Of Mountains and Murres

Mountains and murres you ask? A fair question, those two things don’t go together in my mind either. Yet here in Homer, Alaska, the still snow-covered slopes of the Kenai Mountains reach right down to the cold waters of Kachemak Bay, where rafts of thousands of Common Murres are staging for summer. Roughly pigeon sized, these matte black and white birds are one of the deepest diving bird species on the planet, reaching depths of nearly 600 feet in pursuit of the small fish they primarily feed on.

A small flock of murres on the bay below the cloud-capped peaks

The mountains and murres are far from the only attraction to this area. I am here in Alaska for the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival, held annually to celebrate the massive amounts of migrating shorebirds that visit the area on their journey to their breeding grounds even further north. I was honored to be invited here to speak and guide through support from the Schantz Brothers Foundation, which supports a young ornithologist to travel to the festival every year (and if you feel like you qualify for that travel grant, be sure to check out http://schantzbird.org/ for 2019!).

A Black Turnstone patrols the stony beach in search of invertebrates

Over the last several days, I have been fortunate enough to be able to thoroughly explore and bird this incredible area of the world. From the opportunity to teach new birders about the local songbirds in the nearby boreal spruce forest, to scampering on wet rocks in the sea break in search of birds like the tattlers pictured below, to birding by boat in the bay, surrounded by swirling flocks of murres and kittiwakes.

Wandering Tattlers are a unique species to wet, rocky Alaskan coastlines

As I’m writing this from a coffee shop in Homer to wait out one of the frequent rain showers, bracing for a lull in the weather for me to shoulder my monstrously large pack to head back out to the Homer Spit for some last minute birding. I’m catching my red-eye through the night flight back to Colorado tonight, only to start work within hours of getting back. I will be conducting bird surveys for Bird Conservancy of the Rockies through the summer, so expect to hear of some more amazing adventures soon!

A pair of Harlequin Ducks, one of my all-time favorite species

A huge thanks is in order for the Schantz Family for their support of my travel here, this amazing opportunity would have been completely unachievable for me otherwise! Additional thanks to Robbi Mixon for organizing such an incredible event, and the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies for organizing my travel logistics! And finally, thank you to the one-of-a-kind community here in Homer and the new friends I have made, I can honestly say that this is one of the few places I have ever visited that I have genuinely enjoyed at least as much Colorado, if not more. I would highly encourage anyone to consider attending the shorebird festival next year in 2019!


One thought on “Of Mountains and Murres

  1. Valleri

    Reading about your Alaskan adventure was exciting. Although I was quite warm while I read about it!! Your writing is wonderful, Marcel. Thank you for sharing your trip with us,


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