Tuesday, March 20, 2012 On Vacation in Seward

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Weather: Another sparkling but chilly day with a brisk north wind and temps in the mid to high 20s. Spring continues Winter's legacy, though the sun rides high and bright.

I tucked into Lowell Point Beach at noon to escape the wind. A Frenchman sat on the snow, heating water on his little camp stove to make soup. He marveled at the spectacular scenery, a mountain goat he had watched crossing the immense avalanche above the road, two Steller sea lions, and HARLEQUIN DUCKS swimming close by. As I punched through the snow and sloshed through the tide, (no bare beach exposed today!) two SNOW BUNTINGS flashed over the snowy expanse and disappeared. So quick!

I counted about 40 HARLEQUINS, paddling along in small flocks, feeding a short distance away in the floating wrack at the high tide line. A juvenile BALD EAGLE lazily circled overhead, judging his chances of Harlie for lunch, and decided against it.

At low tide around 5:30, I packed a picnic supper and drove to the east side of the bay to enjoy the western sunshine. The seafood processing bird feeder attracted a glitter of gulls including BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES, MEW GULLS, and GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS. A long raft of dark SURF SCOTERS contrasted dramatically with the white confetti of gulls. Mixed in the mayhem were HARLEQUINS, COMMON and BARROW'S GOLDENEYES, COMMON and RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS, HORNED GREBES, RED-NECKED GREBES, PELAGIC CORMORANTS, and COMMON MURRES.

The road to Fourth of July beach was plowed and thanks to the cool temps was firm and slush-free. NORTHWESTERN CROWS busily picked through the rocky intertidal area at the east end. I watched several clever crows fly up and drop blue mussels on the rocks to break them open. Nearby, rafts of BARROW'S GOLDENEYES snorkled and dove as close to the rocks as possible. 

The retreating tide deposited thousands of fresh krill, aka Euphasiids, along the sandy, sheltered swales. I wish I had brought crackers! They were salty with a delicious shrimp flavor. Apparently the birds prefer other food as I saw no evidence of them feeding on these mini-shrimp.

A sudden roaring snapped my attention to a dozen Steller sea lions, thrashing and splashing just off shore. Fish on! As a couple with their two dogs walked down the beach, they reared up, watching the land mammals with curiosity, surged away, resurfaced and roared, then reared up to peek again. The enormous bull dwarfed all the other sea lions surrounding him. What a splendid sight!

I checked the boat basin one more time on the way back. The gulls et al were still at it, feeding in a frenzy. A pair of COMMON MERGANSERS flew in to the basin to join four COMMON MURRES and a sea otter. They tucked their bills under a wing, signaling the close of another busy day. The blue wave troughs alternated with ribbons of gold crests from the low sun, setting behind Mt Marathon at 7:30.

Along Nash Road, I spotted the big brown haunch of a moose feeding just on the other side of the tall snow berm, and yet another a mile farther on. It's still hungry-time for land animals, but spring is definitely on the way.

I feel so lucky to live here; it feels like a vacation without the airfare!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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