Saturday, January 24, 2015 Swans, Tree Sparrow, Purple Finch

Sunrise 9:29 am, sunset 4:50 pm, for a total day length of 7 hours and 20 minutes. Tomorrow will be 4 minutes and 37 seconds longer.

Our first snowfall of the year on Thursday was pathetic, not even covering the tips of the still-green grass blades. Under cover of darkness, a scant inch of snow fell, giving the plows something to practice on. When it warmed just a few degrees all that potential turned to cold rain and ice. Bah!

Today, the blasting north wind returned and the temperature again dropped to the mid-20s. A deeper plunge into the teens with strong north wind 20-35 mph with gusts to 50 mph is forecast for tonight and Sunday. The wind sure makes it miserable for humans and birds alike.

Whether rain, snow, sleet, or clear, there are four VARIED THRUSHES that sing every morning in my neighborhood, sometimes in chorus. It is a bit odd, but inspiring nonetheless, and their striking orange and black coloration brightens any day. About 15 ROBINS were here this morning with a few VARIED THRUSHES, chased around by five STELLER’S JAYS who had nothing better to do.

I checked the Mile 1 Nash Road wetlands this afternoon and found the TRUMPETER SWAN family of four at the back near a bit of open water. The cygnets and one adult were napping on the ice, heads tucked into their warm feathers, braced against the fierce wind. The other adult was feeding, but kept a watchful eye over its family. It’s a tough time and bound to get worse when the wetlands freeze completely.

Ava’s Place is now an official eBird Hotspot, and with good reason. I enjoyed watching her increasing flock of scrappy little PINE SISKINS scrabble for sunflower seeds on the ground with the much larger PINE GROSBEAKS. Nervous, they repeatedly flew frantically up to the nearby cottonwoods and then quickly returned, another false alarm. With this many birds, there’s likely to be a predator around, but I didn’t see one.

One of those return flights delivered a handsome AMERICAN TREE SPARROW with his bicolored black and yellow bill, “tie-tack”, and warm chestnut browns. He hopped about, dodging the siskins, grabbing whatever bits he could find.

Another flurry included the PURPLE FINCH, so much larger than either the tree sparrow or siskins, and with such a chunky bill. He seemed quite comfortable feeding on the ground with the rest of the mixed flock, and often, perhaps dangerously, chose to stay rather than beat a quick exit with the others.

Recently, Kit and Janet D saw a RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET dash in and out among the regulars. One never knows what will show up at Ava’s!

Even a little icy snow makes scavenging harder for the birds and the feeders are a welcome source of calories; keep yours full of sunflower seeds and suet. And if you enjoy Ava’s birds, please consider bringing some sunflower seeds to share with all those hungry birds.

Happy Brrrrding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter




















Tuesday, January 20, 2015 Kingfisher and blowing snow

Tuesday, January 20, 2015 Kingfisher and blowing snow

Seward, Alaska

Clear skies today meant cooler temps in the 20s rising to 30s, and sunshine. Apparently the price to pay was wind and lots of it, barreling through from the north, at 13-26 mph with gusts to 34 mph. The spectacular scenery all around grabbed my attention, every mountain a shining sculpture, the wind whipping snow into streamers off every ridge and peak.

I found a plucky young female KINGFISHER clinging to the thick cable line at the Lagoon with her tiny feet. She peered diligently into the water as the wind played with her rakish crest then dove with a big splash and returned to the perch. At one point, she gagged big time, and coughed up something. I have never observed this before, and it makes me wonder if Kingfishers have pellets like owls, or just occasional rejections of foreign objects… She blew downwind, leaving the Lagoon to the quarrelsome MALLARDS.

Late last night, I heard a SAW-WHET OWL beeping very faintly in the mountains. I wonder if he’ll be courting tonight over the roar of the wind, under the alluring stars.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Update: Chris Maack noted that any bird that has indigestible material in its gizzard can cast a pellet. She speculated that kingfishers might make pellets out of fish scales. That would be an interesting find! Thanks, Chris.









Tuesday, January 13, 2015 Trumpeter Swans made my day

Seward, Alaska

Heavy rain all night, tapered to moderate rain all day, and general gloomy grayness. BUT, spotting the TRUMPETER SWAN family with their two remaining, precious cygnets made my day! With temperatures in the mid 40s, the ice at their Nash Road wetlands has partly melted again. There they stood (and sat) on the ice at the water's edge, their reflections shining back up at them, beauty doubled.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter






Monday, January 15, 2015 First of Year Birds and then some

Seward, Alaska

Overcast with light sprinkles, north wind, and 48ยบ today! This is a strange and scary winter: no snow, ice on lakes and ponds wavering between frozen and liquid, willows and alders are starting to bud out. Green grass is easy to find, and the rest of the landscape is shades of brown.

No Golden Eagle today for me, but the HOODED MERGANSER was back in the half open Lagoon, looking mighty pleased with himself, accompanied by an adoring COMMON GOLDENEYE female.

I added three species to my 2015 list today at the head of the bay: a single NORTHERN SHRIKE, just a glimpse and then gone; a single SNOW BUNTING, who should not be alone; and 7 ROCK SANDPIPERS feeding at the tide’s edge.

I capped off the dim but exciting afternoon with a visit to the Alaska Sealife Center. I felt like Aladdin in Ali Baba’s cave, so many riches and all mine for the taking! The pair of SMEWs are so interesting to look at; the male is simply stunning. And the KING EIDER is, a one little visitor called him, a “rainbow bird.” He purred and cooed like a dove, though the lovely females were not impressed. What a great place to see the adorable LONG-TAILED DUCKS up close, and watch the antics of the puffins.

I had to skip the seals and sea lions, (like Aladdin I couldn’t see everything), but the moon jellies were mesmerizing. What a tremendous, inspirational facility; the wonders of the ocean universe await your visit.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter















Sunday, January 11, 2015 Golden Eagle juvenile

Seward, Alaska

The unusual GOLDEN EAGLE juvenile, beautiful and sleek, sat on a thick cable below the power line just yards from the highway north of the Lagoon this afternoon. What a joy to admire this raptor so close!

The perfect gold-tipped feathers on the head would be the envy of a professional hair stylist. Its dark brown eyes were alert but calm, studying the surroundings. Its wings hung limp but slightly outstretched, drying like laundry on a line, the white underwing patches matching the white tail with its dark border. Bold yellow talons casually gripped the cable, their power temporarily at ease.

A disheveled young BALD EAGLE perched in a spruce a short distance away, out of sight behind the row of intervening trees and shrubs. It called out, every now and then, as if to announce its presence to the young intruder.

Perhaps it knows that this is Bald Eagle country, of ocean, rivers, and salmon. The Golden bird of the mountains and open country did not migrate, and is now forced to scrounge out a living eating salmon bones and whatever else it can find until spring. For once, I hope there are enough feral rabbits still around to feed this magnificent being.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter