The U.S. Geological Service (USGS) of Anchorage has been conducting land-bird research on the Seward Peninsula of northwestern Alaska for over two decades. One of the current research projects seeks to understand how shifting vegetation communities driven by climate change are affecting Passerine and other land-bird communities.
The landcover of the Seward Peninsula is mainly open Tundra: wide swaths of treeless country dominated by low shrubs and grasses. However, the coniferous Boreal Forest that covers much of Canada and interior Alaska spreads its fingers onto the eastern Seward Peninsula.
A remarkably diverse community of songbirds can be found where the Tundra and Boreal Forest meet. It is here that we recently spent three days assisting USGS biologists capture songbirds in an attempt to quantify blood parasite loads.
We captured Boreal Forest specialists such as Gray Jays, Boreal Chickadees, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Dark-eyed Juncos, Varied Thrushes, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Other Boreal Forest birds we encountered but did not capture included Pine Grosbeak and Northern Goshawk.
Many of the USGS mist nets were set up exactly where the Boreal Forest meets the Tundra. Here we captured a diverse assortment of songbirds including Orange-crowned and Wilson’s Warblers, Northern Waterthrushes, Common and Hoary Redpolls, Gray-cheeked Thrushes, and White-crowned Sparrows. We were also fortunate enough to capture a number of Arctic Warblers, an Alaskan specialty.
We plan on accompanying USGS biologists for more bird-banding soon. Part 2 will feature the tundra community birds that inhabit the treeless open-country covering much of the Seward Peninsula and northern Alaska. It is here that we hope to capture the elusive Bluethroat…
Tags: alaska, Alaska Science Center, arctic warbler, boreal chickadee, boreal forest, climate change, gray jay, orange-crowned warbler, seward peninsula, tundra, yellow-rumped warbler