Thursday, February 28, 2013 Siberian Accentor

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Yesterday's rain turned into several inches of snow overnight. The birds continue to eat ravenously at feeders; the seed level drops visibly in a short time.

I was lucky to refind the SIBERIAN ACCENTOR today. It hopped over to the feeder and cleared a little space around itself in the melee of COMMON REDPOLLS and PINE SISKINS. I watched it pick up a piece of cracked corn and work at it. After turning it around in its beak, it finally dropped it on the snow, looked at it again, picked it up, and then flew off. I think cracked corn is not its favorite food, but sunflower seeds are impossible to open.

A female VARIED THRUSH hopped over; what bright golden feet and legs she has! I left when the STELLER'S JAY moved in as he dines alone.

Any birder who plans to come to Seward might want to bring a big bag of mixed wild bird seed to share. All the Seward stores are out. Thanks!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 Winter Rain Birds and Raindrops

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird and Raindrop Report

As the temperature rose to 37º today, the precip cycled through snow showers, sn'rain, and then just plain rain. A thick blanket of soft snow from the recent 14" snow dump still covers the ground except for under the sheltering spruce trees. Feeder activity was intense; the suet feeders were packed with as many COMMON REDPOLLS as could physically fit on all six sides of the wire frame, and others with as many PINE SISKINS as would fit outside of beak's range. The little finches covered the ground below and around seed feeders. 

VARIED THRUSHES scattered the crowds and SLATE-COLORED JUNCOS and WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS dashed in and out as they could. I did not see the Siberian Accentor or Brambling today, but the mixed birdseed they seem to prefer is long gone and none is yet available in town.

I found more Redpolls and Pine Siskins on a walk around Two Lakes Park this afternoon, feeding mostly on the exposed ground, and drinking and bathing in the numerous puddles. WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS chattered from the treetops. CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES and a RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH pecked for insects hiding in the lichens on the alder and cottonwood trees.

What really captured my attention were the delicate and ephemeral raindrops cradled in the sharp spruce needles and suspended from lichens and mosses. The perfect lenses magnified images of spruce branches and my self, reflected upside down. The mosses, lichens, and fungi seem to really perk up in rainy weather, providing a "splash" of colors in return. There's always something to marvel at in nature!

In other news, Peregrine Joe reported a PACIFIC WREN singing this morning at dawn (8:30ish am), adding its complex melody to the symphony of Varied Thrushes, finches, Steller's Jays, Juncos and other sparrows. I have only heard its sharp "chip" call, and look forward to hearing its long song.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Monday, February 25, 2013 Siberian Accentor

Monday, February 25, 2013 Siberian Accentor

About a foot of white fluffy snow dumped on Seward over the weekend, piling up on branches and burying the seeds scattered under feeders. I did find the SIBERIAN ACCENTOR, scratching in a depression at the base of a feeder, searching for millet and other small seeds. I got a few photos, partially obscured by snow-laden branches and old grass stalks. He (or she) is really quite a striking bird.

While I was quietly watching, standing very still, ready to take photos of the Bird, a PINE SISKIN landed on my left shoulder! Such a little, light spirit! Then, much to my surprise, a very curious one landed 5" away from my face on my camera lens, held at the ready. While I was marveling at this sight, another one landed on my hat! Needless to say, I was very, very pleased to be a temporary tree!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter 

February 24, 2013 Anchorage Audubon Seward Field Trip

Anchorage Audubon Seward Field Trip

Birders from Talkeetna, the Valley, Wasilla, Anchorage, and even one from Chicago, braved a Turnagain Arm blizzard to join Seward birders for the annual field trip on Saturday. In all, there were about 30. Due to the immense interest in the two rare species, the Brambling and Siberian Accentor, that was the first stop. By approaching the likely site carefully and by staying a respectful distance away from the target feeder, the large flock of birders got great views through binoculars and spotting scopes.

After that, it was all gravy. We covered many hotspots including the Harbor Uplands, Benny Benson Park Lagoon and horse corral, Spring Creek Beach, and Lowell Point.

The weather was fairly cooperative, calm, and around 33º. It snowed lightly in the morning, the sun broke through in the early afternoon and actually felt warm!, then the dark clouds rolled in from the south and the day ended in wet snow, a perfect time to wrap it up.

Below is the list compiled by trip leader Aaron Bowman and Chris Maack, and a few photos. Thanks to Aaron for organizing another fantastic field trip!

Gadwall 2*
Mallard 25
Harlequin Duck 10
Surf Scoter 50
White-winged Scoter 1*
Black Scoter 15
Bufflehead 2
Common Goldeneye 30
Barrow's Goldeneye 75
Common Merganser 50
Red-breasted Merganser 20
Hooded Merganser 1
Horned Grebe 2
Pelagic Cormorant 12
Bald Eagle 12
Mew Gull 15
Glaucous-winged Gull 40
Common Murre 2
Marbled Murrelet 15
Rock Pigeon 20
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Shrike 1
Steller's Jay 12
Black-billed Magpie 6
Northwestern Crow 100
Common Raven 40
Chestnut-backed Chickadee 1
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
American Robin 1*
Varied Thrush 10
European Starling 1*
Siberian Accentor 1
Snow Bunting 20*
Song Sparrow 1
White-crowned Sparrow 2 

Dark-eyed Junco 10
Rusty Blackbird 20
Brambling 1
Gray-crowned Rosy Finch 2
Common Redpoll 250
Pine Siskin 35


*Seen by one observer

Friday, February 22, 2013 American Three-Toed Woodpecker!

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

On a walk at sunset around Two Lakes Park, I decided to hide behind a big spruce to surprise my good dogs who were busy playing a short distance behind me. While waiting there very quietly, I heard a steady tapping from a cluster of nearby spruce trees. How serendipitous! I searched up and down the trunks in the dim light, and then moved slowly to see the backside of the trees. Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap. Someone was very busy getting that last snack before dark.

Finally, I spotted a female AMERICAN THREE-TOED WOODPECKER! Compared to the snappy black and white pattern of both the smaller Downy and larger Hairy, the Three-toed's back and sides were a mixture of black and white, making her look somewhat disheveled. This is an unusual bird for Seward, so close to the coast, and only seen sporadically.

The industrious woodpecker kept chipping off small flakes of bark from the dead tree, then flipped to an adjacent tree and racheted up higher and higher. The very patient dog and puppy and I quietly crunched our way over the snow back to the trail. Once again, I felt so lucky! Not only to have found this bird but also to be so uplifted by her presence.

And yes, the SIBERIAN ACCENTOR and BRAMBLING were spotted throughout the day as well.

Don't forget the Audubon-Seward Field Trip is tomorrow, Saturday, February 23. Meet at the Harbormaster's Office on Fourth at 10 am. Plan to carpool if possible. Dress for the weather (layers are best) and bring plenty of snacks, water, sack lunch, binocs, spotting scope, camera, charged battery and memory card, etc. Walkie-talkies might come in handy too.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Thursday, February 21, 2013 Siberian Accentor and Brambling still here

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Sunrise 8:18 am, sunset 6:05 pm, length of day 9 hours, 47 minutes; tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 27 seconds longer. It's light until well after 6 pm!

Weather: Fairly stable pattern the past few days, with mostly overcast skies, temperature again hovering in upper 20s to low 30sº, and light winds.

Last night about 10:30 pm I heard a high querulous trill that I've never heard before.  Then I spotted an owl sitting on a tree branch in a neighbor's yard. It seemed small, about the size of a SAW-WHET. I suspect it was hunting small rodents that are attracted to birdseed scattered on the ground. Or maybe the new litter of feral rabbits. It sat for several minutes, visible in silhouette only by the light of the half moon shrouded by a thin veil of clouds. Then it suddenly plunged silently down, and out of sight.

This afternoon just after 1:30 pm, I checked the mixed birdseed feeder at the bottom of Suicide Hill. A never-ending flock dominated by raspberry-colored COMMON REDPOLLS with a smaller percentage of PINE SISKINS crowded around the feeder, chattering noisily. Bright orange globes of VARIED THRUSHES barged in and out, at least six for a conservative estimate. They seemed to tolerate one another one minute and then chased each other off the next. Hidden in the trees, they wheezed and clucked. A couple WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS, and a SONG SPARROW hopped around, also singing when not feeding. It was quite the chorus!

While checking the surrounding tree branches with my binoculars, I suddenly spied the SIBERIAN ACCENTOR sitting quietly, looking for a chance to dine. It flew down to a nearby rock and then made its move to the ground, chasing aside several Redpolls and Siskins. Then it worked its way around the feeder, determinedly gleaning bits of dropped suet. The other birds gave it some space, but most continued to feed nearby.

After it flew back up in the trees, I found a bright BRAMBLING sitting on a Mt Ash branch. While I watched, it didn't feed or come to the ground, but it's nice to know both of these rare birds are still around.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Monday February 18, 2013: Glaucous Gull and Goldeneye hybrid

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

I spotted two gulls standing on fucus-covered rocks at low tide this afternoon south of the Harbor Uplands. All around them, sleek and beautifully marked BARROW'S GOLDENEYES paddled and dove in the shallow water, emerging with blue mussels and small fish for lunch.

Both gulls were large with pink legs and feet, but one was quite pale. I realized it was a GLAUCOUS GULL hanging out with the default GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL, and took many photos. 

When I got home and reviewed the photos, I noticed an unusual goldeneye drake with the rest. He had a greenish glossy head instead of the normal Barrow's Goldeneye purple. His crescent was not as neat or white, and the striping on his wings was much whiter and less crisp. His bill is longer and his forehead more sloped. This is the first BARROW'S X COMMON GOLDENEYE that I have ever seen.

A two for one special!

For more information on gull identification, check out Steve Hampton's website at <>

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter