Monday, February 18th: Siberian Accentor, Brambling, and the supporting cast

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Sunrise 8:26 am, sunset 5:57 pm, length of day 9 hours, 31 minutes; tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 25 seconds longer.

Weather: A strong north wind sprang up last night and ended the uncertainty of the past week's rain, sn'rain, sleet and snow. Today must have been housekeeping day as it vigorously swept all the loose snow into biting ground blizzards and out to sea. The temperature hovered around 25ยบ with a windchill of around 5. The bright sunshine, however, was most welcome!

The birds continue to feed like mad at the feeders all day, replenishing their body fat to get through another cold night. Suet cakes disappear and sunflower seed levels visibly shrink over the span of just a few hours. COMMON REDPOLLS and PINE SISKINS cover the feeders and the ground below them like live feather coverlets.

An innocent Redpoll landed on Peregrine Joe's head a few days ago, while we were watching the spectacle. I wish I had a photo of that!

The little finches hop along the alleys and roads where gravel is exposed, filling their crops. It's easy to run them over but far better to lightly toot the horn and they instantly fly off. Try this on the highway; it works at high speeds too.

Driving out to Lowell Point, a flock accompanied me for quite a stretch, flying alongside the car. It almost felt like that hang glider accompanying sand hill cranes on their migration.

Erik from Healy braved the wind and ice to scour the neighborhood for the rare birds. Thanks to his diligence, he did find both the SIBERIAN ACCENTOR and the BRAMBLING feeding together on the ground under a mixed seed and suet feeder. I joined him around 2:30 just before the sun sank behind the mountain, plunging the area into shadows.

Gorgeous, bright glowing orange VARIED THRUSHES hopped around or perched cautiously in the trees. I had four in my binoculars at one time, 3 males and one slightly paler female. There are at least a dozen in this block alone. In the early morning, a wheezy sigh like a teakettle just taken off the stove, pipes up from just about every tree. They softly cluck and whistle throughout the day.

The BRAMBLING added its burnt orange color to the feeder crowd. I don't think there are any Mt Ash berries left, not even nubbins to nibble so it was on the ground scrounging for suet and seeds.

Then the SIBERIAN ACCENTOR cautiously descended from the dense woods to join the Varied Thrush and Brambling. It was quite a sight to see all three at once, such warm colors on such a cold day! The Accentor seemed to be more at home now, boldly chasing off the smaller birds and the WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS. Undeterred, the White-crowned's sweet rendition of  "zoo-zippity- zee-zee-zoo" floated down from a nearby tree.

A male DOWNY WOODPECKER flailed away on the suet, sending more crumbs below. A bright male RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH alternated with the woodpecker, delicately picking out morsels. DARK-EYED JUNCOS, including one OREGON JUNCO male joined the other SLATE-COLORED JUNCOS and a SONG SPARROW. The bright and flighty COMMON REDPOLLS and PINE SISKINS were everywhere like air, chattering and blowing raspberries. Chipper CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES checked out the mostly open spruce cones for stuck seeds.

At one point, a bossy STELLER'S JAY flew down to the feeder. All the birds instantly fled, except one little Redpoll, trapped inside the chickenwire exclosure. The jay tried to get it and I don't doubt that he would have eaten it if he could. The Redpoll frantically tried to escape as the jay chased it around the cylinder from the outside. Finally, the Redpoll discovered there was no lid and zipped up and away. These little birds may also know that the Jays eat bird eggs and babies. Not one to ignore!

I was surprised to notice that a BLACK-BILLED MAGPIE sauntering nearby did not elicit the same response. It was tolerated fairly well, even though the magpies also predate on eggs and hatchlings.

A dark juvenile BALD EAGLE soared overhead into the wind, looking for bigger prey to eat. COMMON RAVENS dipped and played, laughing at the cold.

The 'hood was alive with beautiful birds, both common and rare, intent on survival while inadvertently providing a spectacular show for appreciative birders.  Congratulations, Erik!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Here are a few photos. I'm still trying to get that Siberian Accentor in the sun!


  1. Carol, I so appreciated my brief introduction to birding, and the birding community, that I wrote a little blog post about it myself. You can find it over here: