy conditions, temperature of 39 °F, and a wind of 10-12 mph.  Besides shorebirds, they also saw; 6 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE, 95 SNOW GOOSE, 8 CACKLING GOOSE (taverneri), 7 MALLARD, 9 NORTHERN PINTAIL, 70 GREATER SCAUP, 1 LONG-TAILED DUCK, 5 SURF SCOTER,

                          1 RED-NECKED GREBE, 3 BALD EAGLE, 90 MEW GULL, 300 HERRING GULL (hybrids), 5 GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL, and 1 GRAY JAY.

                           

                          Next report in 5 days. 

                          George,

                           

                           

                           

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