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A northern saw-whet perches outside the nest at the author’s home in Palmer. Photo by Fredrik Norrsell. At one time people thought northern saw-whet owls were rare. They’re not. They are just tiny—only seven and a half inches tall—and nocturnal, so few people see them. However, in early March, you can often hear the rapid whet-whet-whet of a male saw-whet establishing his territory and trying to attract a mate. These loud, repetitive calls sometimes continue all night. Last spring, my husband, photographer Fredrik Norrsell, and I had the pleasure of having a family of northern saw-whet owls grow up in our backyard. Over the course of sleepless nights from April through June, we watched and photographed these little owls raising their family. On April 1, we were enjoying the sun on the porch when Fredrik noticed a sleepy head sticking out of our nesting box. A female saw-whet owl had…

A Harlequin duck. Photo courtesy Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren, Wikimedia Commons Red-faced cormorant Nesting on cliffs or steep slopes above cold ocean water, this bird can be spotted along the Aleutian Islands and around the Kenai Peninsula. Alaska is the only place this cormorant lives in the United States. Willow ptarmigan The Alaska state bird masterfully camouflages itself by turning white in winter and mixed browns and reds in summer. Identify this largest of the state’s ptarmigan by its wide bill or feathered feet. Harlequin duck Named because the blue-gray feathers with striking black, white, and rufous markings look like medieval court jesters, or harlequins.

The Pribilof Islands Premier birding and more

[by Kevin McCarthy]


ALASKA IS A WILD AND REMOTE PLACE, and it occurs to me while flying far out over the Bering Sea that few places, even in Alaska, are as wild and remote as my destination: the Pribilof Islands.

Of Alaska’s 6,640 miles of coastline, some of the most ruggedly beautiful encircle Kodiak Island. Clusters of islands and rock outcroppings rise up from just beyond its jagged shoreline, while massive cliff faces with their craggy-ledged complexions share the island’s coarse coastline with long, narrow beaches of black sand and expansive tidal flats fanning out from the mouths of mountain-fed rivers that empty into the North Pacific.