© Jim DeWitt/Frosty Feathers Images
Part of a huge flock of sandhill cranes take to the air after being scared by a bald eagle in Delta Junction on Saturday night off Barley Way. Photographer Jim DeWitt estimated there were 3,000 cranes in the flock.
Fairbanks - Birds of all kinds are arriving in dizzying numbers and many long-time birders say they have never seen such a concentrated wave of migrating birds in the Tanana Valley.
Bud Johnson in Tok estimates there were 100,000 sparrows descending on that area Tuesday.
He reported seeing continuous flocks along the sides of the highway, and came home to hundreds of songbirds in his yard. White-crowned, golden-crowned, fox and tree sparrows mixed with juncos, rusty blackbirds and Lapland longspurs. Other viewers saw Lincoln's and Savannah sparrows and gray-crowned rosy-finches.
"I have never seen anything like this ever,"
Johnson said. "The ground is just in constant movement and the singing (mostly from the white-crowned sparrows) is insane."
Among bird-watchers, there is a phenomenon called "fallout," which is when a large number of migrating birds make landfall because they run into storm systems. Usually this happens along the coast, where exhausted birds touch down on the first solid ground they find. It's possible a combination of the late spring breakup and a current weather front has caused this unusual spring gathering.
"This is turning out to be the most spectacular spring migration I think the Tanana Valley has seen in recent memory," Fairbanks birder Nancy DeWitt wrote in an email. "First, there were the unprecedented numbers of swans and white-fronted geese in the Delta barley fields (many of which are still there) accompanied by the biggest flocks of Canada geese and pintails I've ever seen, now followed by what Steve Dubois says is the largest concentration of sandhill cranes he's seen in his 28 years there.
"Add in the numerous bluebird sightings (I've lost count), cloud after cloud of Lapland longspurs moving through the valley,
thick groups of varied thrush at Fort Greely on Saturday night, and now the sparrow fall-out in Tok Bud describes, and I am just beside myself with glee," she said. "I assume most of this is weather related, but what happened and where along the migration route that balled up all these birds? I suppose the fact that a lot of the valley is snow-covered and many ponds and lakes are still frozen is also concentrating birds, but would sure love to know if anyone tracked migration radar data over Canada in the past month.