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Shorebirds and things

Posted: Sunday, May 16, 2010

One of the major harbingers of spring that catches the immediate attention of our staff is when we get slammed with questions about outdoor activities and local wild critters.

This year has been no exception.

So we are reactivating the Unhinged Alaska Tourism Bureau until we need to re-install our studded tires.

We will begin by dealing with the massive invasion of shorebirds starting to flood the area and questions about them.

One main concern expressed by several potential visitors to the area was summed up by M. H. of Fairbanks who inquired about comfort.

Q: "We are seriously contemplating driving down to the Kenai to get a look at the plethora of birds migrating into the area but I'm very sensitive to the cold and don't like getting muddy. Do you have any suggestions on what we should do?"

A: First of all, with your issues, what in the heck are you doing living in Fairbanks? The only way peeps can keep warm up there is to sequester themselves inside walk-in pizza ovens during the winter months.

As for your original question, I was going to suggest something that would guarantee protection from the wind, rain and other annoying elements associated with nature like a five-star waterfront room with a view, gourmet catering and pedicures for your poodle for a bit less than $1,000 a day.

Unfortunately my wife didn't want any part of my entrepreneurial suggestion especially when it involved our master bedroom.

A second option is to stay put, curl up on the couch and watch Animal Planet if it's even available in Fairbanks.

Finally, if you want to actually go outside, dress in layers as if you are trekking through an arctic blizzard. Once you're exposed to the elements start peeling down until you're comfortable or arrested for indecent exposure.

As for your mud loathing, avoid anything that looks dark and gooey in the ground. It will be either the E-Vile muck you fear or a discarded Snickers bar. Either one can present a clear and present danger to your designer XtraTufs.

Note: If there are dogs cavorting in the area you may want to consider purchasing a flamethrower boot cleaning tool.

General annotations: To be extra cool, add photography equipment and spotting scopes that cost more than a Lear Jet or a politician's mistress.

Remember there is no better styling on the mud flats than the pros that have so much equipment strapped around their necks it takes a tripod and two close family members to hold them up.

Let's change the subject.

The next questions about birds came in from Anchorage to Austin, Texas.

Q: What's the difference between a greater yellowlegs and a lesser yellowlegs?

L.K. Seattle, Wash.

A: About two inches

Q: What is a wandering tattler?

B.B Austin, Texas

A: Never let this critter near your night time campfire where adult beverages are being consumed and personal stories told. The featherweight makes a talking parrot look like a mime when it comes to spreading rumors.

Q: How does one recognize a pectoral sandpiper?

L.T. Anchorage, Alaska

A: This intellectually challenged but beefy bird can usually be found at low tide bench pressing larger members of the inert clam family. The more physically developed of this species cannot fly but struts impressively.

Q: How does one tell the difference between the tufted and horned puffins?

A: Simply put, "tufted" deals with style, grace and beauty thus means female puffins.

The nomenclature, "horned" puffins speaks for itself. What better description do you need? Stud puffins holding a brew and tossing herring at a flock of tufteds dancing around on nearby rocks?

Unfortunately, it's time to sign off because a very large migrating raptor just landed on our roof and our diminutive pooch Little Bear is leaping around by the front door demanding to take a run to her personal outhouse.

The falcon looks pretty hungry and I don't want any trouble.

There's no hunting bird in the world that is going to take on a guy the size of the space shuttle holding a railroad piling in one hand and a sawed-off shotgun in the other while his puppy pees.

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com.



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