Thursday, May 10, 2012 Snow showers and tsunami debris

Soggy Seward Birding
Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Sunrise 5:29 am, sunset 10:20 pm, length of day 16 hours, 51 minutes; tomorrow will be 4 minutes and 55 seconds longer.

Weather: Unbelievable! It was snowing rain or raining snow this morning, enough to tinge the ground white. As the day warmed up to a whopping 40ยบ the steady precip became invisible, but wet nonetheless. More sn'rain in the forecast for the next several days with strong wind as a bonus.

Thanks to the series of storms and brisk south winds, the birds continue to blow in. In weather like this, car birding is much easier on optics and provides a great blind. Today I parked along the beach south of the Scheffler Creek bridge. The WANDERING TATTLER was joined by a LESSER YELLOWLEGS and several WESTERN SANDPIPERS, poking and picking through the intertidal zone seaweeds. HARLEQUINS took a break from the ocean to nap in the rain on the slippery rocks while MEW GULLS stood guard nearby.

Several NORTHERN SHOVELERS paddled close to shore with their heads low to the water, their over-sized bills straining the nutrient-laden water. A small raft of SURF SCOTERS dove in synchrony; a nearby flock of GREATER SCAUP echoed their movements.

A BALD EAGLE stood smack in the middle of Scheffler Creek, up to its pantaloons in the current. Every now and then, it lowered its head, scooped up a beakful of water to drink, and then looked around regally, a soggy bird surveying its soggy kingdom.

A bit farther from shore, BARROW'S GOLDENEYES paddled and dove, keeping an eye on the eagle.

Out at the tidelands, a large flock of about 100 DUNLINS swooped overhead, with WESTERNS and LEAST SANDPIPERS. A few WHIMBRELS toot-toot-tooted flying from here to there. Clouds of gulls rose and fell at the mouth of Resurrection River, probably hassled by an eagle. A single TUNDRA swan pulled vegetation from the pond bottom, surrounded by a host of GREATER SCAUP, AMERICAN WIGEON, and MALLARDS. NORTHERN SHOVELERS, NORTHERN PINTAILS, and GREEN-WINGED TEAL fed throughout the recently thawed pond. ARCTIC TERNS zipped overhead.

Yesterday, Jim H reported, in addition to the above birds, a pair of BRANT out in front of the river, one BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER, 5 SEMI-PALMATED PLOVERS, and a wet MERLIN perched at the top of a spruce.

The RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRDS have arrived in force. I have received many happy reports of this tiny, tough, traveler visiting feeders all around town. I was pleased to watch a male and several females tanking up on sugar water. How they survived the migration and then this miserable wintery weather is just beyond imagining.

The GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROWS, FOX SPARROWS are migrating through in numbers. For an interesting report on the Golden-crowned Sparrows' 3,200-to-5,000-mile roundtrip migration from California to Alaska go to,0.
The article says in part, "The one-ounce birds had taken an average of 29 days to travel north, eventually spreading out into four areas along 750 miles of coastal Alaska. Their trips ranged from 1,600 to 2,400 miles in length. When they flew back to California, they traveled somewhat slower, averaging about 53 days in transit." Thanks to Jim for that link.
My FOS LINCOLN'S SPARROW popped up in my neighborhood on May 8th, sat in a leafing young cottonwood and even sang briefly before flitting away.
Other news of note is not a bird, but a red, 12" float I spotted on the beach. I don't recall seeing a red buoy or float here before; this one says "Sanshin Kako Co LTD". In addition, someone hand-painted a pair of spouting white whales. I suspect it is from the March 2011 Japan tsunami. 

I reported it to More information is available at Innocent debris like this is fun, but I shudder to think what might be hitting our coast next. Yikes!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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