Before long, thousands of birds who have summered in Alaska will start their trek south. According to Audubon Alaska, 501 bird species in 64 families are found in Alaska. Dispatch News photojournalist Bob Hallinen spent much of his summer tracking them in and around Southcentral, and we present the fruits of his patient efforts here.
While spring is typically the season of bird festivals in Alaska, marking the return of our avian visitors, there are still some late-season events of note:
• Tanana Valley Sandhill Crane Festival: This Aug. 22-24 event in Fairbanks celebrates the fall migration with nature walks, a driving tour of birding hotspots, research talks and plenty of crane watching at Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge, where daily sandhill crane tallies can top 1,000. George Archibald of the International Crane Foundation is the featured guest.
• Alaska Bald Eagle Festival: The Nov. 10-16 festival in Haines marks one of the largest bald eagle gatherings in the world, with as many as 3,000 raptors arriving in the Chilkat River Valley to sample the late run of tasty chum salmon. Among the events are photography workshops, wildlife presentations, tours and live raptor presentations.
Which birds frequent Southcentral Alaska much of the summer? A survey last year by the Birds ‘n’ Bogs citizen science program initiated by Audubon Alaska and the University of Alaska Anchorage counted these boreal birds in Anchorage and the Matanuska Valley: 108 lesser yellowlegs, 22 greater yellowlegs, 2 olive-aided flycatchers, 23 solitary sandpipers, 30 rusty blackbirds, 339 tree swallows and 89 violet-green swallows.