October 23, 2012 Shrike vs Hairy Woodpecker, Orange-crowned Warbler

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Sunrise 8:59 am, sunset 6:23 pm, length of day 9 hours, 24 minutes; tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 20 seconds shorter.

Weather: Our streak of clear, sunny, windy, cold weather continues, with a forecast for more of the same through to Monday. Temperatures have dropped into the low 20s, with highs to the upper 30s. The brisk north wind at 14 mph with gusts to 32 mph, has blown away most of last week's light snow, leaving crunchy green grass. A bountiful crop of bright red Mt Ash berries clings to the trees, an important food source for our robins, varied thrushes, and incoming winter visitors.

This morning, a sharp rapping on the side of my house invited me outside into the sunshine, camera in hand. A juvenile HAIRY WOODPECKER finished up a siding inspection then sat on my deck rail, looking around. A quick movement caught my eye; a first winter NORTHERN SHRIKE perched close by in a Mt Ash. The woodpecker took off, followed closely by the shrike. I only saw a glimpse of a collision as they tumbled out of sight and heard a loud complaint, then the two instantly separated and flew off in opposite directions. I haven't seen a shrike around here in a long time. It was quite exciting!

Robin C called to report a MERLIN and a single SNOW BUNTING at Lowell Point, so I headed that way for the noon walk. I found neither, but enjoyed watching a very late ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER flitting along the beach. The little bird hopped up on the small bits of driftwood, picked through the dried leaves and seaweed, wandered through the beach rye grass stalks, and posed in the sunshine. It was a lovely and unusual lunch spot out of the wind.

Two curious River Otters surged up to investigate the dog, who ignored them completely. A Harbor Seal poked its gleaming round head up to look around, then resumed fishing. HARLEQUINS, gathering once again for the winter, sunned at the beach edge and dove offshore. A lone MALLARD hen paddled very close to shore, then flew off, quacking loudly. One GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL walked along the beach; other excited gulls gathered over some food source just around the corner. An adult BALD EAGLE soared low over the water checking for waterfowl availability, but none were, so it circled higher and higher and away.

STELLER'S JAYS flew bravely across the sky from one forest edge to another. CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES and RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES called from the spruce trees.

Back in town, a BLACK-BILLED MAGPIE drank eagerly from a freshly filled basin. As local water sources freeze up, consider installing an electric birdbath heater. The birds will love you!

Peregrine Joe reported a GREAT BLUE HERON at the Lagoon, always nice to see.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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