Monday, May 31, 2010

Alaska Holiday - Day 12, Denali to Seward

We set off very early Tuesday morning as you can tell from the light in this photograph of a Wilson's Snipe perched atop a tree:

Snipe are usually found on the fringes of marshland and reedbeds. Sat on top of a conifer is a new one for us, as indeed was the species itself!

A little further down the road (about sixty miles south of the motel) is the southerly view point for Mount McKinley/Denali. Four straight days of unimpeded viewing :)

One spot that had caught our attention on the way north was Willow Creek, so on the way south we decided to stop for a quick look. A pair of Belted Kingfishers hovered then disappeared before I had my camera out. However on the water, feeding and flying around were Bonaparte's Gulls:

and Arctic Terns:

as well as Tree and more commonly Violet-green Swallows:

It is an enchanting little spot, nestled alongside the highway, between an RV camp and, funny, what's that smell? It was only after having been there for fifteen minutes I realised that I was stood next to a burned down shop, one which had been there, intact, when we passed in the other direction just three days previously. Then I noticed the fire scene tape and the smouldering remains of what looked like an ice cream dispenser, and then a worried looking chap with a mobile phone to his ear heading out of a house and towards us.
Time to continue our journey to Seward! I should mention at this point the road works, which were so big that they provided a pilot car for each direction to follow through the 12-miles of rough road and ongoing works. I guess they undertake roadworks on this scale as the time they actually have unrestricted access to the road is so short and with the amount of winter damage to repair every year, those are busy months...
We had planned a stop at the Eagle River Nature Preserve, southbound, as it made more sense to break the journey this way than the other. Having paid our $5 daily parking fee we selected a moderate three mile trail, the Albert Loop.
It's one of those places that has a feel to it which means we want to go back, we really enjoyed the couple of hours we spent at Eagle River.
A noise intrigued us, sounding almost mechanical but clearly not. On further investigation it turned out to be a Varied Thrush singing:

These birds are nicknamed Alaskan Robins, we did see a few but not that many... I tried to record it's song for you:

You can also hear the flutey notes of the Swainson's Thrush in the tape:

A new species of Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow was singing:

We'd been hoping to see one of those here so were well pleased.
You can see here the ponds alongside the river in the valley:

And up a ridge:

A Downy Woodpecker was making frequent visits to what we presume was its nest:

The local variant of the Dark-eyed Junco, the Slaty-backed, was scratching for food under a tree:

The staff were very welcoming and helpful. Having resolved at this point to return to Alaska we bought a guide to trails across south-central Alaska (it turns out our whole holiday on mainland Alaska had only been in this part of the State - it really is massive).
Having enjoyed a late lunch after our walk we then headed on to Seward. Here's a view taken from the highway:

We checked into our hotel and then headed out for a meal, our first properly cooked dinner in a week!

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