Thursday, February 2, 2012 Kittiwakes, and mystery missile

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Sunrise 9:10 am, sunset 5:13 pm, length of day 8! hours, 2 minutes; tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 3 seconds longer.

Weather: February arrived, took a look around and abruptly slammed January's freezer door shut. Then she turned up the thermostat to around 34ยบ, and delivered snow/sleet/rain in successive, dramatic squalls. Tiny patches of blue sky winked between ominous blue-black, dense walls of precipitation. I caught a glimpse of the waxing moon before the clouds jealously closed the curtain and unleashed another barrage of sleet.

Melting snow with nowhere to flow created deep ponds in the streets; vehicles created wakes and rooster tails while getting and giving a free car wash. Several buildings reported flooding. Blizzard warnings and watches flashed on and off for Turnagain Arm while an avalanche at the Y blocked traffic on both the Sterling and Seward Highway for most of the day.

Out in the raging bay, riled by a strong south wind, I noticed at least 3 BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES feeding among the whitecaps. No sign of the two humpback whales, sea lion pods, or masses of murres, but visibility was extremely limited.

I spent several happy hours on the roof, ostensibly shoveling off the 3+ feet of heavy snow. I had scarcely begun when I felt and heard a powerful whooshing sound right over my head. The raptorious missile shot across the garage and instantly disappeared before I could focus on it. Stunned, I watched for another chance, but nothing emerged. I pictured rigid curved wings, tensed in a deadly dive at 100 mph. I replayed the sound; it reminded me of a stunt kite on a kamikaze dive.

After a time, a raven sailed over, playing in the wind: "wha-wha-wha" went the wings. Eventually, about 30 GRAY-CROWNED ROSY-FINCHES returned, as well as the flock of GROSBEAKS, twitters of the JUNCOS, raucous staccato of the STELLER'S JAYS, and BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEES braved flights from one spruce to another. The bird world seemed nervous, but not petrified. Watching them was a great excuse to pause my labors and rest until a really serious squall told me it was time to get down.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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