Thursday, January 31, 2013 Sea birds

January 31, 2013 Sea birds

After yesterday afternoon and evening's miserable rain/sleet/sn'rain, it was a wonder to wake up to mysterious fog with patches of clear sky. The fog burned off by noon, and the raggedy clouds reluctantly permitted the sun to peek through here and there. It remained calm and warm, up to 34º, a welcome reprieve! The sky opened even more by night to let the brilliant stars and Jupiter dazzle like jewels in the inscrutable black universe.

Today, two Anchorage birders drove to Seward. One had flown from vacation in Hawaii just to get the Accentor, and having succeeded, drove back home to fly back to Hawaii! It was easier than going to Gamble!

The SIBERIAN ACCENTOR eluded me once again, but the reliable BRAMBLINGS almost made up for it. I saw one in the Mt Ash trees this morning and two this afternoon. Very nice!

I surprised an adult BALD EAGLE sitting on a stump, hanging out its wet wings to dry. Quite the hair-do on this usually sleek national symbol! It flew off and resumed drying from the safety of a spruce top.

The turnaround at the south end of the Scheffler Creek pedestrian bridge south of the Harbor Uplands proved to be an interesting birding spot. The bay was mirror calm; the tide was high.

I spotted a COMMON LOON preening in the distance. A dozen SURF SCOTERS paddled and dove together. A single male COMMON GOLDENEYE pursued his lunch near the dolphin. Two PELAGIC CORMORANTS roosted on the dophin, sharing it with a GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL. Other gulls, including many MEW GULLS, and PELAGIC CORMORANTS floated in a long line just beyond with a small group of COMMON MERGANSERS. They all seemed to be enjoying the mild afternoon and warm sunshine after such a stressful week of cold and wind.

Three female (or juvenile) BUFFLEHEAD paddled together. After a short time, one swam in quite close to shore, busily diving and snorkeling. I believe it was chasing small fish that it swallowed underwater.

A single female BLACK SCOTER also dove quite close to shore, emerging with a pile of little rocks all stuck together with the byssal threads of blue mussels. She whapped the collection on the water and swished it just below the surface, freeing at least some of the rocks from the entrée. With some effort, she managed to swallow the mussels, shells and all, with a few rocks. Then she sat for a bit, while that load settled before diving for more. It was so nice to watch her close up, a beautiful, delicately marked bird.

As I watched the BLACK SCOTER, another hen swam up. At first I thought it might be a mallard, but as she approached closer, right up to shore, I could see her white speculum, marking her as a GADWALL. The birds regarded each other, one a diver, one a dabbler, and decided all was well.

Over on the pilings a GLAUCOUS-WINGED X HERRING GULL hybrid stood on one piling, and a MEW GULL on another. The size difference was very obvious, as were the pink vs yellow legs.

Accentor or not, it was another great day to bird and marvel at Mother Nature! AND, I didn't have to sit in a jet for 12 hours and drive another 5!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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