Category Archives: birds

NESTING FLICKERS

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A female northern flicker approaches the nesting cavity.

Life at the nest of northern flickers is at a frantic level.  Most of the long, Alaskan summer days keeps the adults working at a breathless pace.  The pair at this nest take turns guarding the nest from the resident red squirrel or trespassing northern flickers and taking forays out into the black spruce forest to hunt for their main food, wood ants and their larva.  When the female arrives back at the nest cavity with food for the young, the male departs.

To listen to the audio clip, click on left side of the bar. Volume at right.   Adult male northern flicker responds to his mate appearing near the nest.  Then listen as female enters nesting cavity to feed chicks. Continue reading

THE YELLOW HAMMER

_dsc9410TAKING OUT THE TRASH  A female northern flicker bursts out of her nesting cavity with a fecal sack.

A pair of beautiful northern flickers has again taken up residence in our big back yard to raise a new generation.  Their distinct repertoire of territorial calls and hammering adds a welcome touch of wilderness.  These yellow hammers are perhaps the most striking birds of the northern boreal forest. As they dart about their forest territory flashing their brilliant feathers of gold I am unable to resist the temptation. I simply must try to capture some of their uncommon beauty with my cameras. Continue reading

RUFFED RHYTHM

28A ruffed grouse male moves slowly through thick cover as it feeds on buds, last years berries and new leaves.

Interior Alaska is definitely spruce grouse country.  But along creeks and river bottoms, in old burns, in fact almost anywhere where several species of trees grow in thickets, narrow veins of ruffed grouse habitat can be found.  Along the Slana River not far from where it enters the still modest Copper River,  aspen, poplar, birch, white and black spruce, alder and a jumble of willow species form thickets where the cryptic ruffed grouse lives.  Rose and high bush cranberry in the understory provide year round food for the few grouse that survive there. Continue reading

FRAMED BY A RAVEN

604-197Raven pair get acquainted during a snowstorm.

Ravens have been lurking around mankind ever since humans began making footprints.  They are quick to learn and take advantage of any  food sources we provide.  And, ravens are smart, perhaps the smartest bird on the planet. They have the largest range of vocalizations of any living creature except of course, for us humans. Continue reading

SECRETS of the BOREAL OWL

12Female boreal owl peeks from her nesting snag to see who is there.

For over a month I have been monitoring the female in the nesting cavity. A couple of times a week I would walk into the dark spruce woods and scratch the bottom of the dead poplar snag making a sound like a red squirrel climbing.  Instantly her round head pops out and she stares down at me. Continue reading

THE YELLOW-SHAFTED FLICKER

600-14-115For more than two months this male northern flicker and his mate maintain a territory centered around their nesting cavity in an Alaskan black spruce forest. Flickers are the most common woodpecker in Alaska’s interior. Continue reading

BOREAL OWL – PART 3

Yesterday I climbed a ladder twenty feet up to a natural hole in a decaying poplar within the boreal owl territory. I had found the male inside the cavity once, so I had always thought it was a likely place for a nest.  I took a quick look inside the cavity with flashlight and mirror but there was nothing inside.  A single gray, downy feather clung to the bark on the outside. The owl must have been spending some time there, I thought. When I looked around I was surprised to see the little boreal owl glaring at me from about ten feet away. It was clearly agitated that I was at the hole. A few minutes later as I photographed the owl from the ground, I suddenly heard the rapid calling of the male.  But it wasn’t the owl I was photographing.  There are two boreal owls here!

This morning just after six a. m. I returned to the owl territory. As I neared the poplar the cavity seemed to have vanished.  Through binoculars I could see the female was at the cavity entrance peering out at me.  What perfect camoflauge. It has been fifty one days since I first located the little male boreal owl.  Well, it seems that all his persistant singing has finally paid off.

23Female boreal owl in cavity.

 

NORTHERN FLICKERS PART 2

17Male northern flicker on spruce snag.

By the end of May one pair of flickers I had under observation had settled into a routine.  After their first egg was laid in the cavity the male no longer called from the nesting snag.  Now the calling and most of the drumming was taking place at another dead snag about a hundred yards to the north. Continue reading

NORTHERN FLICKERS

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Male northern flickers call to establish a breeding territory and attract a female.

This week was spent working on northern flickers which have shown up on our  homestead.  I have worked these beautiful woodpeckers extensively in the past yet there are still great shots to be had.  I concentrated on getting the best shots I could of the opportunities that presented themselves.  The leading off photo of the calling male was one shot I needed to improve on.  This kind of shot presents a challenge because normally the eyes will be in focus but the long bill is not.  I shot this at F16 to give enough depth of field. Continue reading

WAITING FOR A CHICKADEE

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In my part of Alaska’s Interior we have two species of chickadees.  These tiny and delightful birds cheer up the coldest day but are hard to photograph.  The black-capped chickadee is often found in mixed habitats of spruce, willow, birch and aspen.  The boreal chickadee is associated with the black spruce bog habitats.  They are quick and refuse to stay put so you must be very quick yourself.  One sure way just might be the oldest techique for bird photography out there.  Simply pre-focus on a favorite perch and wait.

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