week of August 21, 2012 Black Turnstones and a Trumpeter Swan

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Spring Creek Beach at Mile 5, Nash Road on the east side of the bay is a wonderful place to catch a little more evening sunshine when Seward is plunged into shadow.  While savoring the sun, I was pleased to find 5 BLACK TURNSTONES also enjoying a little R&R on their migration to rocky intertidal zones along the Pacific coast. Several HARLEQUINS also napped and rested nearby.

Dog (Chum) and Humpy (Pink) salmon are completing their migration, swimming home into the nearby Spring Creek Pond to spawn. Reds (Sockeye) swim up Spring Creek and spawn in the tributaries that finger into the Seward Marine Industrial Center. Silvers (Coho) will follow soon. It's so wonderful to see salmon coming home!

Two recently fledged BALD EAGLES, probably siblings, perched on the beach rocks, trying to figure out what was edible. They will be delighted to learn about beached salmon now that their fast food delivery service is over.

Over at Fourth of July beach, a single SURF SCOTER male paddled just off shore.  A young, frowsy-looking SONG SPARROW popped up to watch; he seemed to be having a "bad feather" day. His baby feathers stuck out in every direction while his adult feathers tried to look dignified. He'll be in good shape soon when this awkward transition is over.

An interesting phenomenon that I have not observed before were thousands of flies, covering the sand. I call them "ground flies" because they seemed to prefer staying low. They did not pester or bite, but covered the sand and adjacent driftwood, until disturbed. Then they flew en masse, up in a swarm, and soon settled back down. The peeps and SAVANNAH SPARROWS seemed to be eating them, or at least trying to catch them.

WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS are abundant, singing from just about every spruce tip this summer. A bright male and either a female or juvenile flew out from some alders along the beach, not far from the spruce trees. Across the bay at Tonsina Beach, I also observed two bright red males that shot out of the alder fringe, arguing over something. It's unusual to see them so low. This species will nest year round if the food supply is plentiful, and indeed, there's a great spruce cone crop this year.

A single TRUMPETER SWAN fed peacefully at the Mile 1 Nash Road wetlands pond. It's great to have at least one swan back, though none stayed to nest this summer.

Up in the coastal mountains behind Seward on August 25, I found a single LINCOLN'S SPARROW posing in an elderberry thicket by treeline. Higher up, at around 1800' I saw 6 PIPITS flying off, and a small flock of 4 SAVANNAH SPARROWS. This familiar beach sparrow in an unfamiliar habitat really puzzled me as it had so much yellow on its face and white outer tail feathers. It also seemed bigger than my old friend. How I wish I had lugged my big lens up there! Thanks to Thede, who helped me recognize it as an immature bird.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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