THURSDAY, February 8, 2018, 7:00 P.M.
UAS Recreation Center, Room 116
Through the Lens
by Scott & Betsy
State Watchlist Birds in Southeast
Alaska: Part I, Winter
By Gwen Baluss
Recently Dr. Nils
Warnock, Executive Di-rector for Audubon Alaska, spoke in
Juneau about the latest Audubon watchlist for Alaska. The
list uses the best available trend information to highlight
species that are in decline, or especially vulnerable to big
population drops, and for which key parts of the birds’
habitat is within Alaska.
This will be the
first article of a series discussing the red-listed
watchlist species that are found locally in Southeast
Alas-ka, and some ideas about what we can do to help these
birds may be found on the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) for
Juneau. Information gained on the CBC is part of the picture
that scientists use to make assumptions about species
declines and changes of ranges. We thank all
volunteers who help with this event.
These ducks often
congregate in our area during spring and fall migration,
in large flocks (of over 800 birds) have been registered on
widespread and serious declines over past decades are not
known. There are many hypotheses; contamination issues
and loss of boreal wetlands as permafrost melts are strong
What can we do?
If you hunt or know hunters, consider passing on taking
scaup. Since it’s difficult for most to quickly
distinguish the greater from the lesser scaup, and there are
also some concerns about both species; avoiding both is a
safe option. Suggest targeting more common species, such as
mallards. Currently the limit in Southeast game unites
is 7 ducks per day (freshwater types, with no more breakdown
by species given). This could give the false
impression that all duck populations are equally abundant in
Alaska. Nationwide, waterfowl species in general are
well managed by a collective of federal and regional
coordinators, and hunters have been a positive force in
habitat conservation. As a result, many duck
populations are doing well. However, local regulations
have not caught up with national conservation pri-orities.
Report large flocks of scaup on eBird. A good summary
of how to tell the two species apart can be found online
Scaup are often seen in salt water. Add this
"freshwater" duck to the countless species that will benefit
from any initiative keeping our water clean.
lists a global population for this species at only about 24,
Considering its breeding range covers parts of Northern
Alaska, Canada and Russia, it’s a lucky birder who sees
impressively large and indeed yellow-billed bird.
is lucky to have a smatter-ing of observations near most
communities, and is considered part of its normal winter
range. This species is not considered endangered by
the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), but concern has
led to extensive assessment of its threats and information
According to the
Alaska Department of Fish and Game, "Breeding habitat loss
or degradation, reduction of prey base due to overfishing,
incidental mortality in fisheries, subsistence harvest, and
predation are the main potential threats to yellow-billed
The good news for
this species is that it is on the radar of managers in
Alaska. Acording to the USFWS "The Conservation
Agreement (Agreement) for the yellow-billed loon (YBLO)
Gavia adamsii," has been developed as a cooperative effort
among local, state and federal re-source agencies in
northern and western Alaska in order to take measures
necessary for the conservation of the species."
What can we do?
Speak up for the federal and state agencies who employ
trained biologists to responsibly monitor and inform the
public about wildlife manage-ment. Budget cuts and
vilification from the public continue damper the
effectiveness of agencies to do their job.
knowledge of where these birds breed and range by reporting
observations in eBird. In winter it can be quite
difficult to distinguish at a distance from the Common Loon.
In fact, a quick perusal of biding forums on the internet
will yield vigorous discussion and plenty of conjecture by
hopeful watchers. An advanced birding guidebook is helpful
to distinguish the two.
who are taking measures to reduce or eliminate by-catch of
is a hotspot for this species, where we can enjoy by lower
esti-mates, some 100,000 members of this species that is
listed as endangered in the lower 48 states.
states "Threats in Alaska include marine regime shifts that
affect food supply, predation by avian predators, incidental
bycatch in gillnet fisheries, and logging of old growth
What can we do?
Support fisherman who are taking measures to pro-tect
conservation and research for recover of the small bait fish
eaten by murrelets. Consider that Marbled Murrelets in
Southern-most Alaska could be affected by timber sales of
large trees. (Note that murrelets do use other
habitats, such as mossy rocks, farther north).
Maintaining water quality in the Inside Passage will help
See more about
the watchlist (including some yellow-listed birds that may
be vulnerable) here:
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Tips for Safe Bird-feeding
By Gwen Baluss
Feeding birds can be fun and increase our
appreciation and awareness of them. However, it’s vital that
in doing so we avoid creating problems. It’s also important
to note that birds don’t need handouts from us. What they
need most is wild habitat to survive.
When considering feeding, the first question is: is it a
good idea to lure birds in? Unfortunately, if there are
hazards nearby such as a loose cat, a dog that chases birds,
a busy street, lots of windows, an electric fence, or any
kind of pesticide use, etc. the answer is “no”.
If you do decide to feed birds, there are some other things
One is bears. They should be waking up and prowling
around, right about now. Feeders need to be way up where
bears can’t access them. Seeds on the ground should be
sprinkled lightly preferably in a thick bushy area or up on
a high porch so that it would not be efficient for a bear to
lick them up. Alaska Department of Fish and Game recommends
taking bird feeders down during the months that bears are at
Squirrels and other small mammals can be slowed down
by sprinkling seeds (or suet) with hot chili pepper powder
such cayenne. Birds are not affected by capsicum, the “hot”
substance in chilies. Squirrels, while annoying, are not
always a threat to birds. It depends on the squirrel.
Studies have shown that some individual red squirrels are
good at nest searching and have a taste for eggs. Others
don’t. I’ve personally seen certain squirrels attempt to
pounce on feeding juncos. All of them can eat a lot of
expensive birdseed in a short time.
Sanitation is important. Feeders need to be cleaned
consistently and frequently to make sure there is never any
spoiled or moldy food, and to reduce the risk of disease
being passed between birds. And watch out for sharp,
dangling or catchy parts. There are lots of do-it-yourself
feeder designs online and elsewhere. Take a close look at
these, as they are not necessarily good designs for birds.
Even some commercially available are dubious. Buying from a
vender that specializes in bird supplies is usually a good
bet. Seed feeders should be emptied at least once a week,
washed with a nontoxic cleaner and dried before putting back
out. Clean suet feeders once a month or whenever suet is
replenished. Personally, I find a wide sprinkling of seeds
in a patch of thick bushes to be a much easier option.
Placement in relation to windows is another
consideration. Feeders should either be right next to a
window, or far, as in more than 40 feet away. The concepts
is that if something spooks a group of feeding birds, these
options allow that either the bird has space to navigate
around the window, or would not have started going fast
enough to be hurt if it does hit. Of course, anything that
makes windows more visible is a good idea too.
Hummingbird feeders should be changed twice a
week. All surfaces should be scrubbed with a brush (you can
buy small bottlebrushes online or try using pipe cleaners
for the small holes). Soak first in vinegar if any mold has
formed. Glass reservoirs can also be sanitized with very hot
water. Avoid feeders with plastic storage reservoirs, and
any surface that are not easy to clean. Feeders with holes
that are on a flat platform should be drilled to make at
least as big as a standard school pencil eraser; smaller
holes on a flat plane can catch birds beaks or legs and
cause serious injury if something startles them.
The best recipe for hummingbird food is one cup of white
sugar to three cups of boiling water. Dyes are not necessary
and may not be safe. Brown, raw or organic sugar contains
iron which can be bad for the birds. Honey is dangerous too,
as it may cause food poisoning.
Not sure you want to deal with cleaning a feeder or buying
seeds? Birds are attracted to alternatives. Native plants,
for example. Willows are one of the best for attracting a
variety of species, but any native tree or shrub will have
its fans. Around here most can either be grown from cuttings
along a roadside, or will just sprout out of an untrammeled
area. And the more you let them grow wild and unkempt the
better. Any kind of shelter, even if it’s just a pile of
boards or junk, sticks, etc. all are good for small Sbirds.
What a great excuse to not clean up the yard! Avoid leaving
out dead-ends like crab pots, loose fibers, or netting, and
especially pipes left upright, that could trap a bird. Old
dead branches, snags and logs may look a little unsightly,
but if you can tolerate them, they are wonderful breeding
grounds for beetles and other tasty invertebrates that
nesting birds love. A simple source of shallow clean water
can bring birds in to bathe, even in our wet environment.
Ornamental plants with fruit or flowers can be
excellent for attracting showy birds like waxwings. But they
come with another serious precaution: buy organically grown
stock or get assurance that the plant has not been treated
with systemic pesticides. These days, a lot of nursery
plants are treated with neonicotinoid pesticides, some of
which have been shown to be toxic or sickening agents to
birds. All parts of treated plants, including nectar, carry
the pesticide. These pesticides are also toxic to bees,
flies, and other insects that local birds might be
interested in eating.
Now here’s something you don’t have to worry about: cutting
off the food supply. Wild birds are adaptable. If you go
traveling and nobody can feed the birds, don’t fret too
much. You might miss your birds when you get back because
they’ve moved on, but they will move on. Ephemeral food
sources are a natural reality for every species. You are not
going to change a migratory bird’s pathway. It could be that
on a long-term time scale, food available from humans does
change distributional patterns, but migration is complex and
instinctual, and not going to be influenced either way by a
single food source.
Tree Swallow Nest Box
Construction and Update
By Brenda Wright
Last year we put 40 tree swallow boxes up around Juneau
and were happy to find we had 15 successful nests. This year
we decided to spend a little more money and find out how
many nest boxes could be built for ~$300.
After putting some information in our Raven newsletter, a
person contacted me from the Juneau Community Charter
School. The middle school students were looking for a
construction project for February and March. I was very
happy to supply them with most of the wood and hardware. The
students seemed to enjoy this project and with the help of
some parents, they were able to build 24 new nest boxes.
I can’t thank them all enough for completing this
May, there will be an update on where all the boxes have
been placed in 2017.
Volunteers are needed to monitor the boxes. Please contact
JAS Supporting Bird Research and
by Gwen Baluss
organization JAS has historically been focused on
environmental education and
in Southeast Alaska, with a focus on birds and wildlife.
This is still true, but we also recognize the importance of
monitoring and research, especially of bird population for
both our migratory and resident species. Here are a few ways
Christmas Bird Count
– this is a long-standing, wide range count that Audubon
supports. The data from the CBC is now being used to see
how birds’ winter range, distribution and populations have
changed over time. Comparing this with climate data we can
see how some birds have shifted northwards in the winter.
Other citizen science efforts - we are always
encouraging our members to use eBird so their data can be
pooled with this great emerging database. Specifically, we
try to publicize special count events such as the Great
Backyard Bird Count, and the Global Big day. Even our field
trips are usually entered in to eBird and make for several
fairly consistent springtime “snap shots” of the bird life,
with plenty of skilled observers.
Swallow Nest Boxes – as a group aerial insectivores have
declined. It’s hard to believe, but the once common Barn
Swallow has dwindled to the point that the species is listed
as Threatened in Canada. Tree swallows face similar feeding
challenges to other insectivores. By getting a population
occupying boxes annually near Juneau we can initiate further
Arctic Tern Monitoring – New this year, JAS in
partnership with US Forest Service plans to sponsor an
Intern who will study and help protect Arctic Terns around
continental scale bird-banding studies – We donate up to
$500 annually to the Institute for Bird Populations. The IBP
maintains banding stations in both summer and winter
throughout North America as well as Central America and the
Caribbean. This is now a powerful large scale data set that
checks the pulse of many bird species population fluxes,
including some of our migratory songbirds. (For
more info see
Moose observed at Mendenhall
Glacier Recreation Area beginning September 13, 2017.
View Facebook video:
Moose in Juneau: sometimes it’s not
so crazy to hope
I’ve hung my rain cap here in Juneau for most the time
since 1998. Something I always pondered is, where are the
moose? It didn’t seem fair that Gustavus and Petersburg
would have them, and Juneau didn’t. They were up the Taku
and Berners Rivers, but wouldn’t venture in between? I made
it a point to bring up my inquiry in conversations with
biologists, naturalists, and hunters. Sometimes the answer
was "lack of habitat". I never bought this one, as I looked
around at plenty of the plants that the browsers enjoy in
other parts of Southeast: willow, highbush cranberry, even
A more persuasive answer was simply "dispersal rate."
According to ADF&G reports, moose only started appearing in
Southeast Alaska in general in the early twentieth century.
The moose simply hadn’t found this habitat that, on geologic
terms, is new and still being uncovered as glaciers recede.
And the fact that other communities were colonized first had
to do with proximity to a direct river from interior
Alaska-- and some luck.
There had been a few sightings over the years around
Juneau though. I even saw the pellets of a cow that had been
reported at, of all places, Moose Lake. I eagerly awaited
the day when more moose would show up near the Juneau Road
Starting in fall 2013, I noticed tracks and browse around
Point Bridget State Park, apparently of a cow and at least
one calf. A Juneau Empire story reported sightings "out the
road" as well that fall. The following year, I found more
tracks and sign. But despite many hours devoted to
sneaking around in the rain, never saw even a glimpse.
Finally, in fall 2015, I had the incredible luck to see a
cow, a grown bull and small bull, all together near Cowee
And the excitement builds as recently there has been
solid evidence of a cow and bull in Mendenhall Valley; also,
a cow in the Thunder Mountain bowl and a young bull at Boy
Where did these moose come from? Perhaps some DNA work
will tell us in the years to come. It seems most likely that
the animals traveled from Berners Bay. That population there
was introduced in 1958 and 1960 with 17 and 11 animals
respectively, stock from the Mat-su Valleys. But of course,
wildlife dispersal is not always as one would assume.
Moose dispersed into Southeast Alaska from British
Columbia. The Anderson subspecies (Alces alces andersoni)
colonized different areas in a complex pattern, sometimes
established by only a few "founders", but with potential for
mixing with subsequent incursions of the larger interior
Alaska moose subspecies (Alces alces gigas),
especially in the Haines and Yakutat areas. (An interesting
write up about this can be found here:
What’s going to happen next? A handful of animals is
hardly a population yet, but at least we have the right
elements to spur the imagination. Juneau will be different
if moose become frequent denizens. I wonder about the human
and wildlife interactions. Will drivers learn to slow down
going out the road in the evenings? Will animals be shot by
poachers? How many loose dogs will be stomped if there is a
mom and calf roaming the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation area?
Nobody is more eager to see the moose
than I, but cringe the community might love the animals to
death: naming them, feeding them, approaching too close to
get photos. ("Romeo" the wolf comes to mind here). Either
way, it’s bound to make our fall walks around Juneau more
exciting for a while.
Photo by G. Baluss (taken with a zoom lens
while hiding, breathless, behind a log).
Moose at Cowee Creek, September 22, 2015.
Eagle Feather Collection
volunteers who collect eagle feathers under
the Juneau Audubon Society US Fish &
Wildlife Service permit. JAS has
received a new feather
The permits are
available by e-mail and
paper from Brenda
of our permits are good
for three years.
Contact Brenda at: email@example.com
ALASKA BIRD CONFERENCE
by Brenda Wright
Conference was held in Juneau, December
9-11, 2014. There were over 40 scientific
papers and 20 posters presented at the
conference. The conference drew more than
100 students, scientists, educators, and
researchers from across the state and the
Pacific coast. Included in the conference
sessions were climate change, breeding
ecology, disease/contaminants, foraging
ecology, movement ecology, and populations
If you go to the web page:
you can see the full program and also get
the abstracts. A special fund raising
event by Juneau Audubon, Audubon Anchorage,
and ADF&G enabled us to film the keynote
speaker, Gerrit Vyn, for 360 North. If you
would like to see this presentation you can
enjoy it online at
(You may have to wait for an update on the
site, the presentation would not open for
thanks to the local organizing committee:
Anne Sutton, Kelly Nesvacil, Mike Goldstein,
and Brenda Wright. The scientific committee
reviewed all the abstract submissions and
made the schedule of talks, ring leaders
were John Pearce, Julie Hagelin, Abby
Powell, Debbi Nigro, and Steve Lewis. And
also a special thank you to the sponsors for
the donations of time, money, and effort: US
Forest Service, ADF&G, Audubon Alaska, North
Pacific Research Board, Pacific Coast Joint
Venture, Ducks Unlimited, ABR, Inc., Juneau
Audubon Society, and St. Hubert Research
History of Juneau Trails: A Watershed
By Richard Carstensen
Richard Carstensen’s gorgeous new book explores the
natural history of the Juneau trail system.
It makes a great gift, and for only a
limited time your purchase will directly
support Discovery Southeast and Audubon.
History of Juneau Trails will be
available in stores in 2014, but is
available now for a limited time as a
fundraiser directly from Discovery
Southeast. The price is $24.00.
To order directly from
Discovery Southeast on-line
click here. Use the code “Audubon”
and profits from your purchase will be split
between Audubon and Discovery Southeast.
A treat for any outdoor enthusiast. Buy it
now to support Audubon and Discovery