Thursday, February 9, 2012 Rock Sandpipers

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Sunrise 8:52 am, sunset 5:31 pm, length of day 8 hours, 39 minutes; tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 17 seconds longer.

Weather: Sprinkles at dawn cleared by mid-morning and a balmy, sunny day was pulled out of the hat like a rabbit in a magic trick. The thermometers around town pegged out at 49, but mid 40s seem more likely. Today was another unexpected gift. Gotta love those gloomy but inaccurate forecasts!

I revisited the boat harbor and had better luck with a PACIFIC LOON surfacing close by. This species seems much more wary than its larger cousins and does not linger long at the surface. I spotted a COMMON MURRE resting on a small piece of ice; soon it, or other one that looked just like it (surprise!), paddled too close for my camera to focus, looking very peaceful and unalarmed. A BALD EAGLE managed to perch on top of a sailing mast nearby, probably looking for just such an innocent bird to take to lunch.

The YELLOW-BILLED LOON adult and juvenile, a COMMON LOON, and a RED-NECKED GREBE paddled around the middle of the harbor, quite a bit farther away than yesterday, but wonderful to see nonetheless.

Out at the tidelands, over 1000 gulls, mostly MEW GULLS swarmed like a highly localized blizzard. I suspect an eagle may have had something to do with this. Small groups of Mew gulls flew overhead and others floated serenely in the calm, golden water. A flock of about 11 COMMON MURRES flew frantically, looping far inland and then back out to sea. I found a carcass, partially eaten, by the highway. It's a dangerous business, being a murre.

Three ROCK SANDPIPERS suddenly flitted up and flew a short distance away. They landed right at the high tide line and began rummaging through the fresh seaweed, picking out the tiny pink and reddish Macoma clams. This clam seems to be a favorite of many shorebirds, and recent storms have washed many colorful shells on shore. The trio worked its way towards me, picking and eating. 

I moved away to swim the good dog and refound them on the way back. They rested on a log, head tucked under wing, until the rising tide nudged them higher. By slowly post-holing around behind them up to my knees in softening snow, I managed to avoid disturbing them. It was a very fine afternoon to take a snooze in the sun.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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