Monday, December 12, 2011 Eclipse and Loons

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report
Sunrise 9:52 am, sunset 3:50 pm. Length of day 5 hours, 57 minutes. Tomorrow will be 1 minute and 36 seconds shorter. 

The lunar eclipse on December 10th was stunning. Serendipitously, I awoke at 5 am and leaped out of bed, jumped into my winter coat, wind pants and snow boots, and bolted out the door. A copper penny floated in the clear sky above nearby Mt Marathon. The streetlights overpowered the stars, so I walked up Lowell Canyon leaving them all behind. What a wonder! I gazed at the alien object, silently suspended in space surrounded by sparkling stars.

With my binoculars, I could see craters and the round dimensionality of this normally flat-looking disk.  The coppery glow gradually shifted as it arced across the sky. A bright white crescent like a new fingernail moon appeared on the lower left as the earth's shadow eased away. Closer and closer it sailed towards the snowy mountain peak. As I crunched my way back down the icy road to civilization and my warm bed, the marvelous, mysterious moon slipped behind the mountain.  

December 11th dawned clear, but clouds soon rolled in. A huge storm hit Seward by early afternoon with lashing winds and cold rain. The temperature rose from 25º to 38º in a few hours.  I checked Lowell Point Beach for the Redwing but found only a small flock of JUNCOS and a very soggy PINE GROSBEAK at the fence line, eating fallen Mt Ash berries. The heavy snows knocked trees into the transmission lines at Mile 20-23 and plunged everyone south into darkness at 5:30 pm for several hours.

December 12th: The winds finally died down in the night, but the dark clouds remained.  I checked the beach for SNOW BUNTINGS but only found three who quickly flew away. A juvenile BALD EAGLE posed majestically on a stump, regarding me closely with its dark brown eyes. The boat harbor, ice free at 34º, hosted a nice flock of COMMON MERGANSERS, RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS, COMMON and BARROW'S GOLDENEYES, 2 HORNED GREBES, 3 PACIFIC LOONS, 1 COMMON LOON, and 1 YELLOW-BILLED LOON.

As I watched 11 more horned grebes and 3 surf scoters at the harbor mouth, the yellow-billed loon paddled out of the harbor and cruised serenely right along the breakwater below me. Wow! What a beauty! I managed to snap some photos before it disappeared. Soon, however, it came flying past, winging its way to the other side of the bay, startled by something I couldn't see.

Two river otters pulled out on the ice surrounding the small remaining open area at the north end of the Lagoon and rested briefly before plunging back in. A tiny DIPPER paddled about like a duck, then hopped up on the ice to peer into the cold water from the edge.

Towards sunset around 3: 30 pm, I headed back outside for a little walk (that dog gets me out!) The heavy blanket of clouds lifted just enough to let the low sun peek through and paint the snowy range across the bay a delicate pink. I stood transfixed, enjoying the spectacular and unexpected show. What a place, Seward!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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