Ever wondered about what kind of birds you can watch in Interior Alaska, when and where? Photos of Alaskan migration birds munching on a field each year on their way to their northern breeding areas and southern overwintering quarters. Learn which birds stay for the cold season and how they adapt to the local conditions.
- Geese Are the First to Come
- Swans Are the Last to Go
- Predators Also Come to the Pit-stop for Food
- Are There Birds in Alaska in Winter?
Geese Are the First to Come
Around the beginning of April, Canada and other geese arrive at Creamer’s Field, a former diary farm in the Fairbanks area. It is a pit-stop each spring and fall for thousands of birds on the way North and South, respectively. Later in spring and in fall, you can also watch trumpeter swans, various types of ducks, waterfowls and a variety of small migrating birds at Creamer’s Field. However, the majority of birds are Canadian geese, sandhill cranes and ducks. In spring, the birds munch on the seeds that are left over on the field. The water birds swim on the puddles from snowmelt.
Swans Are the Last to Go
Starting as early as mid-August, this field is full of birds as well. They munch on the grains of the crop on the unharvested field of Creamer’s Field. There is another bird collection/meeting point farther west on the University of Alaska Fairbanks experimental farm. Here in seems to be nearly exclusively snadhill cranes. Occassionally, you see same ducks and geese in the mix.
These fields are a bird watcher’s paradise.
Whenever a large group of birds leaves, they make a lot of noise. I always wonder whether this noise is talking or whether they are giving commands to the next bird or whether it is some marching talk like soldier do. As fall progresses the number of birds feeding on the fields decreases. Usually, the last to leave are the swans. See more in a peaceful place at the Arctic Ocean. Around the second week of September, the fields are left to the voles and rabbits.
Predators Also Come to the Pit-stop for Food
The seeds attract also mammals like voles and rabbits. The huge assembly of birds, rabbits and voles, of cause, also attracts predators like foxes, hawks, owls and bald eagles. Exhausted birds that just landed and fall asleep after munching seem easy prey. However, birds are very social. Some are on watch while others are sleeping and eating.
Nevertheless, it happens that the predator also get their food. One year, a fox got a duck and was attacked by geese and sandhill cranes for the kill. The photo made headlines in the local newspaper.
A fox chased by geese and cranes is news worthy while a fox chasing a duck or voles is not.
Are There Birds in Alaska in Winter?
Some ducks stay in Fairbanks over winter. The waste water from the downtown power plant keeps the Chena River open for a stretch of more than a mile. The ducks warm their feet in the open water. It is impressive to see them at 40 below (-40oC) swimming and diving for waterplants in the seemingly steaming river.
Some ravens also stay over winter. They are pretty smart and remove the snow from the lights and use the street lights to use them as a heating source. They are also pretty impressive when they simulate the ring tune of a cell or a car horn. The Alaska ravens are bigger than the ones that visit middle Europe in winter. Much bigger!
On cold winter days, the ravens and ducks are the only birds you see. But as soon as temperatures go into the single negative digits, all the overwintering small birds with a sudden show up at the bird feeders. It is amazing that these small little guys of the size of a sparrow, can survive in the cold winters of the Interior! Who also shows up at the bird feeders in these weather conditions are squirrels who dig subways in the snow.
When you live close to the river or a slough, ducks show up in your driveway. They much on what the squirrels threw out of the bird feeder.
Despite people say that doves can’t survive the winter in the Interior, some doves exist. Together with the ravens, they munch at the transfer station where they benefit from dumpster divers. When it gets cold, the doves shelter side-by-side at the university powerplant and in other sheltered places around campus.
The Birds’ Restplace Are The Fields around Fairbanks
Creamer’s field is in the northern suburbs of Fairbanks. The experimental farm is six miles west of downtown Fairbanks in College. Have you ever seen so many birds in the suburbs of a town or in a place that is not in a National Park? Do you like bird watching and photo safaris? Let me know, I am curious.When you are in Fairbanks in spring or fall stop at Creamer's Field for bird watching. #traveltip Click To Tweet
Insider travel tip:
When you are in Fairbanks in spring or fall stop visit the UAF experimental Farm to see caribou and musk ox babies and lots of migrating birds on their fields. #travel #Alaska Click To Tweet
On our way back home, we saw two caribous with their calves at the University Experimental Farm. Here is a photo of one of them with mommy caribou.
The birds announce that spring is in the air. However, it is still chilly. Thus, I tried to come up with an outfit that goes with the spring vibe (floral, light colors) and still keeps me warm (tight, boots, sweater under denim jacket).
I love these studded boots. However, they are made to be worn on the winter rainy side walks of West and Mid-European cities. They are so slippery on snow that I can only wear them prior to the onset of snow, or when the sidewalks are already snow-free in spring. Thus, these boots are my spring boots as in fall I procrastinate wearing boots as long as possible. 😉 In spring, I am already eager to wear pumps. Verdict: These boots are not very Alaska suitable, but I love how they look.
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Photos: G. Kramm
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