Sunday, March 18, 2012 FOS Pintail, and McKay's Bunting

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Sunrise 8:03 am, sunset 8:09 pm, length of day TWELVE hours, 6 minutes; tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 29 seconds longer. No need to wait for Spring Equinox "equal night" on March 19th ; we're already past 12 hours of daylight!

Weather: Spectacular last day of winter, drenched in sunshine while chilled by a brisk north wind with temps in the high 20s.

Many surprises today at the beach: A beautiful drake FOS NORTHERN PINTAIL led a mixed flock of about 40 ducks including GADWALL and MALLARDS. The long slender neck with the graceful white stripe, and "pin" tail was unmistakable, even at a distance. There may have been more pins and other species, but they were far away and fleeting.

I sat at the edge of the beach at high tide, sandwiched between 3+ feet of snow at my back and gentle wavelets at my feet. I felt like I was sitting in a freezer with its door open to summer. Suddenly, I heard the familiar chirruping of SNOW BUNTINGS. About 10 birds briefly landed on the narrow beach close by. I barely had time to turn and take a few photos before they shot overhead and quickly disappeared over the snowy landscape. One was an extremely white McKAY'S BUNTING. We haven't seen Buntings for quite a while; and now they show up with the Pintail!

On my other side, four BARROW'S GOLDENEYES paddled against the outgoing tide, surrounded by snow and ice. The purple-hued drakes competed for the hens' attention with contests for the longest neck, quickest head bob, and then lowest profile. It was quite entertaining and I think the hens were impressed too.

MEW and GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS preened and basked in a large flock, shimmering in the rising heat waves backlit by the sparkling sunshine.

Small groups of COMMON MERGANSERS, BUFFLEHEAD, and GADWALL flew overhead. Two COMMON RAVENS flew swiftly by, the chaser loudly berating the other who wisely kept its beak clamped firmly on a rather large and tantalizing treat. It is not known who actually snagged this prize first.

On my way back, a single SNOW BUNTING foraged just ahead of me on the beach before flying off. I hope it finds the rest of the flock for the trip back up north.

Over at the boat harbor, I spotted a RED-NECKED GREBE and an adult COMMON LOON in the middle open water; much of the harbor remains iced in. The juvenile YELLOW-BILLED LOON rested quietly near the far breakwater. Twice, I watched it raise its long left leg and waggle it in the air, and then tuck it under its left wing. The loon's legs are so far back, this otherwise astonishing feat is easy.

Back in town, the cottonwood trees and feeders attracted a DOWNY WOODPECKER, MAGPIES, STELLER'S JAYS, RAVENS, BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEES, RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES, DARK-EYED JUNCOS, PINE GROSBEAKS, COMMON REDPOLLS, and PINE SISKINS. Their cheerful chatter was excellent company while shoveling the roof. I looked for, but did not find the Gray-crowned Rosy-finches, but they were reported last week.

Friday, I found two WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS and a SONG SPARROW at a neighbor's feeder.

Let the First Of Season (FOS) reports begin!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad that Ken Tarbox posts your bird reports for the rest of us in Soldotna and Kenai! You write beautifully and I love your pictures. You (almost) make a person want to move to Seward! Thanks for doing this.