Monday, September 17, 2018 Peregrine!


Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 7:32 am, sunset 8:15 pm for a total daylight of 12 hours and 43 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 24 seconds shorter.

Our glorious summer ended on Saturday as the gray clouds rolled in and temperatures dropped  from a high of 71º on September 12 to high-50s. Partly cloudy with a small chance of rain and temps in the low 60s in the forecast for the rest of the week, then showers by the weekend.

This afternoon I checked out Afognak Beach at low tide, looking for the two GREATER YELLOWLEGS I saw on September 14. As I walked past the prominent point, I spotted a large bird perched at the usual eagle lookout tree. I almost kept walking, but something caused me to pause and take a look through the binocs. Large yes, but slender, small beak, streaky breast, moustachial stripes! Not an immature Bald Eagle, but a PEREGRINE FALCON! As I fumbled for my camera, the wary bird took flight, stroked rapidly away along the trees, and disappeared. THAT was quite a treat!

Several pairs of BALD EAGLES sat at the edge of the low tide, crying greetings as others flew past. In the still air, the water glassy calm, their wild voices carried a long way. Young birds perched here and there on driftwood, waiting and watching. Remnants of silver salmon carcasses dotted the stream, still providing food for the GLAUCOUS-WINGED, HERRING, and MEW GULLS.

Yesterday, at the same point, I heard MAGPIES chattering. They’re always up to something! Alerted, I then watched a SHARP-SHINNED HAWK dash through the spruce trees after the wily Corvids. It seemed to be the afternoon’s entertainment for one species, and a futile attempt to eat for the other.

Yesterday in town I heard a surprise RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET singing a partial song in my yard. ROBINS sang a full song, and VARIED THRUSHES sputtered like wheezy teakettles. JUNCOS flashed in the underbrush, RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES “yank-yanked” from above, and CHICKADEES called to one another as they foraged. STELLER JAYS busied themselves planting peanuts in the yard. Though I listened for more migrating Sandhill Cranes, I did not have that pleasure. Many flocks have been reported since last weekend.

The resident TRUMPETER SWAN family has fledged! The six sleek cygnets, about 3 ½ months old, flew to the Lagoon in town on Sunday, then back to the Nash Road wetlands. I spotted them today at the Lagoon, feeding together, heads down, tails up, feet flailing the water for balance. What a beautiful sight! Now, with the deadly power lines gone, when they fly, they don’t die. I look forward to watching them in flight, all eight magnificent Swans, commuting around the bay. We are so lucky!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter



Monday, September 10, 2018 Cranes!


Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 7:15 am, sunset 8:36 pm for a total day length of 13 hours and 47 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 24 seconds shorter.

Phenomenal summer weather continues; one gorgeous, warm, sunny day after another! The high today was 68º! Tuesday and Wednesday are forecast to reach 71 and 72º, Thursday slightly cooler at 65º then rain for the next foreseeable future.

I questioned my hearing at 3 pm on September 5 when I stepped outside, rushing off somewhere, then stopped stock still and listened. Very faint, and far away, I thought I heard SANDHILL CRANES. I searched the sky in vain, anxious to catch a glimpse of these glorious birds winging their way south. Too soon the bugling faded, and I thoughtfully resumed my chores. Was it Cranes? They seemed late; I thought I had missed the grand fall migration.

The next day, I received a redeeming report of 158 Cranes flying over Mt Marathon, flying east. I counted the speck dots on the provided photo to get the count. Yay! I was not nuts!

This evening around 7:30, I happened to be sitting in my car, scribbling some very important notes with the window open. Cranes? Hmmm, scribble, scribble, scribble. Closer and louder now, sifting into my conscious. Cranes??? I threw down the notebook, grabbed my camera and burst out of the car.

There, flying high overhead were CRANES! A giant bow of bugling birds undulated across the sky, with streamers of smaller Vs following closely behind the main front. They flew directly east, heading for majestic Mt Alice, mountain shadows already creeping up her flanks. They were not stopping, O no! 

I watched until I could no longer see or hear them, invisibly stroking over the mountains and possibly Prince William Sound, perhaps landing in Cordova to refuel. What a joyous sight and sound! Bon voyage!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter




Friday, August 31, 2018 Trumpeter Swans


Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 6:52 am, sunset 9:06 pm for a total day length of 14 hours and 14 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 22 seconds shorter.

The tail of a typhoon splashed Seward last week, but since it blew away on Tuesday, it’s been sunny ever since with pleasant temps in the upper 50s to low 60s. More sunny skies in the forecast for the next week!

The TRUMPETER SWAN family with six beautiful, healthy cygnets often plays hard-to-see at their Mile 1 Nash Road wetlands home. But once in a while, they feed on pond plants right next to the road. I was so lucky today, with the sun just right. Three cygnets swam towards me accompanied by one parent. The other parent and remaining three cygnets remained farther away. What a fabulous family!

Two of the 3-month old cygnets paddled up to a shallow spot and stood up to preen their ever-changing plumage. Their long, flexible necks looped, arced, stretched, and scrunched in amazing contortions to reach itchy areas. White feathers, notably the primaries and belly, and peekaboo patches in the body, have infiltrated the soft gray. After preening, a big flapping stretch revealed the stubby white primaries, still growing to full size. The cygnet bills are still mostly lipstick pink, with black tips and base. It won’t be long before these fast-growing cygnets learn to fly.

Also of note, I found two adult Trumpeter Swans feeding at the south end of the Lagoon in town around 9 am. They seemed wary and I did not linger. I wonder if they might be Seward swans as well, as they were so familiar with that area.

The previous day, I was delighted to find the Tern Lake Trumpeter Swan family with three healthy cygnets also feeding close to the road. They were totally unconcerned about the paparazzi, even when a man got out of his car to take photos. I prefer to stay in the car and use it as a blind if possible.

Initially all the swans tipped up to reach the tasty water plants, huge webbed feet flailing in the air. Tails and heads alternated in a quirky rhythm. It was fun to hear the gentle sounds of the water splashing as they tipped up and dripping as they emerged. So peaceful!

But soon the cygnets gave up on that tricky balancing maneuver and hovered close by the nearest parent, poised to pounce on morsels as they were uprooted and floated up. The competition was fierce but must have been worthwhile. The steadily feeding parent ignored them. The other parent fed in peace. Maybe they take turns.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter