Wednesday, June 20 Happy Summer Solstice!

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Sunrise 4:31 am, sunset 11:27 pm, length of day 18 hours, 55 minutes; tomorrow will be 0 minutes and 5 seconds SHORTER. Aieeee!

Weather: After a week or so of summery, sunny weather with highs in the low 60s and a pleasant south breeze, the first day of summer turned cloudy and cool. Rain showers in the forecast (of late, notably wrong), with temps in the mid to high 50s.

The theme is green accented with white Red-berried Elder, Mayday Tree, Crabapple, and Mt Ash flowers, pink-tinged apple blossoms, and startlingly magenta new spruce cones. Lupines, Jacob's Ladder, Iceland Poppies, Red Columbine and other wildflowers compete with the brilliantly yellow and plentiful dandelions. It's hard to keep up with all this daylight as plant and animal life cycles race along.

People are racing along too. More and more Mt Marathon runners dash up the mountain and pelt down the street, getting ready for the great race on July 4th. Growing numbers of sports fishers cast out from the beaches, hopeful for a salmon or two. Tour boats pour out of the harbor, bound for the bay and fjords beyond. Humpback whales were recently reported bubble-net feeding off Bear Glacier. Birders return with big smiles and lifers from all the pelagic species nesting at Cape Rez and the Chiswells. It's a crazy, busy time!

Well, maybe not so crazy, busy for SOME!

I enjoyed a pleasant bike ride along Exit Glacier Road (Herman Leirer Road) last Sunday with my daughter. VARIED THRUSHES and HERMIT THRUSHES sang from the spruce forest and SWAINSON'S THRUSH melodies spiraled upwards from cottonwoods at several spots along the road. WILSON'S, YELLOW, YELLOW-RUMPED, and ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS trilled from their secret perches. All were impossible to find now that the leaves are so big. About a dozen Mt Goats speckled the alpine near the peaks of the mountains. It's so easy to bird by bicycle rather than be containerized in a car!

We were greeted by a friend at Exit Glacier who works there. Some bicyclists had found a baby bird alongside the road and gave it to her. It was hardly bigger than a ping-pong ball, and very hungry. We fed it a few tiny dead flies from a truck grill, and a squashed mosquito. I found an earthworm and broke it into smaller pieces. The little bird opened its ruby-red bill wide, but did not seem to know there was food hanging off the roof of its mouth. Without proper tools, it was very tricky to get anything down. I can see why the parent bird rams it down the throat with vigor.

I do not know what species this little gray bird is with buffy wing tips emerging from feather sheaths and pink legs. Chris Maack of the Bird Treatment Center advised that a yellow mouth lining indicates an insectivore and a red mouth lining is a seed eater, though all baby birds are fed insects. She also noted that pink legs stay pink, and a lot of sparrows have pink legs. The tiny bill seemed to broad for a warbler.

As for baby bird care:
"For emergencies, soaked, mashed kitten chow with chicken as its main ingredient is good. Blend in some calcium carbonate, which could be derived from a ground up Tums if need be. I'm guesstimating half a Tums tablet would be plenty for a whole cup of softened kitten chow. Supplement with mealworms, bloodworms and even caterpillars unrolled from rolled up leaves in your shrubbery. Even seedeaters get a lot of insects as nestlings. But they can also digest ground up seed such as millet.

Sometimes you have to pry a little beak open to get the bird eating, but after a while it will catch on (unless it's too far gone). Feed enough to see its crop bulge every half hour, with 6-7 hours off at night to sleep. Use a cheap artist's brush to deliver the food and also sips of water. In fact, sometimes water is the way to start because it can wick in to a closed beak and the bird will then go for more and then for food.

That's the crash course. It's not an easy undertaking."
Chris also noted that legally, one needs to have state and federal permits to care for sick, injured birds, or orphaned birds. It's best to get the bird in the hands of qualified  and permitted folks like the Bird Treatment and Learning Center in Anchorage:, 1-907-5636 Pet Emergency. 

Thank you, Chris, for the information.
Sadly, the little sprite died overnight. 

A SPOTTED SANDPIPER flies along the shore; perhaps it has a nest nearby.

A spectacle of frenzied gulls picks off fishy tidbits discarded by the fish processor at Lowell Point: BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES, GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS, and MEW GULLS.

DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS play musical chairs on the old dock pilings off B Street along the Seward waterfront. It was quite amusing to watch the hopeful birds flap towards an occupied piling and either be repelled and splash into the water nearby, or successfully displace the original squatter who then splashed into the water nearby. The show was a continuous matinee. The adult's fancy plumes are long gone now that their large children are out and about, learning fun games like this and other life skills.

I was again surprised to find 3 COMMON LOONS in the SMIC Boat Basin at the end of Nash Road on the east side of the bay. One was in breeding plumage, one looked like a slightly smaller juvenile, and the other seemed to be in the process of molting to adult plumage. Very odd. 

The Esperanza, the flagship of Greenpeace, arrived on Monday for repairs and more crew on their way to the Arctic Ocean for scientific exploration and to protest drilling by Shell Oil.

Another surprise was a very large, light-colored brown bear found feeding on tender fireweed and grass, also at SMIC. It looks just like a Teddy bear, and ran when discovered, a good bear. I hope people will respect this amazing brownie and let it live in peace. 

An incredible amount of spruce pollen released over the past week piles up at Lowell Point Beach, turning the waves a milky yellow. Many folks are sneezing and sniffling with a new-found allergic reaction.

Lowell Point Road and beach are great places to find MARBLED MURRELETS. I watched this one surface with a long silvery fish, thrash it about, re-orient it head first, and then down the hatch. Quite a lunch!

Two harbor porpoises dove quickly and quietly along Lowell Point Road.

And that's a snapshot of Seward on Summer Solstice!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Raising Kid Colt, an excellent 35 minute video about a Sandhill family in Homer by Nina Faust


  1. Great captures/story! I initially noticed your "murrelet swallowing fish" image. Doesn't fish that big put up a good fight for the smaller bird? Does it get swallowed down wriggling the whole way as well?!



    1. Yes, sometimes the fish gets away but if it goes down the hatch, there's quite a struggle all the way.