Monthly Archives: December 2013

No paper this week — happy holidays!

The Redoubt Reporter will return Jan 8, 2014.

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Eagle eyes for Christmas

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Bald eagles hang out at the Central Peninsula Landfill in Soldotna in the winter. This year's Christmas Bird Count, held Saturday, noted 787 bald eagles in the area.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Bald eagles hang out at the Central Peninsula Landfill in Soldotna. This year’s Christmas Bird Count, held Saturday, noted 787 bald eagles in the area.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

One bird, two birds, three birds, four or five hundred more — it must be Audubon Christmas Bird Count time.

Saturday was the date of this year’s count on the central Kenai Peninsula, with 29 participants divvying up 11 count sectors within a 15-mile circle centered about two miles west of Kenai birds landfill eagleNational Wildlife Refuge Headquarters in Soldotna, and covering the mouths of the Kenai and Kasilof rivers.

“So we’re able to get quite a few water birds, shorebirds, or at least opportunities to see those,” said Jack Sinclair, area compiler for this area’s annual participation in the bird count.

It’s a longstanding, wide-ranging tradition, this being the 114th year of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count in the United States, with participation expanding across North, Central and South America. Each year, tens of thousands of volunteers take to the field in their area’s circle to count numbers of bird species and numbers of individual birds on a day they choose within the designated count window, Dec. 14 to Jan. 5. The bird count period actually extends three days before and three days after the selected count day. During that window additional species can be observed and included, but not additional birds. At the end of the count week, the data is sent to the National Audubon Society, which maintains it in an online, searchable database.

“Any person can log on there and look at any of the counts from the 1900s to the present, and you can see the conditions and how trends have changed over time in different areas,” Sinclair said.

Sinclair has been participating in the Christmas Bird Count since 1985 in Seward.

“When I moved to Soldotna in 1990 I asked around. There was a circle that had been established but no one had been doing it for a while, so we kind of picked up the torch and ran with it,” he said. “I’ve been doing it here for about 24 years now. It’s turned into a long time.”

But worth the time, he said. On a personal level, it’s fun.

“It is a great activity. You don’t have to have a degree in ornithology, you don’t have to have great credentials, you don’t have to be a scientist. You just have to have an interest in getting outside and looking at birds. Here in Alaska, we have opportunities to see great birds. It’s something that I just enjoy doing, and once you start doing it you start to enjoy the habits of birds and watching them and seeing where they live. I’ve been enjoying it for a long time, probably since my first year in college,” he said.

On a scientific level, it’s a worthwhile contribution of information.

“One of the big things about the bird count is that it tends to show the trends of birds. It may not be exact as much as we’d like, but because of the participants returning and doing the same area year after year after year, you will see fairly good trends over time,” Sinclair said.

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Drive for safety — Project to improve Sterling Highway’s deadly reputation

File photo. An RV leads a string of traffic into Soldotna on the Sterling Highway over Memorial Day weekend. Traffic on the stretch of highway from the Moose River to Soldotna sees a sharp increase during fishing season, contributing to the road’s danger of traffic collisions. The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities is considering options to improve safety along that section of road.

File photo. An RV leads a string of traffic into Soldotna on the Sterling Highway over Memorial Day weekend. Traffic on the stretch of highway from the Moose River to Soldotna sees a sharp increase during fishing season, contributing to the road’s danger of traffic collisions. The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities is considering options to improve safety along that section of road.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Ted Forsi, of Sterling, has been a lifelong hunter, but says the two largest moose he’s ever taken weren’t brought down by a rifle or bow.

“The two biggest I ever got I took with my Chevy Suburban,” he said during a public meeting held Dec. 10 by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to discuss its ongoing Sterling Highway Safety Corridor Study.

Running from Mile 82.5 in Sterling to Mile 94 in Soldotna (roughly from the Moose River bridge to Fred Meyer), this area was designated in 2009 as one of five highway safety corridors in the state due to the higher crash rates and crash severities experienced along this section of the Sterling Highway.

“There were 721 crashes on the Sterling Highway between the Kenai Spur Highway and the Moose River Bridge from 2000 to 2010,” said study project team member Ron Martindale, a traffic analyst for Kinney Engineering.

Of those 721 crashes, 579 of them occurred on the two-way, two-lane portion between Fred Meyer and the Sterling weigh station. Twenty-eight percent of these accidents were moose related, with 80 percent occurring at night.

This brought up what, for many, seemed to be the most logical way to resolve the issue — installing more street lights to increase visibility.

“Illumination is the key,” said Ross Baxter, of Soldotna. “We’d love to see some lights from Soldotna to Robinson Loop.”

Baxter added that not only would this make the highway safer by making it easier to see moose and other wildlife crossing the roadway, but also would reduce the need for people to mount ultrabright, aftermarket lights to their vehicles, which raise concern of accidents by blinding oncoming drivers.

Mary Helminski, who lives off of Jim Dahler Road, agreed with Baxter.

“A light put in at our intersection really made a difference,” she said.

While the need for more street lights was acknowledged by Martindale as a viable option for moose mitigation, in particular, he said that the cost might be outside the state’s budget.

“DOT has said the lights can be put in, but they lack the funds to maintain them,” he said.

Dennis Linnell, principal civil engineer with Hattenburg Dilley and Linnell Engineering, added that state maintenance funding has been flat since 1985.

Moose collisions, while making up the largest percentage of collisions in that stretch of road, still only account for a portion of the overall accidents. People looking up to see a stopped school bus, a driver slowing to look at a moose and the increase of vehicles during peak fishing season lead to other types of accidents in this corridor.

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View from Out West: Missing moose — Kenai’s critters would be sight for sore eyes

A bull moose seen Aug. 1 at a pond in Sterling.

Photo by Clark Fair. A bull moose seen Aug. 1 at a pond in Sterling.

By Clark Fair, for the Redoubt Reporter

On Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, I saw a moose in Soldotna.

“No big deal,” you might say. “Moose are plentiful on the central Kenai Peninsula. People see them all the time, crunching twigs along the roadsides.”

On Tuesday, Sept. 3, I might have agreed with you. No big deal.

But right now I don’t feel that way.

Right now, I miss moose.

I may have moved on Sept. 3 from the Kenai Peninsula to Bristol Bay, but I haven’t left Alaska, and I haven’t seen a moose since I arrived in Dillingham.

Actually, allow me to clarify that statement — I haven’t seen a live moose since I arrived.

I’ve seen one very dead moose.

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Enlightening artistry — ‘Emmanuel’ exhibition channels prophetic artwork

“Forever God is Faithful,” acrylic by Rebecca (Hinsberger) Middleton.

“Forever God is Faithful,” acrylic by Rebecca (Hinsberger) Middleton.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

God is in the swirling oranges and streaks of blue. God is in the glowing menorah and the assembled angels. God is in the eagle’s wings, the budding tree leaves and the lion’s mane. God is in what’s seen on the canvass, what’s experienced when it is painted, and what’s felt when it’s viewed.

For the artists contributing to the “Emmanuel, Light of the World” exhibition at the Kenai Fine Arts Center this month, what better way than art to demonstrate their tenant that God is in all creation — and, thus, their creativity?

“One of the most natural parts of being created in the image of God is the ability to dream and create. We humans were born to create, build and advance. When we purpose to create from being in God’s presence, we can mirror the reality of heaven here on earth,” writes Rebecca Hinsberger in the artists’ statement for the group show.

“Emmanuel” is an example of prophetic art — works that are not only about God, but created through God’s influence, as though the artist is the paintbrush yielding to the strokes of divine inspiration.

Hinsberger, of Kasilof, has been exploring prophetic art since her conversion to Christianity in 1975, becoming involved with a larger community of like-spirited artists in the area in the late 1990s and teaching workshops in the practice. Like praise music or liturgical dance, she explains that it’s an expression of worship.

“And also a means of hearing from God and transmitting a message from God to whoever is viewing the painting. The message would be transmitted through the medium of the painting, whether it’s symbolism or the emotion or capturing the moment or conveying something biblical or historical that we feel is important,” she said. “… You might call it intuitive, but we call it painting by the Holy Spirit in an inspired way.”

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Unstuffing a timely Christmas

Hunting, Fishing and Other Grounds for Divorce, by Jacki Michels

Dear Santa,

I have been a very good girl this year. Honest. Well, mostly. OK, I’ve blown it more often than not. But my intentions are impeccable — except, that is, on the few frequent occasions that they’re, well, not.

Oh, heck. I’m naughty to the core. But I want to be good.

I do. Honest.

No doubt you recently received our boy’s extensive and detailed list of demands, and I’m sure other kids wrote to you, as well. But I’m wondering, what about us grownups? Do we get to want stuff?

Listen, Santa. (Can I call you Santa?) If I’m honest (a nice thing to be), I have a little wish list of my own. And if anyone can pull it off, Santa, it’s you!

— XOXO (Yes, I am kissing up to you. You probably get that a lot. But that doesn’t mean I don’t mean it!)

So here goes:

Oh Handsome Red-Suited One,

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Plugged In: Focus on the details, not getting every shot

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Potpourris are popular around the holidays, and that’s what we have for you this week, a potpourri of holiday photographic thoughts and bargains.

As the holidays approach, it’s worth remembering that we should be selective as we take our family and travel photos. You don’t want to miss the actual experience by spending too much time randomly taking photos, rather than interacting meaningfully with your family and surroundings. Although we make, share and treasure our photographic memories of family events, the photos are not the experience itself, but only the physical memories of it.

Two recent studies published in the academic journal Psychology Science strongly suggest that hurrying through an activity while taking a lot of general photos actually impairs a photographer’s later memory of the event. In those studies, people passing through a museum who did not take photographs of the artwork on exhibit had better recall of their experience than those who spent most of their time hurriedly photographing each and every piece. (You can buy books that probably do this better.)

However, when photographers “zoomed in” on the artwork and took careful photos of specific details, then their overall experience and memory of the entire exhibit improved rather than deteriorated.

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