In Barrow I had the luxury of traveling with big-time birders, who enhanced my chances of spotting birds, oh, about twentyfold. So I’m sure I missed plenty of birds that were all around me in Denali, when I was busy photographing tiny flowers and plants or looking for big wildlife. But I occasionally found birds, or they found me. When I was hiking along the Savage River, I stumbled right into the domain of a family of willow ptarmigans, Alaska’s state bird. I held still and watched as the mother and colorful father pecked around for food, occasionally gathering up the chicks, which blended in so much with their habitat that they seemingly appeared out of nowhere. I also spotted a trumpeter swan on a lake in the rain (from the shuttle bus), plus gray jays, American tree sparrows, loons, scaups, a white-crowned sparrow, a gyrfalcon and a northern goshawk. And–this may surprise you–but I loved seeing a plain old robin, and thinking about how far it might have migrated to reach its breeding grounds in Alaska.