A common sight in Alaska, this moose was expertly pointed out by Alan
The evening of the return from our glacier cruise out of Seward found us headed for Homer, a couple hundred miles away on the other side of the Kenai Peninsula. Since the sun sets so late here, only being dark for 3-4 hours in the middle of the night, we were still driving in daylight even though we were on the road until 11:30 at night.
We stopped a couple places en route, at a supermarket for some sandwich materials and then at the Kenai NWR headquarters for the range-restricted Aleutian Tern, a breeding species there. We were able to pick out one of the terns feeding over the lake just behind the headquarters buildings, the first time I have seen a species of tern for the first time after 10pm!
Eventually we arrived at our destination for the night – a random road in the hills above Homer, where we ate sandwiches on the hood of the car, which we then proceeded to sleep in. For those of you out there who look down on sleeping in cars, our ride was quite a comfy sleeping place in my opinion!
View over the town of Homer from near where we slept
The following morning we checked a bunch of local areas in the downtown Homer area, and then spent the afternoon at nearby Anchor Point, a little coastal promontory that turned out to be great for seawatching. It was also a popular place for fishing, and the large number of fishermen there would fillet their catch and toss the carcasses into the surf edge, which served to attract lots of gulls, crows, and eagles.
This immature Bald Eagle was along the docks on Homer Spit, a peninsula right in downtown Homer
The eagle show was spectacular, with about 20 individuals feeding along the coastline, flying along at eye level less than 30 feet away at times. The congregation of close to a thousand gulls featured a Slaty-backed Gull mixed in with the myriad Glaucous-winged Gulls – this Slaty-backed that we found being the only one in the entire US at that time apart from one other elsewhere in Alaska!
Slaty-backed Gull (left), standing out among the surrounding Glaucous-winged Gulls
Adult Bald Eagle dropping down onto a fish carcass
Landing gear down!
This eagle came and landed in a tree right next to us, this photo is not cropped at all!
That evening we went and searched for Boreal Owl in the wood above town, unfortunately without any form of success. While thinking about our plans for the next couple days, we realized that we had gotten pretty much all of our realistic targets for the areas that we had been to, and that we could make it back a day earlier than planned, thus saving money on the rental car. However, this meant that we had to make it back for 1pm the following day..
4am found us awake in the front seats of the car again, having slept for another night in our luxurious sedan. After checking in vain one last time for Boreal Owl, we started the six-hour drive back to Anchorage, planning on one last birding stop.
We reached the town of Hope a few hours later, and headed up to a nice dirt road that climbed through a valley above town. Here we were able to add some more species that we hadn’t encountered yet this trip, such as Spruce Grouse, Olive-sided Flycatcher, and many other species with boreal flair.
View from the side of the road as we left the Kenai Peninsula
After here we went back to Anchorage for our last few days, hiking around town a couple times and enjoying the remainder of our time in Alaska, before flying home without mishap. I’ll post once more about this trip as a recap of the work that we did and things we saw.