Sunday, March 24, 2013 THREE Bramblings and a zillion Redpolls

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Sunrise 7:45 am, sunset 8:23 pm, length of day 12 hours, 37 minutes. It's light until almost 9 pm! Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 30 seconds longer.

Weather: Yin and Yang. After a week of almost brutally intense sunlight magnified by a surprise dump of 13" of snow, temps in the teens, and a howling wind creating ground blizzards, it's now calm, 30ยบ, overcast and snowing gently. Ahhh… for now. More snow, snow showers, and rain in the forecast with increasing winds. Spring wears Winter's face. Solstice blew right by me on March 20, it was so wintery!

The thick snow blanket keeps the birds focused on the feeders. Many, many hundreds of COMMON REDPOLLS, and PINE SISKINS fill the air, darken the snow, decorate the trees, and cover the feeders. A single Siskin actually has a delightful little conversational song, but all together it's a cacophony of trills and zzzzips.

Add the loud VARIED THRUSHES, rapid-fire announcements of the STELLER JAYS, talkative MAGPIES, the zippy WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW, happy SONG SPARROW, trilling JUNCOS, a pair of BALD EAGLES crying overhead, the croaking of RAVENS, cawing of the occasional invading NW CROWS from the beach, and cooing of unwelcome PIGEONS. Quite a symphony! It's a wonder to watch and listen.

A NORTHERN GOSHAWK heard the racket. On Friday, it darted in and hauled off a small bird. It is one of the few raptors here, and is probably eating rather well. It's not the only predator, however. A feeder watcher in Forest Acres reported that a Pine Siskin bumped softly into a window and landed on the deck. Instantly a Steller's Jay swooped down, grabbed it, and hauled it off into a tree where it presumably ate it. No wonder the little birds flee in panic when they hear a Steller's Jay approaching!

Those vibrant VARIED THRUSHES serve as my morning alarm clock, even over the recent whistling wind. Eight hopped around the feeder with more clucking and singing in the tree branches, and more at other yards and feeders. It's an unusual number so early. A lovely female Varied Thrush cautiously entered the feeding frenzy; her right eye was injured and closed. I hope she can make it with such limited vision, poor bird.

Other feeder birds this week included a LINCOLN'S SPARROW, WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW (also singing), GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW, FOX SPARROW (with a droopy left wing, but it can fly), SONG SPARROW, AMERICAN TREE SPARROW, DARK-EYED JUNCO, OREGON JUNCO, a single GRAY-CROWNED ROSY-FINCH, two male DOWNY WOODPECKERS, and one female.

Just before dark, all the music suddenly ceases and the Redpolls vanish to their secret roosts. Then the CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES and RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES dart in to grab a few seeds. The mobs of finches are too intimidating for these shy residents. It's a wonder they can survive on so little.

Again I enjoyed sitting for a bit near one of my feeders with seed in my outstretched hand. Within a second, a PINE SISKIN hopped on and began feeding and vigorously defended its new-found stash against all intruders. The bright yellow feathers flashed when he opened his wings wide and lowered his head, chattering. Often the defender tangled with another siskin and fell off, letting a bystander feed for a millisecond. It was quite entertaining. The less aggressive Redpolls fed on my knee or on the ground by my feet.

Driving nowhere and walking just a few steps today, I glassed the surrounding Mt Ash trees and found a bright BRAMBLING. Nearby sat another! And then a third one blasted by and chased both away. THREE BRAMBLINGS in my yard! I was happy to get photos of them, and believe one much more pale bird might be a female. Maybe they will stay and nest!

Zorro, the SIBERIAN ACCENTOR, has not been seen since Wednesday. I've been looking as time permits without any luck since my last sighting on Monday. The Bird also eluded two dedicated birders from Fairbanks and Delta Jct who drove through a blizzard on Turnagin Arm on Friday and diligently watched the hotspots in a snowstorm the rest of that day and on Saturday, aided on the second day by a Homer birder. Steve and John deserve the Zorro award for their hard work!

Of note:
Kenna Sue and Susan reported a first-of-season HERMIT THRUSH and two Tree Sparrows on Monday, March 18th.

The Burke family birded on a lovely day on Thursday, March 21, just as the wind died down and before the clouds rolled in. The highlights of their amazing list included 2 ANCIENT MURRELETS in front of town by the Community Playground, a GOLDEN EAGLE in the mountains on the east side of the bay, a single GREEN-WINGED TEAL female in Spring Creek, two FOS AMERICAN WIGEON, 35 ROCK SANDPIPERS, and two SHORT-EARED OWLS at the tidelands, 2 BRAMBLINGS, and 20 RUSTY BLACKBIRDS at the horse corral.

Many fine birders have visited Seward this winter. If you are willing to share your Seward sightings with me, please drop me an E at c_griz at I really appreciate your reports.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

This Brambling looks like a female to me:

And this bright Brambling is a male.

Thanks to Martin Renner for this information: 
"Bramblings are best sexed by the color of the crown (according to Svensson). So yes, you got a male and a female there. The male on your blog is already molting into alternate plumage. To get a fully black head it mainly needs to wear off some of the white fringes on the black facial feathers. Great shots!"

And thanks to Aaron Bowman for this further information:
"It does look like the male Bramblings are starting to molt into their spring plumage, with maybe some more dark on their face, around the eye and bill and perhaps brighter wing markings. Eventually the male's bill will also turn black and the whole head and back will be black. If I remember right from Japan it will be around late April before they are in full breading plumage.

A good way to be pretty sure of the female in all plumages is their gray nape between their back and their head, framed by the two dark lines falling down their crest. The shots you took look correctly labeled to me."

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful photos—you've managed to capture the Redpolls in flight! I've been practicing, but have many photos of empty branches. Lovely reports.