Spring is Springing!

Spring is Springing!
A fox kit appears from its den in Fairbanks, Alaska, in late May | Prints

The long-awaited return of spring is finally upon us, bringing warmth and renewed life to both the people and animals of Fairbanks, Alaska. After enduring months of freezing temperatures and scarce sunlight, I’m enthusiastically welcoming the vibrant signs of spring.

With the warmer weather steadily melting the snow, outdoor activities have become more inviting than ever. Having spent most of the past few months writing indoors, I made a conscious effort last week to venture outside and capture the season’s beauty through my camera lens.

A trumpeter swan with wings outstretched coming in for a landing
A trumpeter swan coasting to a landing at Creamer’s Field | Prints

I stopped at Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge to see the incoming migration. Every spring, the International Airport DOT crews plow the fields here and scatter seeds and grains to draw birds away from the nearby runways – one of the few other snow-free areas in the region.

I was delighted to see numerous trumpeter swans and Canada geese already making their presence known. Interestingly, I’ve also spotted more greater white-fronted geese this year than ever!

Two greater white-fronted geese at Creamer's Field
Greater white-fronted geese grazing on grain in the plowed field | Prints

On Wednesday, I encountered my first sandhill cranes of the season. While a group of about six cranes grazed far out in the fields, one particularly vocal crane ensured everyone felt its presence near the front fence.

A sandhill crane calling out while standing in the snow at Creamer's Field
A sandhill crane making noise in the snow | Prints
Two trumpeter swans landing in Creamer's Field in the snow
Trumpeter swans make a graceful landing in Creamer’s Field | Prints

One of my climbing team kid’s parents tipped me about a large fox den near their house, possibly home to up to nine adorable kits. Naturally, I couldn’t resist visiting to catch a glimpse of them. During one trip, I spotted at least six kits frolicking outside, though there might have been more, as they frequently darted in and out of the den’s multiple entrances. At one point, there were at least six of them visible simultaneously.

The sight of the tiny kits was heart-melting. They were so small that they could easily fit in the palm of your hand. Previously, the earliest I had ever seen kits was in late May, and they were considerably larger than these youngsters, who are about a month younger.

The mother fox also appeared, lounging in front of the den. She had recently delivered a raven carcass to one of the den’s entrances, and one of the kits was fervently gnawing on it. Meanwhile, the other kits explored the area around the den, playfully pouncing and attempting to balance on a fallen tree. The entire scene was an absolute cuteness overload.

A tiny fox kit walking across a log
One of the kits walking across the downed tree | Prints
Two fox kits closely observing something under a log
The kit on top followed the other around incessantly | Prints
A fox kit sprawled out on top of its sibling
“What are you looking at?” | Prints
A female cross fox watching over its kits
Mama was absolutely gorgeous looking! Beautiful cross-fox coloration. The cross fox is just a color variation of a red fox. Most of the foxes I’ve seen in Fairbanks have this color variation, although I don’t know if they are more common here. | Prints
Two fox kits, one chewing on a raven carcass
Gnawing on the raven – they took turns trying to tear the meat off the bird, but never would more than one feast at a time | Prints

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Four fox kits playing and snacking in the snow
This was the most I managed to capture in a single frame
A fox kit playfully pounces on its sibling
The most adorable play I could imagine | Prints
Two fox kits wrestling
A fox kit with its tongue out chewing on a raven carcass
Cute fox tongue! | Prints

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In just 30 minutes, I snapped over 200 photos before the kits vanished into the den. The mother fox had wandered off after about 15 minutes, seemingly unconcerned about my presence. Occasionally, one of the kits would glance my way, but they paid me little mind for the most part. They never ventured too far from the den and could disappear into the holes at lightning speed whenever they sensed something amiss. More photos are in my daily gallery here: April 26, 2023. I’ll likely share additional pictures once I’ve edited them.

Tomorrow is the first day of May and the first day of the month-long 3rd annual Fairbanks Birding Challenge hosted by the Alaska Songbird Institute. This challenge is fun and has interested me in birding and bird photography for the last two years! It’s $15 for an individual and $25 for a family or group to participate, and the money goes straight to the institute’s Creamer’s Field Migration Station. So many more spring photos are coming soon!

A green-winged teal and its reflection over Peat Ponds in Fairbanks, Alaska.
A green-winged teal over Peat Ponds – Taken during the 1st annual Fairbanks Birding Challenge in 2021

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