June 15, 2010

Good Tues. Pale here after a bright, sunny day yesterday. The temp was about 75 in the afternoon.

Local accomplishments include washing the car last evening. I try to do this at least once a year, whether it needs it or not. Pam helped by wielding the power washer wand, magically rinsing off the dirt. Much of the latter resulted from our drive along the Denali Highway Sunday.

We drove to Paxson on the Richardson Hwy Friday, then over to Tangle Lakes, where we stayed at the Inn in an ATCO trailer unit called Wolf Haven. Heh. I took some photos and will get them ready for sharing later. Anyway, Friday was rain and shine and everything in between. We birded at a few spots along the way and saw some good birds, including Long-tailed Ducks, Common Mergansers, and a Red-throated Loon. Yellow-billed Loon had been reported at Summit Lake, but we did not see it. It was raining as we drove the first 20 miles of the Denali Highway, so the birds were hunkered down, and our hoped-for Long-tailed Jaegers and Arctic Terns did not materialize. We attempted a little local birding, but with sideways rain it was not much fun, so we hunkered down in Wolf Haven. Next ayem it was snowing! On June 12. And windy. So we stayed in the Haven all day, wolfing snacks and haven a relaxed day.

Late Saturday evening around 10:00 pm the sun broke through the overcast—fowl weather!—and Sunday early we were out on the road in search of birds. We found a variety of warblers and sparrows, some odd ducks (just one Common Golden-eye female), flying Trumpeter Swans, Golden Eagle, Bald Eagle, some sandpipers (several Yellow-legs), and 11 Harlequin ducks all huddled together in the rushing Tangle River. There were three Red-throated Loons on the big lake.

Then we drove the highway west, which is one of the great drives in Alaska, may they never pave the road. Disturbingly, DOT paid some contractor handsomely to install new milepost signs along the unpaved 105 mile portion of the road. Highway is a misnomer. It is dirt and gravel most of the way and there is no traffic. You can stop on a dime and not get rear-ended, which is good because that’s what you do when you see a porcupine cross the road, or a moose mom and tiny mooseling ascending the road cut. The contractor also put up large new signs at bridge—NARROW BRIDGE AHEAD, SUCH AND SUCH BRIDGE, YOU ARE NOW LEAVING BEHIND A BRIDGE, and of course new STOP signs at all the outhouse parking lots so that recently relieved drivers won’t giddily turn into all that traffic without looking both ways.

Along the highway we spotted a Wilson’s Snipe atop a new freeway-size YOU ARE NOW ENTERING MATANUSKA-SUSITNA BOROUGH sign (across from a new freeway-size YOU ARE NOW LEAVING MATANUSKA-SUSITNA BOROUGH sign). Both new signs, installed at great expense this year, have several bullet holes in them. Turning around, there was a Bald Eagle sitting on the ground who had a gull over for lunch. I watched in fascination as it tore off the feathers, then eviscerated the departed gull, then tore off the legs to get at the drumsticks (apparently the technique is you bring most of the leg inside your beak, mumble off the meat, then spit out the meatless leg). Baldy then flew off northward about five feet above the ground looking for dessert. We drove on, stopping frequently to spot birds (Common Loon at mile 50, more swans, Red-necked Phalaropes doing their wind-up toy feeding routine, Northern Harrier gliding overhead). Once we hit Gracious House at about Mile 82 we kept on driving and, after a stop for White-winged Scoters at Mile 126, arrived at Cantwell about 7:45 pm. Then it was north to Fairbanks, with a photo session stop midway between Healy and Nenana for a complaint. The weather got nicer and nicer as we drove north to clear skies back home. Total bird species 45, not that great, but considering the weather it wasn’t bad, and the scenery was spectacular.

Local story of the day—

Fairbanks police arrest accused tire slasher

by Chris Freiberg / cfreiberg@newsminer.com

FAIRBANKS — Police arrested a man Sunday morning for allegedly slashing the tires of several vehicles near downtown Fairbanks.
John W. Bowen, a Fort Wainwright soldier originally from Alabama, has been charged with third-degree criminal mischief, a class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
Fairbanks police received a report a man had slashed six tires on multiple vehicles on 11th Avenue near Turner Street.
Police located three vehicles with slashed tires on 11th Avenue that had been vandalized and four more vehicles on 10th Avenue, including a trailer, that had some of their tires slashed.
In addition, police found a blue Ford pickup truck with all four tires slashed on Gaffney Road. The total damage to all eight vehicles was estimated at about $2,500.
Police contacted Bowen, 22, just after 2:30 a.m.
Bowen told police he had been drinking at Kodiak Jack’s and was walking around in circles trying to get home. At the time of his arrest, police found he had a spring-loaded knife with tire material on it, according to charging documents.
A police report described Bowen as “extremely intoxicated,” Lt. Jim Geier said.
Bowen’s bail has been set at $1,000. He was still listed as being in custody at Fairbanks Correctional Center as of Monday afternoon. He has no prior criminal record in Alaska.

I guess he decided he didn’t want to do another tour in East Asia. Or maybe it was a T party statement? “Don’t tread on me.”

Enjoy Tues.

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