Our Summer Serving in Homer, Alaska travel blog

Yellowlegs over Potter Marsh

They've got really cold feet!

Ruffed Grouse

Alaska Gas Hawk

Date: April 30, 2013

Tonight’s Location: Anchorage, AK

Mileage: End -

Start -

Total Miles for the day: very few

Weather: mostly cloudy, a few snowflakes, weak sunshine this evening.

Temperature: start 30º

High 41º

Wildlife count:

Year List: 197, Life List: 343

Birds: Green-winged Teal, Greater Yellowlegs (50), Bald Eagle, Glaucous Gull, Sandhill Crane, Ruffed Grouse, Mallard, Raven, Snow Geese, Rock Dove, Magpie, Canada Geese

We enjoyed a very relaxing morning, with breakfast at the local Denny’s – just ½ block away. We attempted to find a good path out of the city for tomorrow morning, as we were headed south today to Potter Marsh. Our chosen path was not a very good one, so we checked with the office and got the best path. In Anchorage, the main interstate highway cuts right through the center of town, narrowing from a limited access highway to stoplights to just a city thoroughfare. However, it is just about the only game in town!

My cousin, Mark, had warned me that it was still winter out at Potter Marsh, and he was certainly right. Even after several sunny days with 48+ degrees, there was almost no open water, and with the wind today, it was really raw! The marsh is where the foothills form a bay, and the railroad filled in land to take the tracks across that bay. Potter Marsh was created in 1916-1917 when The Alaska Railroad built an embankment across Turnagain Arm. A bridge over Rabbit Creek allowed water to flow beneath the embankment, but some water from Little Survival Creek did not drain, and where the water pooled, vegetation began to grow, creating the marsh. Attracted by the water and vegetation, migrating waterfowl, shorebirds and other wildlife soon arrived, causing the area to become very popular and for wildlife viewing. There is a 1550’ boardwalk out over the perimeter of part of the marsh, but we only walked about half of it, where there was open water. Those poor Yellowlegs, which we had seen basking in the warm Texas sunshine this winter, must surely have been experiencing frozen toes after their long migration. I’ll be they wished that they had stayed south a little longer. We have word that they are in Homer as well, so it will be interesting to see how their breeding proceeds as the spring approaches.

As we drove around the back of the marsh, strutting across the road in front of us was a beautiful Ruffed Grouse – the first we have seen. It didn’t seem to mind when a truck drove toward it, and flew out of the way at the very last second – what a find!

From the frozen marsh, we drove out to Earthquake Park, which is in an area of subsidence from the March 27, 1964, Good Friday earthquake. Much of Anchorage was severely damaged. When we were downtown, we passed the Penney’s store that I remember from all of the photos of the quake – its huge front panels had fallen because of the quake. When we were here in 1980, Earthquake Park was an open area with a very few small trees growing in the subsidence area. Today, the entire area is a forest, and it is hard to see the Knik Arm of Cook Inlet from the parking lot.

We also drove to the end of the airport runway, where we could see the bay, and were amazed to see icebergs – icebergs made of salt water! I guess that just shows how cold it gets here and how long it stays cold. Saltwater freezes at about 4° colder than fresh water. However, there is a stiff wind on the bays, which would tend to prevent freezing as well. The icebergs were very black, indicating the presence of lots of gravel and soil. It was also interesting to see the clean-up effort on the city sidewalks and streets. John read that it would take till June until all of the gravel (used on the streets over the snow) would be cleaned up. We decided we had not seen this much dirty snow and melted puddles since we left Illinois!

We caught up with Maggie Ewan, our niece, at her office in the Alaska Museum, where she teaches in the science division, and develops curriculum for students along with other jobs. We enjoyed a terrific lunch in the museum café, well known for its excellent cuisine. Maggie had a Kobe burger, John a French Dip, and I had sweet potato fries and a salmon/bacon/tomato/lettuce (a BLT with salmon) sandwich. Each of us could only eat half of what we had, and John and I had the rest for dinner tonight – it was terrific. Maggie gave us a tour of her favorite part of the museum after lunch, the history of aviation in Alaska.

On the way home, we ran last minute errands, propane, fuel, groceries (we were almost out of coffee – Oh, no!). A great walk all around both sides of the campground followed dinner and we studied birds a little more before we head for Homer tomorrow.

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