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Spring Birding – Homer & the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival

124I have just spent a week in Homer (May 6-13), which included the weekend of the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! Although droplets of rain fell periodically, none of my birding was rained out, and birds were everywhere. Picturesque snow-topped mountains were visible in all directions out across the water of Kachemak Bay and boats bobbed in the harbor or went to and fro.

 

My husband and I started the trip with a “Cranes and Croissants” field trip, which began with a yummy breakfast repast, followed by a walk in our host’s birdy fields and wooded areas, being serenaded by Fox and Golden-crowned Sparrows, and always listening for Sandhill Cranes. A small flock of cranes did appear toward the end of the walk, after which we drove down Homer Spit and began our trip’s sightings of shorebirds, scoters, loons, ducks and geese. That evening at dinner out on the far end of the spit, we watched flock after flock of Common Murres head past us out to sea for their evening feeding time, along with smaller flocks of Red-necked Phalaropes also low over the water.

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Everywhere we went that week we saw and heard Bald Eagles, Sandhill Cranes, Common Ravens and Northwestern Crows. Depending on the tides, there were usually shorebirds, often including flocks of thousands of Western Sandpipers with interspersed black-bellied Dunlins on the mudflats. Sometimes there were also Hudsonian and Marbled Godwits, Whimbrels, Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers, and Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plovers on the mudflats and in the nearby grassy areas.

On the rocky slopes below the road on the spit, flocks of hundreds of Surfbirds containing a handful of Black Turnstones could usually be found in the afternoons. Although I kept looking for Wandering Tattlers, I only saw them the last day we were there, a very welcome group of five, wandering along a wet sandy area along which there were periodic shorebird-sized rocks.

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Out on the waters of the bay, there were all three kinds of scoters, mostly White-winged Scoters. There usually was at least one Common Loon visible, and sometimes a Pacific Loon could be seen. Black-legged Kittiwakes flew by regularly and often noisy flocks of them would by swarming above the water, diving and apparently feeding on something. There were also many Glaucous-winged Gulls, a few Mew Gulls and at least one Glaucous Gull hanging around the docks and the people who were fishing.

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In the shallower water around Homer Spit there were usually puddle ducks, including Mallards, Northern Pintails and Shovelers, American Wigeon (and a few Eurasian Wigeon), and Green-winged Teal, as well as periodic geese (Canada, Cackling, Greater White-fronted, a few Brant, and one Emperor Goose).

On the second morning I went on a boat field trip to Gull Island, a couple of miles off the end of Homer Spit. As we slowly motored near the island, huge flocks of Black-legged Kittiwakes flew about and were sitting on the rocks of the island. Pelagic and Double-crested Cormorants flew back and forth and also perched on the island rocks and a handful of Pigeon Guillemots swam near our boat.

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I also took a few walks in some wooded areas just outside of downtown Homer, where Orange-crowned and Yellow-rumped Warblers, as well as Fox and Golden-crowned Sparrows, sang constantly.

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Although most of my time in Homer was spent birding (and eating out at some of the very good restaurants), I did attend Neil Hayward’s very entertaining talk about his record-breaking ABA big year, and I recommend that you take any opportunity to also hear him.

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