Saturday, September 15, 2012 Another storm and GBH

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Sunrise 7:27 am, sunset 8:16 pm, length of day 12 hours, 49 minutes; tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 25 seconds shorter.

Weather: Another massive storm is headed towards Southcentral Alaska. A high wind warning is in effect for the Anchorage Hillside, Portage Valley and Turnagain Arm with southeast winds up 55-80 mph with gusts to 100 mph, peaking overnight. In addition to a high wind warning for Seward, a flood watch is in effect with up to 4 to 7 inches of rain, and more than 9" in some mountain areas.

The last cruise ship of the year, the enormous Statendam, diverted course yesterday to dock in Seward a day early to get out of the approaching storm. Today, it rained hard and steadily all day with a south wind. This is not unusual; what is coming will be! Meanwhile, it's great to have the power on.
The forecast shows overcast with rain for the next week with temps continuing in the 50s.

This morning, I attended a members' event at the Alaska Sealife Center featuring the remote camera operation at Chiswell Island. It was really cool to operate the camera and zoom in on interesting behavior. Moms nursed their hungry little pups; a massive bull served as a pillow for another sea lion and as a cliff bumper stop for others of all sizes and ages jam-packed together. I spotted a BLACK TURNSTONE picking its way through the Steller's sealions napping and jostling on Chiswell Island. There may have been two.

It was a difficult day for optics with the blowing rain, but I spied a NORTHERN HARRIER working the soggy saltmarsh looking for flooded- out voles at high tide. It was either a female or a juvenile (brown); hard to tell. The RAVENS relished the wind and played incessantly with it and each other, performing daring upside down tricks and effortless steep ascents. A SAVANNAH SPARROW skipped along the beach ryegrass ahead of me, dodging in and out.

Over by the boat harbor entrance, a battalion of gulls rested quietly on the rocky breakwater, facing the rain and wind, waiting stoically. Most were GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS with a few BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES. The double-crested cormorants left sometime in the past two weeks.

Wednesday, September 12:
It's about time! Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of a GREAT BLUE HERON flying over the wetlands at the head of the bay, quite a distance away. It's been a long time between sightings. Where do they hide?

The heron landed on a dead branch of a Ghost Forest tree, then flew down into the grasses. It strode forward, wings outstretched, to greet another GBH! The first was an adult, the second a juvenile. Their reunion was joyous and heartwarming; both seemed ecstatic to see each other. First one, then the other stretched out its enormous wings. Then, with their necks fully extended, their open bills touched briefly like a kiss. I left them standing serenely, facing each other.

Later that evening, just a dusk, I heard a low "cronk, cronk" overhead. I looked up and saw the silhouettes of two Great Blue Herons flying over my house! What an unexpected treat! Perhaps they were seeking a quiet place to roost in a spruce for the night, but what a lucky coincidence I was still outside!

VARIED THRUSHES and ROBINS continue to gather on their migration. I saw 20 robins in one group flying with about 30 PINE SISKINS. The crazy WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS continue to sing as if it was still summer.

I heard, but did not see, GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS in the spruce forest. CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES checked out my elderberry bush and perched on the clothesline to peer at me inquisitively. NW CROWS have begun to snack on the ripening red Mt Ash berries. I hope they, and the forthcoming winds leave many berries for our hungry winter visitors.

Two GREAT HORNED OWLS were reported on the trail to Tonsina Beach on Wednesday.

Abundant STELLER'S JAYS busily bury peanuts in yards, flowerpots, leafy debris collecting in gutters, everywhere. I even dug out a peanut that was jammed into my car's windshield wiper opening. There is no shortage of either jays or peanuts in my neighborhood. If these were viable seeds, there would be peanut bushes everywhere. Several neighbors have trained the smart jays to land on an outstretched hand to pluck a peanut, and know them by name. Such characters!

May the birds, and the rest of us, sail through this storm unscathed.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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