Wednesday, November 21, 2012 Brambling at last!

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Two Eurasian BRAMBLINGS were first reported around noon on Saturday, November 17 by ace birders Luke DeCicco and Scott Schuette at Lowell Point. Since then, dedicated Seward birders scoured the Point to refind the birds. Several lucky and sharp-eyed birders were successful, some multiple times.

I began my quest on Sunday morning in a major snow squall backed by a steady north wind and below freezing temperatures. Hours of walking, watching, waiting, and numb fingers produced many interesting birds including DARK-EYED JUNCOS, PINE GROSBEAKS, COMMON REDPOLLS, PINE SISKINS, WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS, CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES, GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW, WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW, RAVENS, MAGPIES, STELLER'S JAYS, VARIED THRUSHES, BUFFLEHEADS, RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS, GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS, BALD EAGLES, and a BELTED KINGFISHER flying north into the teeth of the wind, but not the Bramblings.

I returned on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning. Though each day was cold and windy, the birdscape was completely different each time; sometimes hardly any birds at all, sometimes just a few species. Each snapshot, and even each birder's experience varied so much.

Today continued to be brilliantly sunny, about 19ยบ with the ever-present brisk north wind. I returned in the afternoon and walked slowly along the deserted road, scrutinizing every junco and sparrow.

I enjoyed watching the SLATE-COLORED JUNCOS perch on the sturdy Arctic Dock stalks loaded with seeds.  Other juncos hopped up on the beach rye seed heads and rode the stalks to the ground like a snow bunting. A fancy OREGON JUNCO sporting his black hood and rufous back and sides, hopped along the edge of the road, gleaning seeds in the sunshine. When the juncos were not busy feeding, they chased each other through the trees at high speed, making little space alien clicks and squeals.

A WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW sang a muted version of his cheery little song. A FOX SPARROW popped up in the alder, his bright yellow and black bicolored bill and streaked breast prominently different from the clear breast of the Golden-crowned and White-crowned. It was a great afternoon to observe sparrows.

At 2:15, just before the sun sank behind the western mountains, a flash of bright orange landed in a tangle of alders. The low sun cast a reddish light on the wrinkled brown alder leaves, camouflaging the bird. I quickly shot two photos at the alder and then tried to refind the BRAMBLING with my binoculars. Nothing but dead leaves and juncos.

After a while, I began to doubt that I had actually seen the Brambling, the moment was so brief. I scanned anxiously through my two photos, searching up and down in the mass of deceptive leaves, and finally found the bird. I DID see it! It seemed bright enough to be a male. This is a life bird for me, and even though it was practically delivered to my town, I felt I earned it. It's a thrill! Now to find the other one!

Happy Birding!
And Happy Thanksgiving!
Carol Griswold
Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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