Part A: Common Redpoll (Saqsakiq)

Here in Anchorage in March the birds are starting to get happy from the increase in sunlight and warmth and due to that a flock of birds ascended to the local bird feeders in the neighborhood.  The bird pictured was flocked with more if its kind and feeding on a bird feeder with sunflower seed hearts and suet.  This little one landed on the snow to pick at food spilt on the snow and to avoid the commotion on the feeder itself.  I have been around bird feeders for several years now and have come to recognize several of the local species that visit the feeders in town, this one is quiet easy to distinguish as a Common Redpoll, the short light colored beak and feather pattern are easy to see in the image but the red cap is not due to the lighting. I uploaded this image to the iNaturalist website here: 

The observation has yet to be IDed by another so it remains unconfirmed at this time. This is a fun and interesting website to observe and study your local environment and those that you share it with, I can see this being a wonderful tool for those in rural communities to document the changes occurring in their environment as we experience the increasing changes brought on by climate change.  I have relatives that have studied and observed their subsistence use lands for over 50 years and with the aid of a website like this could document this data to be useful for those in the future. Most of this data is simply kept in oral traditions through hunting stories but the shift or integration of this kind of record keeping could assist those with the mind to observe the change of their environment over time.  Observing the environment had been an active practice of my ancestors since before contact, this new kind of tool adjusts that kind of practice into western and scientific terms but still does what my ancestors did observe, notice, remember, share and study that which is around you.


Part B: Long-tailed Duck (Aaqhaaliq)

I have found this part of the assignment very challenging, I found that most of the databases that I looked at were not user friendly for me and the lack of standardization for the user interfaces only added to that.  It reminds me of the early days of the internet before search engines were easy to use and navigate.  That being said, I was able to find something that interests me using a museum database.  As a visual Artist, images and specimen measurements rule my artistic research.  I have an interest in the Aaqhaaliq (Long-tailed Duck) and so I was looking for them, I found that they do exist in some collections data bases but not as many as I had thought and I found that I could not find an images of them in the ones that did have them in their databases!  The only images that I could find were of Aaqhaaliq uvluutit suli mannik (Long-tailed duck nest and eggs) like this one: 

I could not find any images or measurements of the adult specimens but maybe this is due to my lack of experience or knowledge in using these sorts of data bases or maybe they don’t share that sort of data. Those particular details would be very useful to me as a wood carver whose work represents natural living resources. I tried using the common name (Long-tailed Duck) and scientific name (Clangula hyemalis) for my searches but I also know that this particular species has an old name that is derogatory but I did not use that name for these searches and I hope that I would not have to to conduct this sort of research.  I hope to use these sorts of databases in the future for my artistic research and hope to learn more about them in order to use them effectively in planning for my future project’s museum research process.  Quyana!


Q:  What sort of data would you like there to be in a museum database?

6 Thoughts to “Saqsakiq Suli Aaqhaaliq (Common Redpoll and Long-tailed Duck)”

  1. Angela Linn

    Nice job capturing those Redpolls! They’re so fast on our feeder (and our dogs are so inquisitive) I couldn’t get one! It’s true the iNaturalist tool has some awesome potential for assembling observations that can help local people track the changing animals in the area as well as when migratory birds come into the community. I think it really has the ability to provide tools to supplement local knowledge traditions.

    Thanks for looking for the Long-tailed Duck. What an amazing creature! I just searched for the scientific term at Arctos’ main page and it gave me over 600 results. I narrowed that down by looking only for specimens collected in Alaska (567 records). Then I looked for ones only found in the UAM:Bird collection (113). So many records. Many of them are georeferenced so you could sort by latitude or longitude or specific locality to try to see clusters of birds. No images of any of them, and I also didn’t see measurements of the adults. But, what I see is that this could be the starting point for you to know that you should come to UAM and examine the physical collections for yourself. (Two from Nome: and
    This really shows how differently users of different kinds are looking for different kinds of information and illustrates how challenging it was for cultural collections to come into a system designed to focus on the collecting event. Here are two items in the Ethnology & History collection that have long-tailed duck feathers incorporated into the objects: and I’m sorry to say these still had the old, derogatory terms in the descriptions, but I was able to update them.

  2. Michael Hubert

    good afternoon,
    the post was a great read this week, I think I will be using iNaturalist a lot . I think that is really a great tool for anyone, just wish I knew about it sooner. great work this week.

  3. Erin Gingrich

    Quyana Angie for making those changes! It so important that indigenous peoples can look for/at cultural objects or resources without having to face these old derogatory names rooted in racism and/or sexism. Another thing that would be useful for someone researching visual information would be a written disruption of the specimens coloring in relation to gender and/or season, long-tailed ducks have color variations in connection winter vs. summer and gender, as do many animals! This information could assist in locating what sort of specimen someone wants to pull for visual study or assist in pulling a variation of species coloring for visual study. Quyana!

  4. Barbara Long

    Good Evening,

    Great post. Enjoyed the photos of both birds. Your question can be a broad one. The world has so much information and subjects to explore. I think at this point. I would love more information on the methodologies for western illustrators, painters and sculptors. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Tony Thompson

    Hi Erin! Thanks for your post this week! I haven’t gotten into iNaturalist very extensively yet, but it sounds awesome. It’s one of those things that every time it comes up, I think, “yes, I should sign up for that” and then I don’t. Soon! I can definitely relate to your frustration with online databases. They can be finicky and no two databases are exactly alike which can be very frustrating. If you are interested, I recommend using GBIF. It’s an aggregator so it compiles museum data from many databases as well as observances. So there are many images to choose from. (CW: I did see the derogatory term listed under the vernacular names which is extremely unfortunate.)

    To answer your question, I think you bring up a great point about including measurements in the museum data! That is a terrific idea and could be useful for many research purposes as well as for Artists. Great post this week! 🙂

  6. Tony Thompson

    I’ve just remembered a tool that I used once in an evolution class that might be helpful with measurements. If there is a reference object in the photo for scale, you can use this website for a rough estimate of the length of an object in a photo. Hope it helps!

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