Wednesday, April 18, 2012 Spring has SPRUNG!

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Sunrise 6:29 am, sunset 9:25 pm, length of day 14 hours, 56 minutes; tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 25 seconds longer.

Weather: A beautiful, clear sunny day despite the forecast to the contrary. Temps in the high 30s to mid 40s, with a south breeze still packing a bit of a nip. 

Yesterday's succession of rain showers did bring spring concealed in their gray, ponderous curtains. First thing this morning, I heard a new, sparrow-type birdsong sung by 3 males in the 'hood. Strange but oddly familiar. I tracked one down and sure enough, found a very handsome "red" interior race FOX SPARROW. This is not "our" fox sparrow, whose dialect is quite different. This subspecies will keep moving north to their breeding grounds.

A ROBIN burst forth in full song towards the top of a nearby cottonwood tree, surrounded by a host of swelling buds. Our winter robins disappeared for a couple months; I think this is a new migrant.

Many spring surprises awaited at the beach: the single BONAPARTE'S GULL, many dozens of MALLARDS, GADWALL, NORTHERN PINTAILS, GREEN-WINGED TEAL, several AMERICAN WIGEON pairs and two pairs of EURASIAN WIGEON. New for the year was a pair of handsome NORTHERN SHOVELERS.

Amid the squeaking of the wigeons, metallic "chink" of the teal, complaining "quack" of the mallards, and incessant cries of the gulls, I heard a high, "chip, chip, chip!" followed by a rasping rattling cry. I searched the blue sky and soon found 9 ARCTIC TERNS, the top gun hot shots, cruising gracefully along the beach, acting as if they had never left. Their 11,000 mile journey behind them, they seemed ecstatic to be home. Several terns, I assume males, proudly carried little gifts of sticklebacks to court their sweeties. The tiny fish looked stunned and none too pleased that the terns had returned.

At low tide, I was amazed to see two first of season TRUMPETER SWANS resting in the middle of the tide flats. The pond, where they would probably much rather be, is still frozen with only a small lead of open water. The ducks are jammed up in the bay too, waiting for the pond to open.

As I was leaving and almost back to the car, I heard a soft "honk." I whirled around, looking everywhere for the source. Yikes! The two swans flew right overhead! What an incredible sight! I hope they find a nice, quiet, open pond or maybe the Kenai River at Cooper Landing to spend the night.

I have not yet had the pleasure of seeing Sandhill Cranes though the first flock was reported flying over Bear Lake on April 16th, and a few more flocks yesterday and today. And I am still waiting to see and hear the first geese: Snow, Canada and Greater White-fronted. But I am NOT complaining! This was a fantastic spring day!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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