Sunrise 8:24 am, sunset 5:59
pm for a total day length of 9 hours and 35 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes
and 25 seconds longer.
Seward received about 4 more
inches of snow overnight. This continued into mid-morning with a parade of
black squalls careening in slow motion from one side of the bay to the other,
somehow heading north against the wind. Temps remained in the low 20s. The sun
broke through by afternoon and in a 180º switcheroo, turned the sky blue while
the snow dazzled the eye.
Around noon, I headed
out to the tidelands into the north wind, watching the smoldering squalls
dance. As I rounded a point, a SHORT-EARED OWL shot out and blew towards the
east side of the bay. Wow! The third owl species this week! I wonder if the
crazy weather brought it here.
Shortly afterwards, about 50
SNOW BUNTINGS buzzed around me and landed nearby on the tideflats, pecking
industriously at the water's edge. After several minutes, they undulated away
in big swooping loops. I watched them land on the beach rye grass, hoping to
shake a few more seeds off the almost depleted stalks. The pantry is getting
I had almost finished my walk
when I glanced up to see a dark eagle circling fairly low, almost overhead. Small head, long tail, white wing patches, white tail with a black band...Egad! a juvenile GOLDEN EAGLE!! Another
total surprise! Those squalls certainly carried fantastic secrets!
Later in the afternoon around
4:45 pm, I picked up my mail. As I pulled out of the Post Office, a dark eagle
circling high over town caught my eye. Sure enough, the GOLDEN EAGLE! I watched
as it soared to the south, then imperceptibly worked its way back towards Bear
Mountain. Snow streamers swirled from the glistening white mountains as the
eagle disappeared over ridge to the Harding Icefield. What an incredible sight!
But the magic show continued!
Around 9:30 pm, the aurora borealis flickered and glowed, waving its green
curtain across the northern sky, now a bowl of sparkling stars.
It is hard to go to bed but I
can hardly wait to find out what tomorrow will bring!
Sunrise 8:32 am, sunset 5:51
pm, for a total length of day of 9 hours 24 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5
minutes and 24 seconds longer. What a treat to still be light out after 6 pm!
A big storm dumped over a
foot of snow on Friday, transforming the sorry-looking bare ground into picture
postcard winter scenes. Massive dark clouds from the Gulf of Alaska delivered
load after load of addition snow over the weekend. At times, the wind whipped
the light fluffy stuff into ground blizzards, making visibility very difficult.
When those little tantrums subsided, it was calm and beautiful. Temperatures
are back in the winter normal range in the 20s.
Tonight, as a light snow
diminished, Jupiter, Orion, and his glittering dog Sirius shone through the
light cloud cover. The eastern sky brightened as the rising waning moon glowed
through the veil of clouds.
On Saturday, I enjoyed a walk
through the serene black and white world of snow and forest at Two Lakes Park.
An odd irregularity to the peaceful white blanket up ahead caught my eye. Upon
closer inspection, I found little tufts of brown and white fur scattered all
over the bank. Higher up, footprints and wing prints in the snow told how a
GREAT HORNED OWL plunged after a rabbit and grabbed it.
The owl enjoyed dinner high
up in a nearby spruce tree, inadvertently decorating the tree branches and bark
with little bits of fur as the rest showered to the ground. The good dogs were
fascinated by this discovery, and their Lab report soon made a mess of the
drama. One found the rabbit's foot, apparently only lucky because the owl found
it inedible. The dog thought it might be, but I took it away before she could
What a thrill to discover the
owl's story! And incidentally, Bird #63, confirming the snatch of GH OWL
hooting I heard on February 7th.
February 11: RED-FACED
CORMORANTS at the SMIC boat basin, Mile 5 Nash Road. A brownish juvenile stood
on a piling with two glossy green-sheened adults, preening in the sunshine.
NORTHERN SHRIKE at Fourth of
July Beach. It vocalized many times, a harsh, gutteral sound, perched at the
top of an alder.
February 12: about a dozen
MARBLED MURRELETS bobbed in the choppy white-capped waves as nearby GLAUCOUS-WINGED
GULLS dove headfirst into the froth for dinner, possibly herring, just offshore
by the Greenbelt.
February 13: calm and cold,
ghostly fog sprites danced down the bay. A pod of at least 7 Steller Sea Lions
patrolled the bay along Lowell Point Road, popping up to watch me with
curiosity. I finally found the lone male BLACK SCOTER, and a RED-NECKED GREBE,
#61 and 62.
February 14: GOLDEN-CROWNED
KINGLET busily at work, quite close in a spruce branch, talking to itself in a
tiny high voice, "tsee, tsee, tsee."
February 15: A drake MALLARD
flew furiously high across the sky; I didn't wonder why for long. A BALD EAGLE
soon appeared, stroking powerfully after it, cutting underneath. I did not see
the conclusion, but felt there was duck on the menu today.
February 16: I followed a
flock of 12 birds to a neighbor's Mt Ash tree where I identified them as
GRAY-CROWNED ROSY-FINCHES. They looked forlornly at the feeder, swarming with
NW CROWS, and departed.
About 20 ROBINS sat quietly
in a May Day tree.
At 7:30 pm, I was lucky to be
outside to hear an extremely close NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL calling loudly from
the lower slopes of Mt Marathon. At 10 pm, all was quiet. One never knows with
Last night about 10:30 pm I
tracked down the welcome sound of a NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL calling from the
south side of Mt Marathon up from Lowell Canyon. It's the first I've heard this
year. Bird #60! First new 2014 species since January 23.
This morning around 9 am, I
spotted the BRAMBLING feeding with DARK-EYED JUNCOS at the corner of Second and
Madison. Though there is still no snow on the ground, the colder temperature,
14º, seems to have brought the birds back to the feeders.
Sunrise 8:54 am, sunset 5:30
pm for a total length of day of 8 hours and 36 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5
minutes and 16 seconds longer. The temperature rose from 25º to a very
comfortable 35º, with a steady but moderate north wind.
Friday's blizzard warning was
cancelled and Seward was spared the destructive high winds that hit Homer,
Anchorage, and Mat-Su. Instead, the area received a dusting of snow, mostly
less than an inch, with a strong north wind to repel the sky-to-sea invasion of
storm clouds trying to advance from the Gulf of Alaska. Jupiter and a
sprinkling of stars peeked through the thinning clouds by evening.
Bright Venus again proclaimed
the imminent arrival of the Sun this morning. In the predawn twilight on the
morning walk, a flock of about 12 ROBINS mobbed a small Mt Ash, suddenly
popular due to the presence of its once-rejected berries. Apparently there are
a few different varieties of Mt Ash; some are preferred over others when there
is a choice. GROSBEAKS warbled from the treetops; vocal RAVENS flew from their
hidden roosts to investigate the town hotspots.
Halfway 'round the block, I
heard the cheerful call of a CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEE. I spied the little
sprite quite close in the bare branchlets of an alder. Luckily, I still had
some sunflower seeds in my pocket. I grabbed a handful and held them out. The
chickadee wasted no time in flying to my hand where it flung a few rejects to
the ground and selected one to go. After a minute, back it flew to choose
another seed. What a great way to start the day!
It was too beautiful to stay
inside so I soon headed to Ava's. Yesterday's storm brought 7 or 8 AMERICAN
TREE SPARROWS and several OREGON JUNCOS back to her feeders. I hoped to see the
Swamp Sparrow but it was quiet except for the usual DOWNY and HAIRY
WOODPECKERS. I'll keep checking. One bonus was the male BELTED KINGFISHER
perched on the powerline on Nash Road and Salmon Creek Road.
Over at Spring Creek Beach
two paddleboarders stroked out into beautiful Resurrection Bay. Farther out was
a mixed raft of SURF SCOTERS, COMMON MERGANSERS, LONG-TAILED DUCKS (just a
few), PELAGIC CORMORANTS, HORNED GREBES, COMMON and BARROW'S GOLDENEYES, MEW
and GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS, and a few BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES. A sea lion
leisurely cruised along the shore, its breath leaving a vapor cloud.
I glanced over at the eastern
mountains at just exactly the right time to catch the growing moon peeking over
the shoulder of a snowy mountain peak. It quickly rose over the snowy peaks
like a helium balloon to adorn the blue dome into the starry night.
One last stop was to walk
Chamberlain Road on the west side of the Lagoon to look for the reported
GOLDEN-CROWNED and WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS. The trimmed alder hedge suddenly
came alive with little peeps, and once again, a bright-eyed CHESTNUT-BACKED
CHICKADEE looked at me inquiringly. Do I look like a human bird feeder? I
scooped up some sunflower seeds from my pocket and held out my hand. This time,
two cute chickadees took turns selecting seeds. Such a light step!
A RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH,
caught up in the excitement, bravely landed on my hand, reconsidered, and flew
back to the safety of the hedge. It must have been a male, he was so bright! After
a bit, I kept walking and the chickadees kept following, accepting/demanding
seeds at intervals. When I turned around to walk on the other side, there they
were again! What a pleasure to walk along, with such fine company! I didn't
find the sparrows, but did not mind a bit.
Two TRUMPETER SWANS were
reported at the mouth of Salmon Creek; their freshwater options are very
limited now that most ponds and wetlands are refrozen.
A VARIED THRUSH was spotted
in the alley between First and Second, 400 block. Feeder activity is up with
the lower temperatures and snow cover.
The WHITE-THROATED SPARROW
was reported last Saturday at Lowell Point, and a second one has been seen at
Raven Lane behind Spenard's Building Supply on Exit Glacier Road.
Sunrise 9:06 am, sunset 5:17
pm, for a total length of day of 8 hours and 44 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5
minutes and 7 seconds longer.
After a brief dip this
weekend into the mid 20s with clear skies and a visit by a cheery sun, the
misty clouds returned today. The temps hovered around freezing, toying with the
option for slickery ice. The forecast calls for peeks of the sun tomorrow; we
shall see. If the skies are clear just before dawn, look for bright Venus
preceding the sun.
The ground remains bare of
snow; most of the feeder birds are dispersed. No reports of the SWAMP SPARROW,
the KILLDEER, or the BRAMBLING. One feels lucky to even spot a NUTHATCH, though
the CHESTNUT-BACKED and BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEES are abundant and reliable
The small flocks of ROBINS
and GROSBEAKS are still here, picking through the remnants of Mt Ash berries on
the ground. I spotted a Kenai SONG SPARROW among them, with a few DARK-EYED
Highlights today were seven
GREAT BLUE HERONS spotted by the harbor jetty, sitting in the light sn'rain,
looking as despondent as Eyore. 26 ROCK SANDPIPERS fed along the tideline,
usual winter visitors, but often as hard to find as the secretive herons.
GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS perched
on the pilings south of the harbor uplands. The soft gray sky behind merged
seamlessly with the calm gray ocean. BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES are also on the
rise as seafood processors gear up for cod.
MEW GULL numbers are
astronomically high this winter. Whereas some years it's hard to find a
handful, this winter there are upwards of 800-1000 gulls lining the head of the
bay, concentrating on the mouth of the Resurrection River. When stirred up by
an eager eagle, it looks like a snow globe blizzard.
An adult NORTHERN GOSHAWK was
reported near Phoenix and Dora Way over the weekend, perched in a spruce tree.
I have not yet seen it, but will keep looking.
Around January 22nd,
the overburdened cottonwood branches bearing the famous, enormous BALD EAGLE
nest near the intersection of Exit Glacier Road and the highway, snapped off.
The nest crashed to the ground in smithereens. The eagles still frequent the
area. We all hope they will rebuild nearby this spring.
Sunrise 9:37 am, sunset 4:53
pm, for a total length of day of 7 hours and 26 minutes. Tomorrow will be 4
minutes and 41 seconds longer.
Fog. Eerie, mysterious,
alive. All the rain from the past two weeks quietly wafted up today in a
mesmerizing silky silver shroud. Attentive ravens perching on streetlights
basked in the rare sunshine and enjoyed spectacular views of the surrounding
mountains. A few feet below, the town was submerged in the dim and damp ocean
of fog. Cars crept along, unable to see even with headlights on and the
defroster blasting away. There was no need to defrost the windshield; it was
Without the slightest breath
of wind, the fog filled the valley and bay. Only well after noon, when the sun
summoned all its January might, did the mist start to grudgingly clear up, but
in a patchwork quilt of clear and fog. The thermometer hit 37º but with a dew
point of 35º it didn't take much to quickly transform back and forth.
This evening, with the
freshly washed, sparkling stars and bright Jupiter, it's hard to believe that
the forecast is for heavy rain tomorrow and more rain until midweek. Carpe
I knew it would be a really special day when the sun lit up the nearby peaks at dawn. A flock of DARK-EYED JUNCOS,
including one male OREGON JUNCO burst out of a small spruce roost and headed to
the feeder. PINE GROSBEAKS sang from the top of a cottonwood. BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS
chirred from another cottonwood. About 14 ROBINS erupted from a spruce, heading
for the bedraggled remains of Mt Ash berries for breakfast. CHESTNUT-BACKED and
BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEES called cheerily as they snicked one sunflower seed at a
time. Raucous STELLER'S JAYS proclaimed the dawn and possession of everything
not already claimed by the pugnacious RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES.
I checked a few other feeders
on my way across the bay; nothing! At the intersection of Nash Road and Salmon
Creek Road, I screeched to a stop to take photos of a handsome male BELTED
KINGFISHER, patiently fishing from the powerline above the salmon creek.
At the end of Nash Road, at
the SMIC boat basin, I found PELAGIC CORMORANTS sitting in the fog on the
pilings. An unusual "fogbow" formed to the north, an amazing arc of
white. Over on the north dock railing, the beautiful resident female BELTED
KINGFISHER stood on her short little legs, diligently watching the water below.
A short time later, I met
some other birders. We happened to glance down and discovered a fascinating,
large, dark, oval shape in the water. It was alive! A dense mass of small Pacific Herring,
the perfect size for the Kingfisher. "Bait ball" does not begin to
convey the sense of wonder I felt seeing these fish. They had no place to hide
except amongst themselves, and everything wanted to eat them. One gollump from
a whale and all would be lost. But here, backs against the steel breakwater,
only the Kingfisher and Cormorants seemed to be aware of them.
At the end of the north dock,
five LONG-TAILED DUCKS drifted in the fog, two males and three females. A long
line of SURF SCOTERS paddled among the flotsam of ghostly MEW and
Bright HARLEQUIN DUCKS,
HORNED GREBES, and BARROW'S GOLDENEYES dove in the sunshine by Spring Creek Beach
a short distance but a world away. The bait ball must have moved, for suddenly
the gulls flew up and joined the sunshine seabirds, plunging headfirst into the
I headed over to Fourth of
July Beach to walk the patient dogs. The green surf barreled out from the flat
ocean and crashed onto the beach, a powerful, rhythmic force. They must be
messengers from a storm far out in the Pacific. I only saw a few GOLDENEYES
paddling in the distance, but found something else of great interest.
There in a dry sandy swale
about 25' from the water, lay a beautiful glistening fish about 10" long,
a Saffron Cod. I knelt down to take photos of its beautiful bright eye. Suddenly,
its gills moved! Yikes! It was miraculously still alive! Who knows how long it
was lying here, out of water. I picked it up and clumsily carried it back to
the water and tossed it in, hoping for the best. After a minute, I didn't see
it anymore. Tough fish!
I walked back wondering if
there were any other fish in need of a lift. Sure enough, a sand-encrusted Masked Greenling, about 8" long, sat on the former ocean floor, facing
the water, but O so far away! I picked this one up with more confidence and
placed it gently in a calm pool that would soon fill with the tide. Its gills
moved, but slowly. I hope it makes it! What a crazy situation; I've never
noticed beached fish here before. I realized later that the fish were trapped by the ebbing tide in this low spot behind a gravelly berm without a channel for escape, and the water drained away leaving them behind.
Another fogbow graced the
beach with the snowy mountains behind. So unusual! This whole day has been so
full of wonderful sights!
I stopped several times on the
way home to revel in the beauty of the sun-bathed mountains contrasted with the
fog-shrouded bay. As the sun reached the welcoming arms of the western peaks,
the dew point dropped, and the fog leaped up to reclaim the clear gaps. Once
again, it was necessary to have the headlights on, and I crept home, amazed by
this fog phenomenon and all it had revealed and concealed on this Superlative Saturday. Many thanks to Richard Hocking at the Alaska Sealife Center for the fish ID.