Monday, May 2, 2016 Canvasbacks, Warblers

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 5:50 am, sunset 10:00 pm, for a total day length of 16 hours and 10 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 11 seconds longer.

Mostly cloudy days continue with occasional scattered showers, and brief glimpses of sunshine. Temps in the mid 40s, feels like our mild February but with a lot more light and everything popping out green. Dandelions, whose ambition is to take over the world, are in bloom already. Marsh Marigolds, who only wish to be beautiful and make seeds, are also starting to bloom along the streams.

FOS YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER male singing its slow warble in a young cottonwood surrounded by fragrant, unfurling, green leaves.

Also found an ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, FOS for me, but others have reported them a bit sooner.

The songs of GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROWS, FOX SPARROWS, SONG SPARROWS, VARIED THRUSH, ROBINS, RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS fill the air. I watched a Golden-crowned Sparrow feeding in the wild (no feeder!) She seemed to nibble at everything in her path, enjoying bits of tender green plants, tiny invertebrates, and who knows what else.

Three FOS CANVASBACKS including one female, touched down at the salt marsh pond. This species often skips Seward and usually doesn’t linger so it was quite a treat to watch them take a vigorous bath.

Also reported were FOS WHIMBRELS.

The ARCTIC TERN males are courting, diving expertly to snatch sticklebacks and other small fish while sweetie waits on her tiny red feet, cheering him on with expectant, begging cries. She is very capable of catching her own fish, but this is so much more fun!

I was surprised to find both TRUMPETER SWANS off the nest. The male was preening and guarding, the female feeding. Suddenly, she took off and flew like an avenging angel to her nest. She landed nearby, then walked majestically up to the nest. Not quite ready to sit, she preened and stretched leisurely over the nest, then finally settled back down on her precious eggs. I could almost hear her sigh.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter










Sunday, May 1, 2016 Hudsonian Godwit

Seward, Alaska

April 28, I spotted three VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS, the FOS for me. They were too fast for my camera, but the white rumps flashed.

April 29: two BLACK OYSTERCATCHERS probed the intertidal rocks for mussels at Fourth of July Beach on the east side of the bay. Another pair adorned Pinnacle Rock at Lowell Point State Recreation Site on the west side of the bay.

May 1: A single PIPIT flew overhead calling, at the head of the bay. Over 100 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED and CACKLING GEESE fed in the saltwater marsh until a BALD EAGLE stirred them aloft in uneasy swirls. 

Five beautiful, striking PACIFIC GOLDEN-PLOVERS also flew up but soon landed and began their characteristic stop-start-stop walk, gleaning food en route.  The Golden-Plovers joined an amazing HUDSONIAN GODWIT that was also feeding in the salt marsh. Its long bill was orange at the base and black at the tip. When it circled, I could see its dark underwing and black tail with a white rump. This species migrates from Chile or other parts of southern South America (!), and may be headed to western Cook Inlet to nest, or the arctic beyond.

Three NORTHERN HARRIERS, including one male, patrolled the grassy areas, hunting and finding fat voles.

It’s just incredible to consider the tremendous journey these migratory birds have accomplished. Welcome and good luck to every one!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter















Wednesday, April 27, 2016 Lincoln’s Sparrow

Seward, Alaska

I heard a rich, liquid bubbling song today at the former horse corral across from Benny Benson Park on Dairy Hill Lane, and came up blank. Who WAS that? The songster proved hard to spot, even as the little skulker flew from one low bush to the next. At least I caught a glimpse of something brownish! Finally, he flew to the middle of a taller budding willow and I recognized the LINCOLN’S SPARROW. Of course! Welcome home!

At Lowell Point Beach State Recreation Site, a bright male RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD zinged past. Yea! My first hummer sighting!

Busily feeding in the shallow water near the beach were 7 RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS including one male, and 8 noisy BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES. I wonder what small fish they were targeting there, gunnels?

Along Lowell Point Road, I found about 20 more Red-breasted Mergansers feeding near the intertidal rocks; numbers are increasing. Farther out, at least 70 SURF SCOTERS swam in long lines. About 30 BARROW’S GOLDENEYES preened and paddled in between. HARLEQUINS dotted the shoreline. I don’t expect many of these sea ducks to stay much longer.

Report of the first COMMON LOON calling at Bear Lake, and dippers nesting.

The alder male catkins are bursting out, dangling like fancy tassels, waiting for the wind to disperse their pollen. Cottonwoods are almost done, their reddish flowers, both male and female, decorate the ground. Insect pollinated willow flowers, both male and female are in bloom, ready for warblers to feast. I’m ready for warblers too, arriving any day.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter














Tuesday, April 26, 2016 MORE Geese and Cranes!

Seward, Alaska

I mistakenly thought the big push was over, but as the dark gray clouds rolled in on Monday, they were loaded with rain, a chilly wind, and birds. As evening approached, the sky was filled with rows and lines of black dots that looked more like swarms of bees than birds. As they grew closer, their glad cries rang out and hundreds of SANDHILL CRANES and GEESE landed, grounded by the weather.

These are the first landed Cranes I’ve had the pleasure of watching this spring. They absolutely dwarfed every other bird around, yet were very tolerant of the various ducks and geese feeding amongst them. Every stately bird was hungry, voraciously finding calories in the soggy but apparently rewarding wetlands. Now and then, a magnificent pair stretched skyward and bugled with excitement, wings outstretched. Spring! Homeward bound!

Tasha counted, a difficult task with this ever-changing feathered landscape, and posted on eBird: 246 SANDHILL CRANES, 77 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE, 327 CACKLING GEESE, and 12 ALEUTIAN CACKLING GEESE.

This morning, as the weather improved, more flocks of Geese and Cranes stroked up the bay and flew over town, funneled by the mountains. One would think all heads would snap skyward at the sound, but most folks seemed oblivious to this wonder of nature right overhead. What a stupendous feat, migration, and what an upwelling of hope, joy, and satisfaction to witness it!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter










April 24, 2016 Gulls close-up

Seward, Alaska

Sometimes, it’s just really interesting to get close-ups of obliging gulls, particularly their heads. Who knew that the eye color of different species was so varied, or that they all have species-specific hot-hued orbital rings? Even the gape, if feathers don’t cover it, are particular colors. Toss in the bright yellow bills with the flashy red spot on a pure white head and you’ll see that the underappreciated gulls are worth a closer look.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter