Friday, December 15, 2017 Count Week Day Three

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 9:57 pm, sunset 3:51 pm for a total day length of 5 hours and 53 minutes. Tomorrow will be 1 minute and 1 second shorter.

Last night the sky revealed almost forgotten stars; I even saw the dog star Sirius sparkling to the southeast following the mighty hunter Orion across the black sky. My hopes were high for a little sunshine the next day!

Alas, by morning, the wind had changed back to the south and with it came blasting wind, stinging rain, white-caps on the roiling sea, and an overall dismal grayness that made a short day even shorter. The thermometer reached a low of 26 at 5 am but rose to 41 by midday. The wind ranged from 7 to 24 mph with gusts to 33 mph. And the barometer kept sliding downhill.

An amazing non-bird bright spot was a local kite-surfer with a bright pink sail nailing the waves and wind. That sure put a smile on my face!

Tomorrow, Count Day, the forecast calls for rain with variable winds to 6 mph shifting to southerly in the afternoon and seas subsiding to 2 feet. Should be a “GO” for the boat crew and the Field and Feeder Counters!

I looked hard for a Dipper and Pacific Wren today without success. My wish list was long but by the end of the short day, I only added two new species: a BROWN CREEPER (check!), an adult HERRING GULL (check!), and an OREGON JUNCO (subspecies check!). It was fun to see that Red FOX SPARROW again.

45 species total for Count Week so far.

Wishing everyone a very successful Christmas Bird Count!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Thursday, December 14, 2017 Count Week Day Two!

Seward, Alaska

Turned out to be another gray, overcast day with a chilly north wind and spitting rain. But I hardly noticed as it was a great day to bird!

First bird, an adorable CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEE at my feeders, good start! Then I staked out my neighbor’s feeder. After chasing off the PIGEONS (check!) and a long wait, I finally got a decent photo of the brilliantly rufous Red (Interior) FOX SPARROW. He fairly glowed in the dim light in the tangle of branches. What a handsome sparrow! His crisp white belly looked freshly washed with a leading brand of laundry detergent, which offset his rufous stripes and spots beautifully. Quite a contrast to our usual summer Sooty Fox Sparrow!

A GOLDEN-CROWNED and SONG SPARROW hopped about in the underbrush, much more camouflaged. The feeder area has two nice piles of brush that the Sparrows really like for a hide-out; a highly recommended feature if you want to attract and keep Sparrows. Just as I was about to leave, a VARIED THRUSH hopped in. Check!

After an unsuccessful search for a Dipper at the Lagoon, I hiked along the head of the bay. Two TRUMPETER SWANS graced the thawed portion, surrounded by MALLARDS and GADWALL filching left-overs. Check! The light was dim, but I think there were at least four Gadwall. A NORTHERN SHRIKE blasted past. Check!

As the tide ebbed (with the light), a flock of small birds flickered along the water’s edge: 26 ROCK SANDPIPERS! Check! Wish I could say there were Dunlin with them, but I couldn’t tell for sure.

I visited Ava’s Place and delivered suet as the birds are devouring her supply. The RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET appeared briefly, clinging with difficulty to the suet feeder. Check! Several PINE SISKINS perched in her Mayday tree. Check!

I just had to look for the Swans at the Nash Road wetlands. Yup, still there. A BELTED KINGFISHER rattled across the mostly frozen pond. Check!

The sun peeked out from under the clouds at sunset around 3:50 pm and blasted its lovely pink light on the snowy mountains and scattered clouds. Wow! What a splendid surprise! I swung into the Harbor Uplands to enjoy the views to the west, south and east.

As twilight descended, I happened to glance at the small group of Gulls resting nearby. Hmmm. One looked SO white. Bi-colored bill. Larger than the GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS. Check on a GLAUCOUS GULL, first winter. But wait! Another large gull was not as white, but had the bi-colored bill: TWO Glaucous Gulls! But wait! Another slightly darker gull sure looked like a third Glaucous Gull! How fun is that?

Apparently not as fun as it could be. The smaller, dark brown gull with a darker tail, rounded head, and short, thick bill that I spotted yesterday was still here. After mulling it over, I’m going to go out on a thin limb and call it a THAYER’S GULL. Check! If anyone cares to confirm or correct, I’m all ears as this is one of my nemesis gulls.

Fourteen (14) more species today for a total of 43 species for Count Week so far!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Wednesday, December 13, 2017 First Day Count Week

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 9:55 am, sunset 3:51 pm for a total day length of 5 hours and 56 minutes. Tomorrow will be 1 minute and 22 seconds shorter.

Almost all the snow has melted, exposing soggy, disillusioned grass in town. Recent squally weather delivered hard rain and strong south winds that shook the house, threatening to blow it to Topeka. The rain lessened today with periods of dry, which was greatly appreciated. The temperatures have been unseasonably warm with lows around freezing and highs hitting 49º. Towards sunset this afternoon, the southern sky cleared, bringing hope for a touch of sunshine tomorrow before the next low returns.

First Day of Count Week brought heightened excitement today. First bird:
GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET! How fabulous that such a tiny bird kicked off Count Week. RAVEN spoke up shortly afterwards, as expected.

Walking around the block just after dawn (stylishly late at 10 am), I heard those tiny chimes and counted 5 BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS perched high in a bare cottonwood. Yay! A single ROBIN perched nearby. PINE GROSBEAKS dined on Mt Ash berries for breakfast.


Most of the ice has melted at the Lagoon, opening up large areas on the north and south ends. Five River Otters played and fished in the middle where some ice remained. BARROW’S and COMMON GOLDENEYES and several tiny BUFFLEHEADS, including handsome males, dove at the south end by the culvert where Scheffler Creek flows to the ocean.

A COMMON MERGANSER dove at the north end, accompanied by MALLARDS, and watched by an almost-adult BALD EAGLE with a racy, combed, streaky white head. Many more Bald Eagles festooned the ghost trees, power poles, and spruce trees at the former horse corral, holding their wings out to dry.

To my utter delight, I found 9 TRUMPETER SWANS including the two 6 ½ month-old cygnets at the ol’ nest site at the Nash Road wetlands. The ice melted towards the back, opening up the deli bar. I found two more adults at the pond at the head of the bay. ELEVEN swans, overwintering here!

At the end of Nash Road, I found small numbers of SURF SCOTERS, HARLEQUIN DUCKS, a PELAGIC CORMORANT, two HORNED GREBES, one RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, more Eagles and Ravens.

Back in town, I checked out the Harbor Uplands and chalked up a few NORTHWESTERN CROWS, MEW and GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS, and more Ravens and Bald Eagles.

As twilight descended, I checked out a small pond at the head of the bay and found a single, drake, LONG-TAILED DUCK! I don’t remember finding this species in fresh water before; very exciting!

Pushing my luck, I headed for the Alaska Sealife Center parking lot. Ten Surf Scoters and a dozen Barrow’s Goldeneyes followed the shoreline, dodging in and out of the waves. The last bird of the day was a single MARBLED MURRELET, calling before diving out of sight.

In all, I found 29 species. I missed easy birds like the Pigeon, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, and Song Sparrow; anticipated birds like the Kingfisher, Dipper and Ruby-crowned Kinglet; and wish list birds like the Great Blue Heron, Common Loon, and cool Sparrows. Tomorrow is another great day to go birding!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Wednesday, December 6, 2017 Alpenglow!

Seward, Alaska

Like a rainbow after a storm, the sun beamed brilliantly today as if in apology for all the damage wreaked by the recent high tide and surf.

About a half hour after sunset, Mt Alice and the other mountain peaks and cirque glaciers glowed in delicate shades of yellow fading to pink, magenta deepened to purple, then deep blue, until the blackness of night gently swallowed the light.

Carol Griswold

December 4, 2017 13.7' high tide and surf wreak havoc

Seward, Alaska

The highest tide of the year, 13.7', peaked at 1:05 pm today. The Seward Harbor ramps down to the docks were almost level. Fortunately the harbor waters were protected and calm.

Combined with a strong surf and south wind, the wild ocean battered Seward's shoreline. Powerful waves shot up all along the beach like geysers, shooting rocks and debris onto the bike path. Campground fire rings, normally a safe distance from the beach, were engulfed in the wave surges.

Water surged across the bike path and dumped into Scheffler Creek, leaving a rubble pile of rocks. A lone picnic table marking a campsite, withstood repeated waves that raced through its wooden legs.

Waves pummeled Lowell Point Road, flinging rocks and woody debris clear across the road. Motorists navigated cautiously between the ocean spray, road rubble, deep puddles, and falling rocks. At particularly narrow spots, timing was essential to dart past before the waves returned to slam into the roadside. 

Several sections were severely undercut by the pounding surf. It was a very dramatic and exciting drive!

Despite the challenging conditions, a Seward Public Works loader managed to scrape the damaged road into a more drivable condition. Thank you, Public Works!

Carol Griswold