Our neighbors are nosy. They hang out in the yard and peek in the window. They often show up before I arise and are just as likely to be at it when I nod off. This constant stream of traffic would drive many to despair, but it doesn’t bother us one bit. These neighbors, you see, have feathers.
On a spring morning a few years back, an incredible piece of remote shoreline fell out of an internet search and lightened our bank account considerably. We soon discovered that life on the south side of Kachemak Bay always has something going on, and our beaked citizens play a large part.
In the spring, they all join in the age-old pageant of creating and rearing the future generations. April and May see not only an uptick in avian numbers, but also a massive increase in activity. The once quiet air is now rent with cavorting fowl displaying to the opposite gender or defending a patch of home turf. Great flocks of gulls and murres cloud the air around Gull Island where cliffside parking is at a premium. Colorful puffins ride the undulating swells below. Along the mainland shore, kingfishers fly noisily from perch to perch, occasionally plummeting to snatch a silvery sand lance from its watery habitat. Inland, a curious Steller’s jay peers down, ever watchful for some mislaid tidbit. Below, a fox sparrow scratches through the leaf litter on its quest for the unwary arthropod. A sudden flash of orange in the sunlit forest heralds the presence of the crown prince of the diminutive realm, the feisty rufous hummingbird. Surveying over all from the top of a tall spruce, a bald eagle chitters eagle-speak to its nesting mate across the cove, who replies in-kind.
When autumn blows in, many of our summer residents depart. Puffins and murres migrate to their winter quarters on the open ocean. Like many Alaskans, the hummers head south for their winter residence in Mexico. Soon it will just be the local stalwarts—and us. But our feathered neighbors will return once again to take their part in the spring cycle of Kachemak Bay.