Monday, March 26, 2012 Signs of Spring

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Sunrise 7:38 am, sunset 8:28 pm, length of day 12 hours, 50 minutes; tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 30 seconds longer.

Weather: After the surprise mini-blizzard and local white-out conditions on Friday, the weather improved considerably by noon on Saturday. Sunny skies and temps in the high 20s to mid 30s continued through Sunday. Brilliant Venus dimmed the stars well past 10 pm but I missed the heralded fingernail moon riding between Venus and Jupiter.

The clouds quietly gathered today, playing peek-a-boo with the sun. The wind slept soundly, leaving a perfectly flat calm bay. It was eerily still. By afternoon, enough clouds had ganged up to squeeze out some snowflakes, but it didn't amount to anything. No matter how much snow remains in our future, spring is definitely in the air. I found a Sitka willow budding out and a mosquito in my car!

It seemed fairly quiet at first with regards to both the wind and birds at Lowell Point beach today. But thanks to the flat calm, I finally spotted 2 MARBLED MURRELETS far out on the bay. They are so small, even a small wave can hide them.  Scanning with binocs also produced 1 PIGEON GUILLEMOT, several COMMON MURRES, a RED-NECKED GREBE, and a PELAGIC CORMORANT. About 30 HARLEQUINS rafted up near the shoreline.

A small but noisy flock of gulls over a bait ball out in the bay attracted 3 adult BALD EAGLES and 2 juveniles. The adults repeatedly flew out and grabbed fistfuls of fish, possibly large herring. They flew so low coming back, their powerful wings almost touched their reflection in the water.

A local kayaker launched from the beach to enjoy a paddle, followed a bit later by another local rowing a single shell. A Steller's sea lion cruised by, then a harbor seal popped up. It was so peaceful. Even the 3 NORTHWESTERN CROWS were uncharacteristically quiet. I watched one stroll along the beach, selectively eating a few of the numerous krill that had washed up.

Two friends led me to an unusual, fascinating but gruesome sight. Not a murre this time, but a RAVEN, recently killed, plucked, and eaten by an eagle. (I presume.) I can't imagine why the raven let itself be caught or the fearsome struggle that ensued. The wing marks and divots in the snow told a story I could only partly translate. The ending was very clear, however. Somewhere nearby is a sad raven, missing its mate. The promise of life and the specter of death teeter on the same coin.

A sea otter paddling backwards and rolling enjoyed a meal along Lowell Point Road. I looked for the four Mt Goats I saw yesterday up on the cliffs without success. The kid that was reported looked like a one-year old, not this year's, and was very cute.

Several dozen BARROW'S GOLDENEYES took baths in the fresh water flowing from Lowell Creek. I noticed the same event attended by more than 50 Goldeneyes at Scheffler Creek by the harbor uplands.

Later in the evening around 7:30 pm, I heard the cry of gulls from my house, another sound of spring. I couldn't resist checking it out. Nothing at the cannery, nothing near shore. Finally I found a scattered flock, not flying but floating in the middle of the bay, carrying on loudly. I wonder if they are advertising the arrival of more bait fish/herring? As more halibut and black cod boats deliver their catch to the processors, this cry of spring will continue late into the ever shorter night.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

1 comment:

  1. Jeez, a mosquito? They can survive anything!