Mat-Su Valley birding events see below.
For statewide and Anchorage area birding events see the Anchorage Audubon website.
Saturday, May 27th — Hatcher Pass Gold Mint Trail Birding Walk — led by Robin Turk — rain or shine!
Meet at the Little Su Bridge and leave at 7 am to drive up to the Gold Mint Trail Parking lot. It is 1.5 miles to a beaver pond where we will turn around. While the trail is fairly short the walk usually takes 3-4 hours while we stop for birds along the way.
We’ll be meeting at the Hatcher Pass entrance parking area (see .jpeg below) just after you cross the Little Su River bridge at the entrance to Hatcher Pass. We’ll meet at 7:00 AM Saturday morning and then drive up to the Gold Mint Trail parking lot about 7:30 AM. Some of you may wish to car pool up since there is a $5.00 parking fee at the Gold Mint Trail parking lot. Note: There are restroom facilities at that parking lot.
If you’ve never been to Hatcher Pass, here are the directions:
From Palmer: Take the Glenn Highway north out of Palmer until you reach Palmer-Fishhook Road. Turn left onto Palmer-Fishhook Road and take Palmer-Fishhook Road all the way north to Hatcher Pass.
From Wasilla: From the Parks Highway, turn north onto Main Street which changes to Wasilla-Fishhook Road after you pass the Bogard Road intersection. Stay on Wasilla-Fishhook Road north out of Wasilla and follow it all the way until it intersects with Palmer-Fishhook Road. Turn left onto Palmer-Fishhook and follow it into Hatcher Pass.
From Willow: It’s possible that Hatcher Pass Road (Fishhook-Willow) may be open over the top of Hatcher Pass, but unless you know for sure, it would be safer to drive down to Wasilla and take Wasilla-Fishhook Road.
Bring your binoculars, field guide/app, and a spotting scope (if you have one). You might also want to bring some emergency mosquito dope in case we’re attacked.
Most years, we hike north up the Gold Mint Trail for about a mile and a half to the beaver pond (with Harlequin Ducks) that’s next to the trail. We usually break there (some people bring lunch)
Saturday & Sunday, May 20th & 21st — Mat-Su Birders Big Day Count
The 2017 Mat-Su Birders Big Day Count (BDC) is scheduled for this coming weekend, Saturday, May 20th and Sunday, May 21st. The Count starts at 5 PM Saturday afternoon and runs through 5 PM Sunday afternoon.
The Mat-Su Birders’ Big Day Count is a friendly, low-pressure, springtime club event to see who can record the most species of birds in a 24 hour period. Numbers of birds of each species are not important in this competition, just the number of bird species that you’ve seen. The birds that you count must be alive, wild, and unrestrained.
Starting at 5 PM Saturday, May 20th, you can count bird species that you see anywhere in the Mat-Su Borough, and any that you see while you are inside the Mat-Su Borough. A good example of bird species that you can count when you are inside the Mat-Su Borough, but the birds are not, is at Reflections Lake. As you walk around the trail around that lake, where the trail runs along that lake’s south coast/border, if you look to the south, you can see waterfowl on the Knik River. At that location, the Knik River is in the Anchorage Municipality. However, if you’re on the trail around Reflections Lake, inside the Mat-Su Borough, you can count any bird species that you see on the Knik River, even though they are outside of the Mat-Su Borough.
One area that has raised questions in the past is much of the land between Eureka on the Glenn Highway and the Lake Louise area. If you plan to go to Lake Louise to count species, a few miles after you pass the Eureka Roadhouse enroute to Lake Louise, you will leave the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and enter the Valdez-Cordova Census Area. You continue on until you reach Lake Louise Road, which heads north to Lake Louise. Once on that road, you will almost be at Lake Louise before you reenter the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Any species that you see while you’re in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area cannot be counted.
Historically, the highest overall species’ total for our BDC was in 1993 when competitors saw a total of 104 species. So far, the highest team count was in 2015 with Dan Crowson’s 82 species. However, even if you aren’t able to chase birds all over the Mat-Su Borough, we’d still like to hear what species you see in your yard or neighborhood!
One of the best ways to record the species that you see is to use a copy of the “BIRDS OF SOUTH/CENTRAL MATANUSKA-SUSITNA BOROUGH, ALASKA” to record what you see. If you don’t have a copy of that checklist, you can download one from our Mat-Su Birders website at <http://matsubirders.org>. Once at that website, click on the “RESOURCES” link at the top of the page and when the next page opens, click on “Birding Checklists.” The first checklist listed is the checklist that you want and it prints on 8 X 14 inch paper.
One other thing to keep in mind; if you see any species that would be considered a rarity in the Mat-Su, if at all possible, try and get a photograph to substantiate your observation.
Popular local starting points for the BDC are at Island Lake (off of Pittman Road), the Palmer Hay Flats at the Hayfield Road access point, Goose Bay State Game Refuge at the end of Knik-Goose Bay Road, Reflections Lake (off of the Glenn Hwy) at the Palmer Hay Flats, the Eklutna Tailrace opposite the Eklutna Power Plant on the Old Glenn Hwy., Hatcher Pass, and the Old Matanuska townsite. If you plan to bird Jim and Mud Lakes at the end of Maud Road, it’s best to do it early in the AM, since that area has turned into an unregulated free-for-all shooting gallery later in the days and evenings. Also, if you plan to bird Mud Lake, you will need a permit from Eklutna, Inc. to use the Mud Lake parking area, either for parking or birding. You can find out how to obtain a permit by going to the Mat-Su Birders’ website. On the Home page, click on the blue “HERE” at the end of the sentence above the photographs. On the next page, scroll down to the article on the “MUD-JIM-SWAN LAKES AREA” and read the first paragraph in that article.
We will not be having a potluck/wrapup meeting after this year’s competition. However, you can report your species’ totals to me by calling 376-8594 after 5 PM on Sunday, or you can send an email with your results to <email@example.com>. Once I’ve received everyone’s input, I’ll send out the results to everyone on our email list.
Good birding to everyone and remember to have fun and drive safe!
Saturday, April 29, 2017 — Goose Bay State Game Refuge (SGR) Birding Walk
Join Dan Crowson for the 3rd annual Mat-Su Birders’ Goose Bay SGR Birding Walk on Saturday, April 29, 2017. Dan has been accumulating interesting bird records from the numerous trips that he’s made to the Goose Bay SGR.
We will meet at 9:00 AM at the Goose Bay Airport parking area, all the way at the end of Knik-Goose Bay Road, about 19-20 miles southwest of Wasilla.
At 9:15 AM, we’ll all drive around Cameo Drive (the original beginning of Burma Road) to where we’ll park and start birding at the best available entrance to the Goose Bay Refuge.
Dan suggests that you dress for the weather and that you should plan on using knee or hip boots as there will probably be some spots where the water will probably be above the top of regular hiking boots. If you have a good hiking stick, that may be helpful. Bring your binoculars, scope (if you have one), field guide/app, and be ready for some good birding.
Sunday, May 7 — Eklutna Tailrace / Reflections Lake Birding Walks
On Sunday, May 7, 2017, Dan Crowson will lead the annual Mat-Su Birders Eklutna Tailrace / Reflections Lake Birding Walks, starting at 8:00 AM at the parking lot across from the Eklutna Power Plant, on the Old Glenn Highway. After we finish birding at the Tailrace, we’ll drive over to Reflections Lake for a birding walk around the lake. Both walks are very easy with few hills. We should finish up the Reflections Lake Birding Walk between 12:00 and 1:00 PM.
Please see the two maps below. The first shows an aerial view of the locations of both Reflection Lake and the Eklutna Tailrace. The second map shows an enlarged aerial view of the Eklutna Tailrace. We will be taking the path along the north side of the Tailrace and will be looking for birds mostly in the pond areas that can be seen to the north of footpath.
There are restrooms at Reflections Lake and in some years, there’s a porta-potty at the beginning of the Tailrace path.
Bring your binoculars, scope, bird guide, and bird apps and dress for the weather. I was at both the Tailrace and Reflections Lake today (April 23rd) and there were mosquitoes at both locations, so bring your bug dope.
On Friday (April 28th), we will be making a last-minute check on the lake and trail ice conditions. If the lake ice hasn’t melted or if the Tailrace footpath is still covered in icy snow, we will reschedule the Eklutna Tailrace / Reflections Lake Birding Walk on Sunday, May 7, 2017, so check you email next Friday in case there’s a last minute cancellation.
Tailrace MapReflections Lake Map