Saturday, November 3, 2012 Seward Ramble

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Sunrise 9:27 am, sunset 5:54 pm, length of day 8 hours, 26 minutes; tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 7 seconds shorter. Tomorrow we "fall behind" to temporarily gain a bit of morning light and lose a lot of evening light.

Weather: Mild temperatures continued today with a high in the low 40s and a north breeze. The sun outmaneuvered the surrounding clouds for most of the afternoon. Except for the new snow creeping down the mountains, it seemed like spring! Snow and rain showers are in the forecast, meaning icy roads.

Today, inspired by the sunshine, I sampled Seward from tide line to glacier. Even though there were not many birds, there were many interesting things to see!

It was quiet at the beach, except for an excited dog that loves to dive for sunken sticks. Jellies at the end of their life cycle parked like alien spaceships or fancy Frisbees in rows along the high tide line. I was hoping to refind the 16 SNOW BUNTINGS I saw blowing overhead on November 1st, but settled for a RAVEN and a cloud of far away gulls, perhaps 200, instead. A small flock of PINE SISKINS flew over the spruce trees by the road, but did not land.

A DIPPER scolded as it flew up First Lake Creek in Two Lakes Park and landed on the edge of the ice, probably looking for salmon eggs or macro-invertebrates. Easily overlooked by the casual observer, the tiny gray bird dipped and bobbed before plunging into the freezing water like a little diving duck. It's good luck to see a dipper, so keep your ears and eyes alert for one.

The deciduous plants have lost their leaves, but Two Lakes Park is green with mosses. I found a nice clump of Knight's Plume, one of the most beautiful of the feather mosses, and not common in this area. Its symmetrical shape resembles the feather on a knight's helmet, hence the name. While admiring the mosses, I heard WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS and PINE SISKINS calling overhead.

The frenzy of ice-skaters on Second Lake earlier this week stopped abruptly with the rising temperatures. Nature's zamboni is working quietly, restoring the scratched surface. If the wind leaves it alone, it will be clear and smooth once again.

I left the Park to look for salmon. First Lake Creek follows Second Avenue down to the Lagoon, past houses and through culverts under driveways. It's amazing to see spawned out silver salmon in this unlikely habitat. After years of growing, dodging predators and danger in the Pacific Ocean, they swam home through the Lagoon and up the creek alongside the street, spawned, and now are done with their life's work. Golden eyes staring, their multicolored forms scarred and frazzled, completely spent with the effort, I think they are beautiful.  Now they keep giving as food for bears, eagles, ravens, crows, magpies, and other scavengers, and even insects and then bacteria. Truly a magnificent and honorable species!

Next on the wander, I checked out Clear Creek near Exit Glacier Road.
This is a great opportunity to study and photograph MALLARDS and oddball mutants thereof. Even if you don't bring bread, the ducks swim over expectantly to greet you. If mallards weren't so common, they would be revered. What a handsome drake! Emerald green head, yellow bill with delicate serrations, warm brown breast, white neckband, brilliant blue speculum, charming curled up tail feathers, and bright orange feet. The ducks hang out here year-round so it's easy to find them when you are desperate for a bird fix.

Upstream, an adult BALD EAGLE lurked in a bare cottonwood but no ducks were in that section of stream. Mallards aren't dumb. A MAGPIE and a STELLER'S JAY flew from branch to branch along the stream, chattering. A small flock of WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS flew overhead.

The road to Exit Glacier is open to Resurrection River bridge at the boundary. It was icy for the last few miles; I and a few other vehicles appreciated the recent sanding job. I listened, but did not hear any Great Horned Owls at the parking lot at the turn-around. One never knows! No mergansers or dippers along the river, but an adult BALD EAGLE surveyed the river from a cottonwood upstream, and a noisy RAVEN called from a spruce top. Soon, the road will be closed to vehicles at Box Canyon.

The good dog found another sinker and enjoyed a refreshing swim in Resurrection River, completing her Seward sampler from salt water to glacier water. What an interesting and relaxing ramble!

In other news, Robin C reported 2 RUSTY BLACKBIRDS at Ava's on November 1st. It is unknown if it's the same two that were seen at the Lagoon. The CEDAR WAXWING  and ROBIN were still there, but not the BOHEMIAN WAXWING.

The black bears made merry with several bird feeders in my neighborhood and over by Safeway on October 30 and 31st, destroying them in the process. The bears are VERY hungry and will FIND your birdseed and suet. They lack table manners and you will regret feeding them. It is NOT time to put out your feeders. Wait a few more weeks, monitor the bear reports, and then try again with just one feeder. Let me know your luck!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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