A couple weeks ago, a small flock of Steller's Jays flew across the Sterling Highway as I drove past the Welcome to Soldotna sign. Their dark bodies, crested heads, rounded wings, and long tails make them fairly easy to identify from a distance.
Most locals know there are ptarmigan on the Kenai Peninsula. If you spend any time in the high country, you're bound to run into these birds at some point while tramping around. About this time of year, some ptarmigan will migrate down to the lowlands, showing up in odd places like Ski Hill Road or along the Soldotna airport fence. But a friend of mine, who I skied with through Crescent Lake recently, was unaware that there are three ptarmigan species on the Kenai despite the fact that he grew up here. And that got me thinking there might be a story here.
The 2007 Live Earth Concert was a worldwide rock and roll extravaganza that played out on all seven continents. The promoters ought to consider themselves darn lucky to have found a group of scientists in Antarctica who also happened to play indie rock. Their band's name, "Nunatak," introduced global audiences to a unique geologic feature found only in glaciated areas of the world including the Kenai Peninsula.
I began my working life in the fast food industry. So when I was hired by the U.S. Forest Service to do manual labor during college, I was thrilled. I was on fire crew that spent the summer thinning forest stands and clearing trails. I could not believe someone would pay me to be outside in the woods.
On Dec. 19 volunteers will spend 24 hours focused on Soldotna's 2009 Christmas Bird Count. Every winter since 1983, local birders serving as citizen scientists have braved winter conditions to count all the birds found within a 15-mile diameter circle centered on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters. The birds found are compiled and entered into a national database with over 100 years of observations.
On August 2nd Liz Jozwiak, wildlife biologist at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge received a call that a motorist had seen a distressed eaglet along the side of the road that was unable to fly and appeared to have a broken wing. Jozwiak responded to the call and captured the bird, ?The reason we picked up the bird is that we didn?t know where the nest was. The first thing we do when there is no visible injury is to try to return the bird to their nest or the vicinity of the nest when it comes to eaglets that are trying to fly. We picked this eaglet up because we didn?t know if it had any injuries but it had appeared to have fallen from its nest which we were unable to locate. We first attempted to find a local veterinarian to do an x-ray of the bird but were unable to find anyone able to x-ray a bird so we transferred the eaglet to Bird Treatment & Learning Center (TLC) in Anchorage where the bird was thoroughly examined and x-rayed for injuries,? reported Jozwiak.
When Franklin Roosevelt established the Kenai National Moose Range in 1941, it was to protect the habitat of the ?giant Kenai moose,? then considered a subspecies unique to the peninsula. Although we now know our moose were simply big and our name has changed to the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, the moose continues to be our patron saint.
Very soon, motorists in the Kenai-Soldotna area should be seeing some of the 130 or so caribou of the Kenai Lowland herd. Caribou are commonly seen on the Spur Highway, Bridge Access Road, and Kalifornsky Beach Road, where road signs caution motorists to watch for crossing animals. I often see them grazing in the gravel pit next to the Alaska Division of Forestry headquarters on the Sterling Highway east of the Mackey Lake Road intersection.
In the last few weeks, residents have been seeing bears frequenting their property or traveling through their neighborhood.
Northern flying squirrels are arboreal rodents with large eyes, round ears and soft, thick fur. They have light brown backs and off-white bellies. A loose flap of skin runs from their front to back feet and allows for the amazing mode of transportation implied in their name. Flying squirrels launch and then spread their legs to glide through the forest canopy. Average glide lengths are 40-50 feet, but can range to just over 200 feet.
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