Saturday, February 9, 2013 Morning Magic

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Sunrise 8:50 am, sunset 5:33 pm, length of day 8 hours, 43 minutes; tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 17 seconds longer.

Weather: Spin that dial and throw a dart! It could be anything from soft, fluffy, picture postcard snow to sleet, rain, and thinking about it. The thermometer is once again vacillating within about 5ยบ of freezing which makes all these options possible, sometimes all in the same day. The wind kicked up this evening as the clouds opened up. The wet and windy weather is hard on the birds, already hampered by long chilly nights, icy crusty snow cover, and natural food shortages.

After our memorable cold snap at the end of January with temperatures in the single digits, it suddenly warmed up and snowed. The temperatures kept rising. The next day I found an unusual number of both spruce and alder seeds liberally sprinkled on top of the fresh snow. I wondered if the trees responded to the "end of winter" by releasing their seeds. A more likely mechanism is that the cone bracts respond to changes in humidity.

Where the white-winged crossbills, pine siskins, and redpolls chattered noisily and fed vigorously at the tops of every spruce tree, the cones are now open and empty. In addition, the once-plentiful Mt Ash berries are gone, eaten or blown off by the wind and covered by snow. No wonder the birds are hungry and emptying feeders at astonishing rates. Folks all over are finally seeing birds at their previously ignored feeders.

This morning around 8 am, well before dawn but getting light, I took the dogs out for a walk. The good dog glanced up and I followed her gaze. A dark bird landed in a nearby cottonwood and sat quite still. Raptor? I couldn't see much detail. I made some squeaking sounds and it bent its head towards the sound. The good dog, still intrigued, moved closer, barking in a muffled way through the tennis ball clenched in her teeth. The bird then took flight, its broad wings silently carrying it across the street to the safety of the spruce forest on the mountainside. An OWL! It was too big to be a saw-whet; I think it must have been a GREAT-HORNED OWL. I haven't heard any calling yet, but they should be around. I am mystified why this bird attracted my dog's attention, but am so glad it did. One can learn a lot from watching an alert dog!

This crusty snow is likely making it hard for owls to find food. But the ample birdseed scattered on the ground is probably feeding voles and mice, as well as feral rabbits. Perfect opportunity for a hungry, enterprising owl.

Watching that owl was a magical way to start the day; I felt so lucky!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

No comments:

Post a Comment