On this week-long itinerary, visit Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, and venture out to the Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak Island. Planning your visit in mid-April through mid-May can land you in the middle of the spring migration and several festivals in the communities of Anchorage, Homer and Kenai. However, there is an abundance of shorebirds in the area throughout the year, particularly on the ferry route. Barren Islands is home to nearly half a million seabirds, and East Amatuil Island is an oasis for the 18 million species that benefit from its location.
Anchorage — Big Wild Life (+)
Anchorage — Big Wild Life (-)
It could take a lifetime to see all the wildlife that Alaska has to offer but Anchorage is a good place to start. Wildlife is an important part of everyday life in Alaska's largest city. Many migratory bird species visit the Anchorage area during spring and fall migrations. Anchorage is also within minutes of truly wild lands that are home to a myriad of animals from moose to bears to whales to birds. Anchorage hot spots include points along Turnagain Arm to Girdwood and Portage Glacier Valley, as well as north to Palmer Hay Flats and Goose Bay. Spend two days birding in the Anchorage area before driving to Homer.
Drive along the Kenai Peninsula to Homer (+)
Drive along the Kenai Peninsula to Homer (-)
The drive along the Sterling Highway from Anchorage to Homer offers numerous locations to stop and look for birds. For example, along Swanson River Road listen for thrushes, warblers, woodpeckers and other forest birds in the mature stands of spruce. In the early spring, boreal, great horned and saw-whet owls can be heard calling from the older stands of spruce and birch. Look for spotted sandpipers and other shorebirds, and waterfowl such as green-winged teal. At the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge nearly three miles of well-maintained trails and boardwalks traverse woods and wetlands. More than 30 species of birds have been seen in the area's diverse habitats.
Homer — At the End of the Road the Adventure Begins (+)
Homer — At the End of the Road the Adventure Begins (-)
Once in Homer, be sure to explore Mud Bay and the Homer Spit. The density and variety of birds that feast on invertebrates and fish at Mud Bay in early May inspires the annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival. More than 100 species of birds have been seen in Kachemak Bay during the April-May migration, many at Mud Bay itself. Rafts of ducks drift along shore at high tide, and rock sandpipers forage as the tide drops. Homer Spit extends almost five miles into the marine world of Kachemak Bay, offering extensive viewing of seabirds, mammals and other off-shore critters from the security of land. Breakwaters and harbor structures attract black-legged kittiwakes: their small, cup-shaped nests are easily observed. Four or five species of gulls mingle, offering a challenge to sort them out on the wing. Common murres, red-necked grebes and surfbirds ride the swells at the entrance to the small boat harbor and the ferry terminal.
Take the Ferry to Kodiak (+)
Take the Ferry to Kodiak (-)
Depart on the ferry for a nine-and-a-half hour voyage to Kodiak. During your trip, look for birds from the forward observation lounge or go on the top deck and relax in the heated solarium. About 60 miles outside of Homer, the ferry passes to the east of the Barren Islands, a group of mountainous islands housing a significant Gulf of Alaska seabird colony, home to nearly half a million seabirds. The ferry passes closest to the high, rocky peaks of East Amatuli Island, an oasis for the 18 million species that benefit from its strategic location, away from most predators and close to abundant forage fish. The Barren Islands are home to fork-tailed storm-petrels, tufted and horned puffins, parakeet and rhinoceros auklets, ancient murrelets, marbled murrelets, Kittlitz's murrelets, murres and black-legged kittiwakes. Tens of thousands of jaegers and short-tailed shearwaters fly here during the summer from their Australian nesting grounds. Savannah sparrows fledge here in July and other species include northern fulmars and Aleutian terns.
Kodiak — Alaska Untamed (+)
Kodiak — Alaska Untamed (-)
Fewer than 100 miles of road cross Kodiak Island, mostly unpaved. A drive in any direction provides quick transport into remote wild lands. The region boasts several sites recognized by the National Audubon Society as Important Bird Areas; a third of the world's population of black oystercatchers winters in Chiniak Bay. Kodiak Audubon has created a hiking and birding map. Visit the Kodiak Refuge Visitor Center in downtown to pick up a map of the many wildlife viewing spots. Complete your week-long birding adventure along the Kenai Peninsula with a ferry ride back to Homer and drive back to Anchorage.