Saturday, September 22, 2012: Extreme weather and Fall Equinox

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Fall Equinox arrived this morning at about 6:49 am. Happy Equinox!
Sunrise 7:43 am, sunset 7:55 pm, length of day 12 hours, 11 minutes; tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 25 seconds shorter.

Weather: Extreme weather events continue in the Seward area with heavy rain, massive flooding, storm surge damage, and periods of strong wind. The series of severe storms originated in the tropics, so at least it's warm, in the 50s.

Many roads are closed, neighborhoods are cut off, and homes flooded. Box Canyon levee was breached. Crews are working valiantly to protect infrastructure and save homes. Fortunately, power is on in all but a few areas. The Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor and the governor declared a disaster for Seward and other areas in the Kenai Peninsula yesterday. Travel is not advised. More rain is forecast for the rest of the week.

Avoiding roads with floods and rock/mudslides, I checked the tidelands today. Everything from twigs to trees was strewn up and down the beach, plundered by the mighty Resurrection River and slammed against the shore by the storm waves. The battered trees have peeled bark and splintered roots, evidence of a fierce battle lost. Even in their distress, the colors and textures are beautiful. A normally clear artisan creek boiled with gray glacial silt from the flooding river.

This changed landscape was juxtaposed over an eerie sense of normal: RAVENS commented loudly about their aerial inspection, BALD EAGLES, both adult and juveniles sat in the foggy mist on new perches of driftwood, and SAVANNAH SPARROWS picked through tidbits in the beach debris where a few ground flies still lingered. 

Two small flocks of WILSON'S SNIPE, one with 5 birds, one with 2, flew across the flooded salt marsh. The young (or female) NORTHERN HARRIER cruised low over the area, selected different perches and vantage points, then glided away. A flock of about 13 peeps, possibly WESTERN SANDPIPERS, settled down at the tide line to feed. A single YELLOWLEGS bowed vigorously and called. I think it was a GREATER, but visibility was terrible.

Yesterday, I refound the two GREAT BLUE HERONS, stealthily feeding in the shallow mudflats. They were invisible today.

Along the road, several dozen ROBINS and VARIED THRUSHES flew up from the grass. It was amazing to see so many thrushes erupting in waves as my car approached. They soon settled into elderberry bushes, clucking softly, to feast on the bright red berries. Such handsome birds!

Back in town, in between the hard rains, STELLER'S JAYS are busy from early morning to dark, plucking peanuts from feeders and planting them to replace the ones that drowned or floated away. I heard the SHARP-SHINNED HAWK, but raptor activity seems greatly reduced.

Challenging, serious times for birds, humans, and everything else in this dynamic ecosystem.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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