Wednesday, December 19, 2012 First Day of Count Week

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Sunrise 10:00 am (actually more like 10:30 am once it climbs laboriously over the mountains), sunset 3:50 pm, (more like 2:00 pm in the Seward town site after it zips across the southern sky). Length of day 5 hours, 49 minutes (or actually 3 1/2 hours); tomorrow will be zero minutes and 11 seconds shorter as the December 21st 2:12 am Winter Solstice approaches.

Weather: Whoooeeeeee! After two days of cloudy weather, the skies cleared. Nice to see Venus in the morning again, the waxing crescent moon, and the stars and Jupiter at night. The fierce north-northeast wind is just wailing, said to be 24 mph with gusts to 33 mph, and maximum gusts of 45 mph.

Any loose snow is long gone; the mountains are blown bare and brown. Only a crusty, stubborn layer remains, occasionally breaking off into flying chunks. The thermometer hovered around 20ยบ, which was pleasant out of the wind. (Note key word, "out.")

Today the bay was frothing with white-capped waves. The wind ripped the caps right off and swirled them into a rainbow-hued spray. I was amazed to watch a surfer out in the thick of the biggest curls, getting hammered but having fun. Even the seabirds knew better and seemed to be found mostly in sheltered areas.

My first species for the First Day of Count Week was the RAVEN, playing in the wind, of course. Cousins soon showed up: STELLER'S JAYS and BLACK-BILLED MAGPIES.  PINE GROSBEAKS clung precariously to the tops of the swaying spruce trees, calling musically. Around 10 am, Duane called in about a flock of about 50 PINE SISKINS or REDPOLLS flying up the street into the teeth of the north wind.

Of note at the Scheffler Creek outlet by the Harbor Uplands were 5 GADWALL, dabbling near a small flock of preening BARROW'S GOLDENEYES.  I hope they stick around for Count Day on Saturday. COMMON MERGANSERS took refuge in the lee of the Harbor Uplands breakwater. A GLAUCOUS-WINGED X HERRING GULL hybrid with some black primaries coasted overhead; an adult BALD EAGLE stirred everyone up. I did not find the tight flock of 70+ Surf Scoters, but visibility was tricky in the waves. A few NW CROWS blew down the beach.

Over at the SMIC boat basin, Fourth of July Beach and Spring Creek Beach I found a pair of HORNED GREBES, more BARROW'S GOLDENEYES, HARLEQUIN DUCKS, GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS, a PELAGIC CORMORANT, and the lone human surfer. Kit found COMMON LOONS, but I did not.

On Dec 17, Kit spotted a SPRUCE GROUSE at Tonsina Trail. Yesterday, I counted 52 BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS feasting on small frozen apples in the 400 block of Third Avenue.

If you haven't yet seen the amazing examples of owl camouflage, check out this website <> I like this website since it gives credit to the image source.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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