November 28, 2012 Rusty Blackbirds and Kingfisher

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Sunrise 9:29 am, sunset 4:02 pm, length of day 8 hours, 20 minutes; tomorrow will be 3 minutes and 30 seconds shorter. Actual daylight is shortened to about 10:30 am to 2:30 pm in town due to the mountains. Venus shines bright every morning before dawn; Jupiter leads Orion over the same eastern mountains at night. The beautiful full moon reportedly experienced a partial eclipse today, but I missed it.

Weather: Clear and cold continues! Temps in the low 20s, wind from the north. The lack of snow insulation is driving the frost deeper and deeper. It must be very hard on animals like voles and shrews that depend on the snow for cover and warmth. And that in turn, creates hardship for owls and hawks.

On the other hand, the abundant spruce cone crop provides fuel for seed-eaters like white-winged crossbills, pine siskins, pine grosbeaks, and the bramblings. Fruit-eaters like the robins, waxwings, crows, ravens, juncos, and pine grosbeaks feast on the berry-laden Mt Ash trees. Watch for more raptor activity around these food sources and at bird feeders as they switch prey to survive. A chance of snow is forecast for early next week.

Unleaded gas dropped to $4.15/gallon.

The bird hotspot this morning was the horse corral, viewed from Dairy Hill Lane right across from Benny Benson Park. A juvenile BALD EAGLE soared and spiraled overhead, catching the low morning light. An adult chittered from its sunny perch in a spruce. RAVENS cruised overhead, likely on their way to visit local eateries/dumpsters for breakfast. Others enjoyed some leisure time, hanging out on one of the 1964 Earthquake ghost trees. One dazzling male courted his beloved, belly sucked in, neck extended, and iridescent throat feathers impressively fluffed up. In a wink, three more ravens joined the couple, and a little game of "I'm higher than you!" ensued on the perfectly placed, ladder-like branches.

A male KINGFISHER rattled overhead and perched on the powerline over the open water by the Lagoon culvert. It's always great to see a kingfisher! After a bit, he flew to another ghost tree, and then rattled away.

About ten ROBINS flew around the wetlands ringing the horse pasture. They spent most of the time on the frozen overflow and snow patches under the dead grasses. I'm not sure what they found to eat there. Frozen spiders? Insects? Seeds? They are tough birds! They too, took a turn in the sun on the ghost trees.

The finale was the talkative, creaky chatter of RUSTY BLACKBIRDS.  They were hard to count when they joined the Robins on the ice, hidden in the grasses. I saw at least 3 very dark, almost black, males, and at least 2 lighter brown females (or juveniles). Yesterday, Kit D. counted 6, but there could be a few more. Eventually 4 flew up into the ghost tree and warmed up in the sun.

It was interesting how every species, (add MAGPIES, STELLER'S JAYS, and even JUNCOS) used the ghost trees. The scenic old trees provide a nice roost in the sun and a vantage point, both as a place to see and be seen. Check them first when you bird the horse corral. Quietly watch the unfolding dramas for a while. You won't be disappointed!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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