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Monday, June 7, 2010

From Fairbanks to Healy

An update from yesterday, Sunday, June 6th...

Location: Healy, Alaska
Population: 984

I made it to midnight! Here's a picture taken outside with no flash, showing how light it was just after midnight in Fairbanks. I'm holding up my dad's iPhone to show what time it is.

We had a relatively short drive from Fairbanks to Healy, which is just 11 miles north of the main entrance to Denali National Park. Along the way, we stopped at a viewpoint and heard a bird singing that turned out to be an alder flycatcher (year bird 195, NA life bird 328).

Since we still had part of the afternoon left, we went for a hike near the entrance to the park. We saw a lot of bark damage on the aspen trees, which a park ranger later told us was caused by moose either eating the bark or rubbing their antlers on it:

On the same hike, I finally tracked down some boreal chickadees (year bird 196, NA life bird 329)! This was one species I really wanted to see on this trip, and I finally tracked some down. It was worth the wait to be able to write "Denali Naitonal Park" on my life list for this first-time sighting.

The views even from the entrance of the park were great, overlooking some of the foothills of the Alaska Range. In this photo you can see a big growth in the middle of the tallest tree, which is a spruce tree. We've seen a lot of these yellow growths, and I read that it is caused by a type of fungus.

Some people might think a forest is a forest, but these forests are very different than the ones in Oregon and Washington because different species of trees predominate. In addition the aspen and spruce mentioned above, in this region there is also a tree called the paper birch (Betula papyrifera). I was interested to learn that this tree is not the same as other birch trees found more commonly in the lower 48. Instead, it is closer related to the birch trees in Siberia, which has led to scientists to conclude that it spread to this region over the Bering Land Bridge. I like the way its bark looks:

In Healy we came across a mud puddle that was being actively used by a flock of cliff swallows who were gathering mud for their nests. While I knew they did this, it was a behavior I've never seen before, and it was interesting to see how they lifted their tails and wings as they collected the mud, maybe to keep them out of the mud and avoid getting stuck?

Finally, several people wondered before this trip how easy it would be to get internet while road tripping through Alaska. Most all townships have Wifi, and we get internet coverage in a lot of places we don't get cell phone reception. My dad even met one guy who is a trapper living in the remote Yukon (he described where he lives as 300 miles out a gravel road and 100 miles by boat down a river) and even he had high speed internet in his cabin. That said, blogging is still a different experience here. The wireless internet, while there, doesn't always have the strongest signal, so you have to put yourself where the coverage is:

Okay, okay, that's a staged photo. I don't actually wear the mosquito hat while blogging, but since we brought it along I at least had to try it on. The mosquitos, while present, haven't actually been too bad since it's still early in the summer. The one place I really could have used the mosquito net - while on a hike in Fairbanks - I of course didn't have it with me or wear it. The result is a half dozen annoying mosquito bites on my neck, but it was worth it since that was the hike where we heard the northern waterthrush, a life bird.

1 comment:

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Coulda done with that hat in FL to keep the fierce yellow Flies at bay
Denali here we come!!!