The Alaska outdoors is full of sights and sounds this time of year. Birds are returning and nesting here in the Matanuska Valley – some right in our back yards. On one of daily walks my Lab jumped a female grouse that led him on a fluttering chase. I immediately thought ‘broken wing act to lead him from her nest.’ Sure enough, I found her ground nest tucked up against a small spruce tree, complete with 11 tan-with-brown-speckles eggs.
I quickly called my dog and led him at heel away from the sight. The bird returned quite quickly with no apparent distress. Now we walk a different route and I’m watching for any other ground nesting birds to keep my dogs away. I keep tabs on her from a distance to make sure she has a successful nesting season, and so I can take the neighbor’s kids to see once her chicks hatch and they all desert the nest. They will love to inspect the nest and the remnants of the eggs.
One of the many Alaska outdoor adventures during summer in the Matanuska Valley is retriever training. Last weekend I took my Labrador to the first picnic fun hunt test of the summer. These type of retriever field trials are meant to test a retriever’s ability to hunt effectively for their handler. Although some participants are interested in accruing points needed to get ribbons and move up to a more demanding category of tests, many of us simply want to improve our dog’s ability to be a good hunting dog, as well as a good companion in the field.