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Late snow delaying annual bird migration across Alaska

Sean Doogan
Sandhill Cranes congregate in a Wasilla field, resting on their migration north. April 23, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
A Snow Goose walks through a Wasilla field, resting during its spring migration. April 23, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
A pair of Snow Geese replenishing near the Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, on their migration north. April 23, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Canadian Geese leave a field near the Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, on their way north. April 23, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
A pair of Canada Geese cross a barely frozen pond near the Mat-Su Regional Medical Center. April 23, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Thousands of Canada Geese make their way north through southcentral Alaska. April 23, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Greater white-fronted geese rest in a field near the Mat-Su Regional Medical Center. April 23, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Sandhill Cranes congregate in a Wasilla field, resting on their migration north. April 23, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Sandhill Cranes congregate in a Wasilla field, resting during their spring migration. April 23, 2013
Loren Holmes photo

Cold air across so much of Alaska, so late in the year, has delayed summer for the winter weary and left thousands of international travelers in holding patterns. An unexpected bonanza of migrating birds are reportedly hunkered down northwest of Denali National Park and Preserve. In the Delta-Tok region, thousands more cranes, swans, geese, and swallows than usual are waiting out conditions unusual even for Alaska.

Birds often "ball-up" in foul weather, congregating along coastlines and then fly over vast Interior Alaska in waves. Not this year. One local birder told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner he'd never seen so many stopped over, all at once, in more than 20 years.

Arctic air pushing southward and smaller low-pressure systems have kept cold weather lingering. Up to 6 inches of snow was forecast over the weekend in Anchorage, with accumulation likely in Fairbanks as well, the National Weather Service predicted, though ground temperatures would melt most of it.

Normally, late May sees warmer air from the Gulf of Alaska pulled north across the state, but for now, at least, much of Alaska remains near freezing or colder. 

“It is a real fluke. We just haven’t gotten into our summer pattern yet,” meteorologist Dan Peterson said. Next week, forecasts called for highs in the 50s and 60s from Anchorage, in Southcentral Alaska, north to Fairbanks.

Contact Sean Doogan at sean(at)alaskadispatch.com