Monday, January 15, 2018 Chickadee Secret

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 9:47 am, sunset 4:29 pm for a total day length of 6 hours and 42 minutes.
Tomorrow will be 3 minutes and 53 seconds longer.

Spring-like temperatures and rain conspired to wipe out the last vestiges of snow these past several days, except for tiny remnant patches. Stubborn ice, however remains on streets and trails. After a week of clouds and precip, the sky cleared last night and Seward rejoiced in a warm, sunny day today with a high of 37 F.

100% chance of rain for Tuesday and most of Wednesday with winds to 13 mph. Keep those feeders filled; the birds really appreciate the fuel!

I only added 5 species to my 2018 list: a handsome male VARIED THRUSH,  one RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, a HAIRY WOODPECKER, Ava’s RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET, still hanging in there, and one SHARP-SHINNED HAWK for a total of 43 species.

Yet, it was a thrill when first 3, then 5, then another 5, and more and more ROBINS for a total of 21 flew directly overhead on the dawn walk on Monday, January 8. On Wednesday, 13 Robins packed into a narrow strip of exposed grass along the sidewalk leading to the Post Office. COMMON REDPOLLS frisked the nearby alder cones for tiny seeds. Busy patrons walked past, apparently not even aware of this delightful sight.

On Friday and Saturday, while 100 mph winds pummeled the Barren Islands and a gigantic low roared across the Gulf of Alaska, Seward was spared the wind, protected by the surrounding mountains and barrier islands. BARROW’S GOLDENEYES and HARLEQUIN DUCKS rode the surf, curling and breaking along the shore, neatly diving at the last second as the frothing curl cascaded overhead.

A birder reported seeing the drake HOODED MERGANSER at Stash and Store Pond yesterday. Ava reported FOURTEEN TRUMPETER SWANS, including TWO pairs of adults with two cygnets (a new winter record) at a pond at the head of the bay today. Wow! My car is at the shop, otherwise I would have raced over to see that!

But the best bird experience was totally unexpected. Around 5 pm on Tuesday, just when twilight was seriously turning to night, I happened to be on the back deck. A Chickadee (Black-capped or Chestnut-backed, too dark to tell for sure) popped up and scolded first from the Mt Ash, then over by the elderberry bush. I wondered what was the matter? Then suddenly, the tiny bird flew up and into the empty swallow nest box mounted on a post at the end of the deck. A roosting box! How special! And I realized the problem was me! Oops!

The next evening, I made sure to be near the deck, but not too close before 5 pm. Sure enough, at 4:57 pm, here came the little sprite, almost a silhouette, and without any fanfare, zipped into the nest box. A minute later, another Chickadee materialized and it too, zipped into the box. I was so excited and pleased to think of these two little puffs keeping each other warm, side by side in the repurposed nest box.

The bigger mystery remains of where all the other birds sleep, but at least I figured out the secret of two!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Sunday, January 7, 2018 First Birds of the Year

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 9:57 am, sunset 4:13 pm, for a total day light of 6 hours and 15 minutes. Tomorrow will be 2 minutes and 56 seconds longer.

In the first week of the year, Seward experienced the highest tide of 2018, a variety pack of strong wind, calm, rain, a rainbow, snow, ice, partly cloudy, and mostly sunny days, and temperatures ranging from a low of 18 to a high of 43 F. The two mostly sunny days were calm and spring-like with temps just above freezing. Friday’s 3” of snow on top of slick ice decided to stay, so even if the temp is mild it looks like a real winter. Ice grippers are highly recommended.

The New Year is a fun time to start a 2018 list with First of Year birds. Every species counts, no matter how common or abundant. Yay! A PINE SISKIN! Time to refill the feeders! So far, I have found 38 species.

The highlights of this first week of 2018 were many:
The resident TRUMPETER SWAN family materialized when the ice thawed on local ponds. Two adults accompanied the two cygnets; I hope by some miracle one was the parent that hit the power lines and fell, stunned, then somehow survived and rejoined the family. Six other adult swans fed gracefully nearby for a total of ten.

The KILLDEER, continuing unusual plover from December, somehow survived the short nights and lousy weather. It stretched, displaying its lovely apricot-colored rump. Then it continued to forage in a shallow tidal puddle, appearing to walk on water, accompanied by its reflection.

ROCK SANDPIPERS and at least one DUNLIN flickered like little lights at the edge of the tide, bobbing up and down, then shot off like fireworks for a display of synchronized flying before alighting to feed again.

Five GREAT BLUE HERONS perched morosely like gloomy Eyores on top of the coal chute in the rain, waiting for the high tide to ebb. I know they’re around, but they are so hard to find most of the time. It was quite a treat and surprise to find five.

One continuing GLAUCOUS GULL stood out in a flock of GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS, so distinct with its pale plumage and bicolored bill. Many years, we have none. I’ll be looking for the other two that were here in December.

A very handsome male ROBIN flew into Ava’s Place, scattering the 100 or so PINE SISKINS and a smattering of COMMON REDPOLLS. He checked out all the platters of seeds on the deck railing, picking out the hulled sunflower seeds. Then he plopped down in the yard to glean the last remaining Mt Ash berries from the ground. If Robins weren’t so common, they would be revered for their beauty.

I didn’t find the tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglet, but Ava has seen him recently.

In town, I have yet to see the single Gray-crowned Rosy-finch or Fox Sparrow, plus several relatively common birds. But the year is yet young and I look forward to seeing them all, then check them off the list.

Happy New Year and Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Sunday, December 24, 2017 Baby Beluga at the Alaska Sealife Center

Seward, Alaska
Alaska Sealife Center

The adorable, ever-smiling baby beluga, Tyonek, loves to play. Today after his noon bottle feeding, a staff person from the Shedd Aquarium dribbled water drops into his eager mouth. He discovered the floating pool thermometer and pushed it expertly around like a little tug boat. The water, incidentally, was 46º, same as Resurrection Bay. The pool is now filled to the brim to allow him to dive as deeply as possible, holding his breath up to 3 minutes. He showed off how he could turn upside down, exposing his whitish baby belly, and did a little spying with only his head above water. At 3 months, 222 pounds, he’s healthy, active, and on track.
The Alaska Sealife will be closed for Christmas. Don’t forget the upcoming Beluga Chats presentations at 12:15 pm on December 26, 28, 29, and 30th, free with paid admission. The ASLC offers free admission for Alaska residents on Wednesdays from 12 to 5 pm through February 28. Donations and memberships are greatly appreciated to help support this fabulous facility.