Alaska By Land – Denali Part II
We saw five grizzly bears from the shuttle bus on the way towards our unit.
Intimidating, much? We prepared for such encounters as best we could before setting off into the backcountry.
Hiking in Denali has a few requirements. Contrary to Pacific Northwest training to walk single file along trails, Denali hikers are to spread out, preventing new trails and minimizing impact. Hiking alone is not recommended. And when in areas with limited visibility, make noise. Talk loudly, sing, or call out, “Hey bear!” at regular intervals, so as not to startle any bears. No kidding. This tactic gives wildlife a heads-up of your approach so they’ll (presumably) scatter.
That last tip is probably the worst for birding. But, determined to survive (*and* see birds), we tromped through the thick, brushy alder, and repeatedly announced “Hey bear!,” spoke loudly, and sang silly songs like “99 Bottles of Bears,” “Alphabet-booze-bear-bird,” or anything else we could come up with. It’s a fun challenge to see where the mind goes when you’re hiking for miles over tundra, tired, and talking non-stop.
Despite the singing, I found a few new birds!
I feel pretty lucky to have glimpsed this Arctic Warbler, that was “solitary, secretive, and skulking” in vegetation. Phylloscopus borealis, Greek origin, Phyllon – leaf, scopio – seek, appropriately “spends much of it’s time feeding in the leafy canopies of trees.” Amazingly, this little bird breeds in North America (Alaska), then migrates across the Bering Strait to winter in Asia.
Another great find was this Northern Waterthrush, Parkesia noveboracensis – Latinized form of “Parkes’s” (named after the ornithologist, Kenneth Carroll Parkes) and “New York.” The Northern Waterthrush is a ground dweller that walks rather than hops, bobs its tail rapidly, and is a similar species to the Louisiana Waterthrush.
We saw what is sometimes called the “snowbird” in Alaska, the Dark-eyed Junco- Slate-colored model! (and juvenile below).
Other birds found in Denali backcountry:
American Pipit, a species I once saw by the Columbia River near home, flocked along the Alaskan riverbars.
Gray Jays. Gregarious. And everywhere.
Olive-sided Flycatcher. I totally recognized it.
Orange-crowned Warblers. Totally didn’t recognize them.
Nor did I recognize this Yellow Warbler, since it was wearing it’s “first-year buffy/brown” outfit. So tricky.
Wilson’s Warbler (female).
And, everyone’s favorite, Yellow-rumped Warbler.
And because these pictures turned out the best, more yellow-rumped beauty.
Denali backcountry is amazing. I’m in love with the park for keeping it simple. There aren’t millions of RVs, cars, and people obscuring the view. We saw no signs of humans in the backcountry aside from footprints. It’s wild and beautiful (as national parks should be). Bears, snow, remote, and birds? It’s all worth it, keep exploring.
Tweets and chirps,
[…] been to near Astoria. I debated. The waterthrush wasn’t a life bird, I’d seen one once in Alaska, but it had been so long ago. Many birders hadn’t gotten visuals on the Brownsmead bird, […]