Susitna River, Denali Highway


Alaskan Adventure
15-22 July 2006
Narrated by Henry Detwiler

Suzanne and I took a wonderful week-long trip to the Denali Highway, Nome, and the Kenai Peninsula to see birds and other wildlife.
species -- bird list is at the bottom of the page
Click on thumbnail pictures for full-sized photos.   

Days 1-3: Anchorage & Denali Highway

Red-necked Grebe, Anchorage

We flew from San Diego to Anchorage on Saturday, and our first stop after retrieving our rental was Westchester Lagoon, where Red-necked Grebes, Mew Gulls, and Northern Shovelers  provided us with for our first taste of Alaskan birdlife. The tide was out along the Coastal Trail, but hundreds of dowitchers and a few Hudsonian Godwits were picking at the the mud close to the water.

A quick stop at Hillside Park before dinner was productive only for mosquitoes.  On Sunday morning we took a short walk through Kincaid Park, adding a couple of Black-capped Chickadees, Golden-crowned Kinglets, and Dark-eyed Juncos.  A Moose and two young were a treat.  Then it was off on the long trek up to Cantwell and the Denali Highway.

Moose family, Anchorage

Semipalmated Plover chick

On the way north we stopped to watch a pair of Pacific Loons, a pair of Trumpeter Swans, and a Common Redpoll.  By the early afternoon we were on the Denali Highway heading east on the gravel road.

Semipalmated Plover
Denali Highway

Gray-cheeked Thrush, Denali Highway

Highlights today included Northern Shrike, this Gray-cheeked Thrush, and more ducks & shorebirds.  Early in the evening we rolled into Gracious House for an appetizing dinner and our cabin.  After dinner it was still light (most of the night, in fact) so we drove up the Clearwater Creek road.  While trying to "pish" up an LBJ, two lifer Arctic Warblers came out to greet us. 
Early the next morning we did some pre-breakfast birding, watching families of Trumpeter Swans and our only Long-tailed Ducks of the trip.  After some hot cakes and sausage, we headed eastward and onward.  This porcupine loping along the road was an amusing sight.  As the road gained altitude, we entered the alpine tundra, and birds became more plentiful.


Porcupine, Denali Highway

American Tree Sparrow
Denali Highway

Here we saw our first American Tree Sparrows and the old world Arctic Warblers were interspersed with the new world Wilson's Warblers.  Common Redpolls became more common, too, as did Savannah & Fox Sparrows.  In areas of open ground we saw a multitude of purple, white, and yellow flowers.


A short stroll up a hill to check out some Pine Siskins produced unexpected results.  Thrushes and sparrows came out to our pishing, and then we were startled as a family of Willow Ptarmigan exploded from our feet.  I crept over to the other side of the gulch where they landed, and got a few pictures of this handsome male.

Willow Ptarmigan
Denali Highway


View from Denali Highway

At Maclaren Lodge we ate a snack, and then climbed out of the valley for even more spectacular scenery.  Close to the end of the highway, we hiked up a hill in search of golden plovers and longspurs.  We missed those two birds, but as the rain started to fall on us, we got our first two Long-tailed Jaegers of the trip.  The long drive back to Anchorage for our nightly accommodation was highlighted by fantastic views of Matamuska Glacier and the Chugach Mountains.

Maclaren Glacier, Denali Highway

Continue on to Page 2 : NOME

Alaska, 15-22 July 2006

a=Anchorage area
d=Denali Highway
k=Kenai Peninsula

# Species Notes
1 Red-throated Loon n
2 Pacific Loon d,n
3 Common Loon a,d,k,n
4 Red-necked Grebe a,d,k,n
5 Double-crested Cormorant k
6 Pelagic Cormorant k,n
7 Canada Goose a
8 Cackling Goose a
9 Brant n
10 Trumpeter Swan k,d
11 Tundra Swan n
12 American Wigeon a,d
13 Mallard a
14 Northern Shoveler a
15 Northern Pintail a
16 Green-winged Teal n
17 Greater Scaup a,d,n
18 Lesser Scaup d
19 Common Eider n
20 Harlequin Duck n
21 Surf Scoter d,n
22 White-winged Scoter d
23 Long-tailed Duck d
24 Bufflehead d
25 Common Goldeneye a,d
26 Common Merganser d
27 Red-breasted Merganser d,n
28 Osprey d
29 Bald Eagle a,k
30 Northern Harrier a,d,n
31 Northern Goshawk a
32 Golden Eagle n
33 Merlin d.n
34 Gyr Falcon n
35 Willow Ptarmigan d
36 Pacific Golden Plover n
37 Semipalmated Plover d,n
38 Greater Yellowlegs d
39 Lesser Yellowlegs d
40 Solitary Sandpiper d
41 Spotted Sandpiper d
42 Whimbrel n
43 Hudsonian Godwit a
44 Semipalmated Sandpiper n
45 Western Sandpiper a,n
46 Short-billed Dowitcher a
47 Wilson's Snipe d,n
48 Red-necked Phalarope d,n
49 Slaty-backed Gull n
50 Long-tailed Jaeger d.n
51 Bonaparte's Gull a,d,k
52 Mew Gull a,d,k,n
53 Herring Gull n
54 Glaucous-Winged Gull n

a=Anchorage area
d=Denali Highway
k=Kenai Peninsula

# Species Notes
55 Glaucous Gull n
56 Sabine's Gull n
57 Black-legged Kittiwake k
58 Aleutian Tern n
59 Arctic Tern a,d,k,n
60 Common Murre n,k
61 Black Guillemot k
62 Marbled Murrelet k
63 Horned Puffin k
64 Tufted Puffin k
65 Rock Pigeon a
66 Hairy Woodpecker a
67 Northern Flicker a
68 Alder Flycatcher a,d
69 Say's Phoebe d
70 Northern Shrike d
71 Gray Jay d
72 Stellar's Jay k
73 Northwestern Crow k
74 Common Raven a,d,k,n
75 Tree Swallow a,d,n
76 Violet-green Swallow d
77 Bank Swallow d
78 Cliff Swallow d,n
79 Black-capped Chickadee a,d,n
80 Red-breasted Nuthatch a,d,k
81 American Dipper d
82 Golden-crowned Kinglet a,d,k
83 Ruby-crowned Kinglet a,d,k
84 Bluethroat n
85 Arctic Warbler d,n
86 Gray-cheeked Thrush d,n
87 Hermit Thrush k
88 American Robin a,d,k,n
89 Varied Thrush k
90 Yellow Wagtail n
91 American Pipit d.n
92 Blackpoll Warbler a,d
93 N. Waterthrush n
94 Yellow Warbler d,n
95 Yellow-rumped Warbler a,d,k,n
96 Wilson's Warbler d,n
97 American Tree Sparrow d,n
98 Savannah Sparrow d,n
99 Fox Sparrow d,n
100 Lincoln's Sparrow a,d,n
101 White-crowned Sparrow a,d,k,n
102 Golden-crowned Sparrow n
103 Dark-eyed Junco a,d,k,n
104 Lapland Longspur n
105 White-winged Crossbill d,k
106 Hoary Redpoll n
107 Common Redpoll d,n
108 Pine Siskin a,d

Photos Henry Detwiler