Anchorage Birding Guide – Carr-Gottstein Park

At a glance

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Carr-Gottstein Park – Northern Harrier – August 21, 2015

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Convenient walking access to the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge.  Walking access to shorebirds.  Chance to watch raptors actively hunting prey in the marshland that borders the mudflats.  Chance at an Asian or otherwise rare vagrant, especially in the fall.

Address

3130 Discovery Bay Drive, Anchorage, AK 99515

Latitude and Longitude

61.1175 north latitude, -149.9375 west longitude (61.1175, -149.9375)

Description

Carr-Gottstein Park lies within a 16-mile-long section of coastline in Anchorage, Alaska, stretching from Point Woronzof to Potter Creek lying within the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge.  The vast majority of the refuge is located on intertidal floodplains of glacial silt, with a smaller portion consisting of coastal wetlands, bogs, wooded areas, and Potter Marsh, a popular wildlife viewing area.  Carr-Gottstein Park provides a convenient access to the refuge that is less visited that Potter Marsh.

One of the few places in Anchorage with access to the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge by car, Carr-Gottstein park is a “jewel in the crown” of Anchorage birding locations.  If there’s s rarity to be found in Anchorage during fall migration; when Asian or otherwise rare vagrants show up, it will likely be found here at Carr-Gottstein Park or adjacent to the mud flats near Westchester Lagoon.

Under birded, except by a select few, if you’re looking for a rare Asian vagrant, have the appropriate attire, are mindful of the dangerous mud flats (see below) and inclement weather, then Carr-Gottstein Park might be worthy of a visit.  Just bring your waterproof boots and a spotting scope.  Carr-Gottstein Park is also one of the few locations in Anchorage that demands use of a spotting scope.

This property was suggested for parkland in the 1985 park plan. In 2002 an ordinance was approved to change this property from residential to recreational use.  The current park property was donated by Carr Gottstein and a dedication was held on August 18, 2004.  The owners/donators asked the park be named Carr Gottstein as part of their donation.

Carr-Gottstein Park would be an interesting geological feature if one assumed that it was created by nature, but the long standing rumor is that it was created by the developers of the adjacent neighborhoods when they “pushed” leftover or accumulated fill into the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge and formed a “pile” during development of the neighborhoods.  Thus the term “push pile” was born (or so I imagine).

However it was created, it remains one of the under birded locations in Anchorage with access to the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge that might just surprise with an Asian or otherwise rare vagrant, especially in the fall.

Tips on Birding

  • Bring your water/mud proof boots, spotting scope, and binoculars.
  • Go close to high tide.  (Check tides here)
  • Glass, walk, glass, walk, repeat.
  • Stay off the mudflats and near the grassline.
  • Glass driftwood and/or other high spots for raptors.

Area Habitats

Mudflats, Marsh, Shore

Look for These Birds

130 species including:  Herring Gull, Lapland Longspur, Common Redpoll, Steller’s Jay, Common Raven, Bohemian Waxwing, Canada Goose, Gadwall, Mallard, Common Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Wilson’s Snipe, Mew Gull, Black-billed Magpie, Trumpeter Swan, American Wigeon, Long-billed Dowitcher, Greater Yellowlegs, Downy Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Cackling Goose, Northern Pintail, Golden Eagle, Northern Harrier, Peregrine Falcon, Northern Shrike, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Greater Scaup, Pectoral Sandpiper, American Pipit, Savannah Sparrow, Sandhill Crane, Bonaparte’s Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, Merlin, American Robin, Osprey, Lesser Yellowlegs, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Least Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Red-necked Phalarope, Arctic Tern, Rock Pigeon, Tree Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Alder Flycatcher, Orange-crowned Warbler, Dark-eyed Junco, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Western Sandpiper, Violet-green Swallow, Bank Swallow, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Fox Sparrow, Snow Goose, Eurasian Wigeon, Whimbrel, Swainson’s Thrush, Wilson’s Warbler, White-crowned Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Semipalmated Plover, Gray Jay, Greater White-fronted Goose, Dunlin, Hudsonian Godwit, Northern Waterthrush, White-winged Scoter, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Black-bellied Plover, Western Wood-Pewee, European Starling, Redhead, Lesser Scaup, Double-crested Cormorant, American Golden-Plover, Blackpoll Warbler, Pacific Golden-Plover, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Baird’s Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Belted Kingfisher, Townsend’s Warbler, Great Horned Owl, Harlequin Duck, Black Oystercatcher, Short-eared Owl, American Tree Sparrow, Blue-winged Teal, Common Goldeneye, Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Rusty Blackbird, Rock Sandpiper, Northern Goshawk, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Red-throated Pipit, Sanderling, Spotted Sandpiper, Hairy Woodpecker, Boreal Chickadee, Yellow Warbler, Pine Siskin, Great Blue Heron, Red-tailed Hawk, White-winged Crossbill, Rough-legged Hawk, Killdeer, Glaucous Gull, Tundra Swan, Thayer’s Gull, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Stilt Sandpiper, Horned Lark, Surfbird, Black Scoter, Snow Bunting, Townsend’s Solitaire, Sabine’s Gull, Siberian Stonechat, Hermit Thrush, Red-necked Grebe, Black-legged Kittiwake, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Brant, Northern Flicker

Rarities Seen Here

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, Pacific-golden Plover, Red-throated Pipit, Sabine’s Gull, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Eurasian Wigeon, Double-crested Cormorant, Siberian Stonechat, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Black Oystercatcher

ebird Histogram of Bird Species at this Location

Birding Checklist at this Location

Birding Area Map

Directions

All directions in this guide are given from a point located at the intersection of East Northern Lights Boulevard and the New Seward Highway (AK-1)

  1. Take the New Seward Highway (AK-1) south about 4.8 miles to O’Malley Road (Walter J. Hickel Parkway)
  2. Take the O’Malley Road (Walter J. Hickel Parkway) exit (0.3 miles)
  3. Head west for 0.9 miles on O’Malley Road (Walter J. Hickel Parkway) and take the C Street exit
  4. Keep left to continue toward C Street
  5. At the 1st round-a-bout, take the 3rd exit onto C Street
  6. At the 2nd round-a-bout take the 1st exit to stay on C Street
  7. At the 3rd round-about take the 2nd exit onto West Klatt Road
  8. Continue onto Southport Drive for 0.2 miles
  9. Turn left onto Discovery Bay Drive
  10. Carr-Gottstein Park will be on your left after 500 feet

Interactive Map

Generally speaking, birding Carr-Gottsein Park involves the following:

  1. Park at the park entrance as shown in the map below (also see Parking description below).
  2. Walk up the path that leads south for about 1/4 mile to location “A”.
  3. You are on the so called “push pile”.  Glass heavily to the north from Location “A”.
  4. Walk to the south of the “push pile” and glass heavily south.
  5. Climb down from location “A” (about 35 feet down an embankment) and venture to location “B” while always hugging the grassline, glass heavily at location “B”.  There is a small pond at location “B” that shorebirds frequent.
  6. Travel to location “C” from location “B”, glass heavily.  There is another small pond at location “B” that shorebirds frequent.
  7. Travel to location “D” from location “C”, glass heavily.
  8. Retrace your steps back through locations “D”, “C”, “B”, and “A”.
  9. Never, ever stray more than 50 meters from the grass line as the mud flats are dangerous.

Parking

Parking along side the curb is the preferred parking area and there is some space dedicated for that purpose, but be mindful of not actually parking on the curbs. The local home owners association has been known to put large paper stickers on your car threatening towing and fines.

Fees

There are no fees associated with this spot.  This is a park maintained by the Municipality of Anchorage.

Hours

6:00 AM – 11:00 PM

Hazards

  • The tides of Turnagain Arm are widely acknowledged to be the second most extreme in the world after the Bay of Fundy in Canada.  They can rise faster than a man can walk.  Couple those extreme tides with the glacial silt mudflats that form part of the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, venturing onto the mudflats here at Carr-Gottstein Park can be a recipe for disaster.  Every other year or so, someone ill-prepared, ill-equipped, or otherwise ill-advised have ventured onto these mudflats and have gotten hopelessly stuck requiring rescue extraction by emergency parties. Some have died!  Our advice is to use your spotting scope to bird and if you feel compelled to venture onto the mudflats, never stray more than 50 meters or so from the grass line; where the mud flats meet vegetation.  You have been warned!
  • There is a short, but steep hill to walk down from the “push pile” to the level plateau that is the mud flats.  The hill is about 25 feet tall and can be quite slippery when wet.  Best to take your time and perhaps have a walking stick to assist you.

Facilities

There are no facilities here.  Carry your own water and go to the restroom prior to arriving or after departure.

Contacts

Anchorage Park Foundation – (907) 343-4355

Links

 

Additional Photos

Carr-Gottstein Park – Stilt Sandpiper – August 18, 2014

Carr-Gottstein Park – Savannah Sparrow – August 29, 2015

Carr-Gottstein Park – Northern Harrier – August 21, 2015

Carr-Gottstein Park – Trumpeter Swan – August 29, 2015

Carr-Gottstein Park – Pacific Golden Plover – May 17, 2016

Carr-Gottstein Park – Merlin – August 29, 2015

 

Author:  Keith Confer

Created:  April 9, 2017

Uploaded and made public:  April 9, 2017

Last update:  April 16, 2017

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