I awoke to 4” of fresh snow this morning and it was still snowing. This could be good if I could find any feeders in town with seed in them because birds are always drawn to feeders during a snow storm, but it could be tricky driving east on the Council Hwy where the snowbirds (wht the locals call McKay’s Buntings) have been seen foraging in the dune grass the last week. Nome is indeed a frontier town. These people are rugged. In fact yesterday when I scouted the Icy View subdivision at dusk there was a musher on his cross-country skis being pulled by his sled dogs.
A snow covered backyard and 30° F temperatures couldn’t deter two young kids from playing on their monkey bars.
I’m still pretty sure there ain’t no lattes in Nome. In fact while I was brushing off the snow on my Ford Explore this morning, a lady walked by in the dark with a paper cup of coffee. Temptation was just to great, I had to ask her, “Hi there, is that a latte your holding?” She looked at me as if to say “what are you talking about…are you dense…do you think I live in Boulder? There are NO lattes in Nome” then actually replied, “no it’s a coffee from the Tessero gas station down the street”.
Even though it was 8:00 AM, it was still pitch dark outside so I decided to grab breakfast. I desired the antithesis of croissants and lattes and I found it at the Polar Café. Two eggs scrambled, hashbrowns and reindeer sausage! Mmmmmm…it was delicious. Anyway, at 9:45 AM it was barely light enough to drive around though way to dark yet to ID a snowbird so I drove back over to Icy View. I had noticed a house with several empty feeders on my scouting trip so it seemed a good place to begin. As I turned the corner in the predawn gloom two flashes of white exploded from the deck of that house, but they were gone immediately. It had to be them. I stopped the car and snooped around. The feeders were empty, but there were bird tracks in the platform feeder. Fortunately, I had some bird seed of my own, lugged all the way from Colorado. I’d almost tossed it before the Bering Air flight to Gambell (Bering Air has a strict 50 lb. maximum weight rule), but figured I might need the bird seed at some point. So I sprinkled some into the platform feeder and left.
I decided to explore the Council Road, but with 6 to 7” of snow on an unplowed road it was chancy. I made it about five miles without seeing any snowbirds and narrowly didn’t get stuck before I carefully turned around and returned to Nome.
It was time to check Icy View again. This time I went the opposite direction so as not to spook anything and Bingo! Two McKay’s Buntings – the snowbirds of Nome – were perched on a post next to the feeder I had filled. How cool was that?
I actually ended up seeing a small flock of nine snowbirds in Icy View later in the day
All in all an exciting day and an adventuresome Alaskan trip. There are at least three thoughts I’ll take home with me.
- If ever read the Twelve Days of Christmas to my grandchildren, I’ll always insert “Oriental” before “Turtle Dove”.
- I like reindeer sausage better than lattes
- I’ll always remember the snowbirds of Nome