Thursday, March 23, 2017 Eagles and signs of Spring
Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 7:48 am, sunset 8:21 pm for a total day light of 13 hours and 58 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 30 seconds longer.

The ever-warmer sun rises earlier and farther north above the eastern mountains, sails across the blue sky in an ever-higher arc, and clears the western mountains by greater distances every day. Its brilliance is almost too bright for winter eyes, especially when reflected off the feet-thick blanket of snow.

Today’s low was 19º at 8 am with a high of 36º at 3 pm. The strong NNE wind blew away most of that warmth, as it has for most of March, keeping a firm grip on winter. Due to the wind, birding has been challenging!

The forecast calls for a few more days of sunshine. An enormous low is approaching from the Aleutians with strong winds, temps in the low 40s, and rain/snow showers as March gives way to April. Batten the hatches!

Despite the snow and wind, Spring is in the air for RAVENS. On March 11 and for several subsequent days, I saw Ravens carrying nesting materials to their secret nest sites. They like an early start.

With the season opening of sablefish and halibut on March 11, fishing boats have been busy delivering to the Seward area seafood processors. The fish and fish waste piped into the bay are a magnet for Gulls and Bald Eagles. The most accessible viewing, with a scope, is from the Harbor Uplands to the “bird feeder” to the south, a white blizzard of birds.

Herring arrived in mid-March as well, marked by swarms of Gulls hovering and diving on the bait balls. Bald Eagles flew ponderously overhead, and dove repeatedly, talons outstretched, grabbling fistfuls of tiny fish, until they tired and had to rest onshore.

I also saw Bald Eagles grabbing larger fish, such as a Pacific Cod right out of the water. An exciting chase ensued with four other Eagles in hot pursuit. When the initial fisher flew to shore, it only had half a fish as the rest had been ripped away.

After a lean winter, the birds are nuts about the return of the fish.
Other signs of spring: On March 18, a WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW and a ROBIN were singing despite the chilly 13º temperatures. They continued the next day as 4” of snow fell, and the next day in sunshine.
On March 21, I refound the pure white GLAUCOUS GULL at Fourth of July Beach, feeding in the intertidal zone on what I believe was algae, with GLAUCOUS-WINGED, MEW, and one HERRING GULL. BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES chose to take a bath in the creek’s fresh water instead.
On March 22, official first day of Spring, I spotted 8 SNOW BUNTINGS flying in the distance. There’s not much left of the beaten down beach rye grass for them to eat.
This morning, I heard a terrifically loud drumming and searched until I spotted a little male DOWNY WOODPECKER whaling away on a small cottonwood trunk. I was very impressed and I hope his little lady was too!
Area feeders remain extremely important to many birds with the thick and hard snow cover: PINE SISKINS, PINE GROSBEAKS, ROBINS, VARIED THRUSHES, OREGON and SLATE-COLORED JUNCOS, RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES, BLACK-CAPPED and CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES, GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROWS, WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS, STELLER’S JAYS, BLACK-BILLED MAGPIES, DOWNY and HAIRY WOODPECKERS.
Their sweet mixed songs and calls fill the air with hope and joy. They survived the winter!
Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

















Monday, March 13, 2017 Glaucous Gull

Seward, Alaska

Hundreds of gulls hunkered down in the north wind at the mouth of Fourth of July Creek.  I scanned the white mass of wind-strewn feathered snowballs. Most were MEW GULLS and GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS, with some BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES. But there, standing a little apart, was a large, pink-legged, white gull with a yellow eyes and a pink bill tipped with black: a second winter GLAUCOUS GULL!

As wave after wave took off, the Glaucous Gull finally joined the wheeling, crying cloud, once again invisible in the mass, stroking out to feed on herring bait balls.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter



Sunday, March 12, 2017 Barrow’s Goldeneyes and Surf Scoters

Seward, Alaska

The north wind abated, at least down to a level where I could sit on the beach at the edge of the receding tide without getting blown away. Just offshore, the sun lit up the gorgeous plumages of BARROW’S GOLDENEYES and a bit farther off, SURF SCOTERS.

As I sat quietly, several approached, intent on feeding. I felt an urge to hold my breath; they were so close, so wild, and so beautiful. Passerines seem to get all the press, which is so unfair.

Look at the bold patterns on the Surf Scoter’s bill: the bright orange base fades to red, pierced by a large nostril opening, then tapers to a curvy tip of yellow with a dash of black. If that were not enough, the artist added a white oblong with a perfectly placed black brush mark at the base. 

But that’s not all! The round eyes are icy white with tiny black radiating lines. A white patch tops the black head, complemented by a long white nape. What a bird! And when they dive, their reddish-orange legs flash for an additional delightful surprise.

Of the group of eight, only one was a female. One of the males lacked the white crown that made him look oddly undressed, as if his hat had just blown away.

After the Scoters and Goldeneyes paddled past, a pair of Goldeneyes flew back. Usually very wary, they must not have noticed me at first as they chose to land right in front. Orange landing gear out, their webbed feet surfed along the water’s surface and they settled down with a splash. 

Hmm, what is that driftwood thingy? They paddled together eying me suspiciously, turning this way and that. The male’s head became an iridescent purple in the light. Then they wisely and sedately paddled away, erring on the side of caution.

All clear, I eased my way back over the snow berm, thrilled with yet another gift from Nature.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter


















Friday, March 10, 2017 Hot Java!

Seward, Alaska

What an interesting and entertaining bird, the RAVEN! Seemingly carefree at 13 degrees in a strong north wind, I spotted one handsome bird perched on top of a 7 foot snow bank with a treasure: a flattened paper coffee cup. O, what a prize! Horns up, he paraded it around, trying to impress the other Raven nearby. Upon noticing the paparazzi, he quickly snatched it up and flew over the berm and out of sight. Hot Java!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter