January 23, 2013 Birds but not THE Bird

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Sunrise 9:30 am, sunset 4:49 pm, length of day 7 hours, 18 minutes; tomorrow will be 4 minutes and 36 seconds longer.

Weather: Overcast with occasional tiny windows peeking through to blue sky and a glimpse of the growing moon.  The thermometer rose to a pleasant 45ยบ accompanied by just a bit of breeze. All in all, a very nice day to bird.

First light this morning and the chorus of PINE SISKINS almost drowned out the screeching and scraping of the road grader and rumble of the sanding truck. The Siskins seem to be everywhere in large numbers, with a few COMMON REDPOLLS mixed in.

Soon, I staked out Ground Zero to search for the Siberian Accentor. By and by a giant VARIED THRUSH emerged from the dense underbrush and began flipping leaves and poking through the exposed grass. It was interesting to note the similarities of the dramatic black markings and a face mask of the Varied Thrush and Siberian Accentor. 

A GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW materialized and scratched the leaf litter, just a few feet away. Hope ignited that The Bird would be with its buddy, but alas, it was not seen.

Next, I checked the open water at the north end of the Lagoon. The gorgeous HOODED MERGANSER male was there, paddling about, preening, and looking stunning as usual. First of year for me! Unlike previous years, no smitten female Goldeneye followed the Hoody around. He seemed unconcerned and ready for courtship in case SHE finally shows up.

MALLARDS swam past, not impressed at bit. COMMON MERGANSERS splashed down nearby. COMMON GOLDENEYES and a few female BUFFLEHEAD took turns diving and preening.

The flock of about 30 RUSTY BLACKBIRDS landed on the snow at the edge of the water, hopping around from the snow to the low alder branches, creaking conversationally, then took off north over the horse pasture.

Kit and Robin reported 20 SNOW BUNTINGS at the beach, but I didn't find them a short time later. Instead I was amazed to see a veritable cloud of gulls, probably GLAUCOUS-WINGED and MEW GULLS, upwards of 700 or more, flying near the mouth of the Resurrection River. I wonder what they are feeding on now? It's easy to miss them low on the ground or in the water, unless a BALD EAGLE or two stirs them up.

On the way back, I heard the sweet chucklings of an AMERICAN DIPPER and found it walking around on the cold snow near a little salmon stream. It seems perfectly happy, rain or shine, snow or grass, in the icy water or out. What an admirable, tough little bird!

WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS chattered in the tops of the spruce trees. Tim and Michelle, who hiked out to Tonsina Beach today, reported a zillion in the spruce along the trail.

I staked out Ground Zero several more times in the afternoon to no avail though it was fun to talk to the other Seward birders. Home for a late lunch, I found a nice WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW perched quietly in my willow. Acting on a hot tip from Jim, I walked down the alley and found not one but both BRAMBLINGS gleaning some sort of sustenance from the withered bits of Mt Ash berries still clinging to their stems. First of year for me and so convenient!

A half block away, a knot of birders checked out a lone BOHEMIAN WAXWING, hoping it might be a Cedar. It wasn't. Nearby were at least 20 or more ROBINS picking through the exposed grass. A few PINE GROSBEAKS and JUNCOS sat in the Mt Ash branches.

Hope for The Bird sputtered out in the last light around 4:20. Despite many birders checking the site and neighborhood, The Bird was not seen today. We'll be patrolling tomorrow!

The light was gone but the birding was not yet over. In the early evening, I heard the little SAW-WHET OWL, still high up the mountain and far away, steadfastly beeping for his sweetie.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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