Tuesday, April 30, 2013 Snow, Swans, Cranes, Cormorants, Fox Sparrows

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Sunrise 5:56 am, sunset 9:55 pm. Length of day15 hours and 58 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 14 seconds longer.

It didn't seem like the last day of April with big piles of crusty snow and ice still here, their welcome long since expired. The leaden clouds tried to further extend Winter, but only managed some feeble snowflakes and a lot of bluster. The south wind at 3 to 10 mph with gusts to 16 mph was not at all warm, and temperatures ranged in the high 30s to low 40s.

The morning started more Spring-like, with a cheery ROBIN and lusty VARIED THRUSH singing from nearby treetops. Two FOX SPARROWS jump-scratched under the spruce trees, and the few remaining PINE SISKINS chattered from the boughs. No REDPOLLS were seen or heard, vanished with the wind.

At the Scheffler Creek area south of the Harbor Uplands, a dozen newly arrived DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS squeezed together on an exposed rock at low tide while others preened and posed on the old dock pilings. Their flowing eyebrow feathers were quite impressive.

Nearby, bright HARLEQUIN DUCKS, a few BARROW'S GOLDENEYES, the first year male BLACK SCOTER, and a single male SURF SCOTER dove for mussels. A pair of MALLARDS, NORTHWESTERN CROWS, and several MEW and GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS worked the shoreline. Four or more pairs of MARBLED MURRLETS dove together offshore. A single male RED-BREASTED MERGANSER swam past. At least four noisy ARCTIC TERNS zipped between the shore and the buoys, where a crowd of gulls feasted at the seafood processor birdfeeder. It was a very active spot with a lot of variety.

The Lagoon is mostly ice-free. COMMON MERGANSERS, COMMON GOLDENEYES, MALLARDS, and BUFFLEHEAD paddled around or snoozed on shore. No sign of the Hooded Merganser.

By noon, the squalls began marching up the bay, spitting snow first on the east side, then the west, and finally down the middle. Six beautiful SWANS emerged from one of the snow clouds, winging their way steadily north.

The south wind brought more flocks of bugling SANDHILL CRANES, flying in expansive, flowing lines across the sky. I watched a wave of at least 100 cranes at 6:18 pm and another larger flock at 6:40 pm, both heading high overhead and up the Resurrection River valley, possibly bound for Kenai. What a thrilling sight!


Other bird notes:
April 27: PACIFIC WREN singing along Tonsina Trail, 3 BLACK OYSTERCATCHERS at Tonsina Beach
April 28: 24 SANDHILL CRANES and 4 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE at salt marsh, 1 TRUMPETER SWAN at mile 1 Nash Road wetlands.
April 29: 6 LAPLAND LONGSPURS at the beach tidelands

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

April 29, 2013 Be Bear Aware!!

Seward Alaska Sporadic Bear Alert

Check out this link at Alaska Dispatch <http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20130429/wrestling-match-aggressive-alaska-brown-bear-yields-only-minor-injuries>

Summary: Awesome birders Toby and Laura Burke accompanied by three of their children encountered an erratic brown bear sow while birding their local Kasilof River beach near Kenai, Alaska. Toby quickly used his head and the equipment he had at hand. He jammed his spotting scope into the bear's mouth and after the sow snapped it off, fended her off with his tripod. Luckily, the sow soon retreated and the family escaped with only minor cuts to Toby. The troopers arrived and the bear charged them too, resulting in her death. Her actions are considered very unusual.

What a relief that the Burkes are OK!!

Bottom line, be bear aware. Carry bear spray and be alert, especially when birding!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

PS Here's a few more links to other reports:

Apparently the bear was blind in one eye and partially blind in the other, and was about 10 years old, and had no cubs.



Friday, April 26, 2013 Ducks, Terns, Eagles, Gulls

Seward Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Much quieter today; no Swans or Cranes. Chilly NNW wind continued. Beautiful lenticular white clouds sailed off mountain tops, creating lovely, unusual patterns against the blue sky.

Lowell Point Beach had only one bird, a RED-NECKED GREBE in breeding plumage. A pair of MARBLED MURRELETS bobbed in the waves and dove along Lowell Point Road. A nice flock of BARROW'S GOLDENEYES bathed in Lowell Creek while the gulls were elsewhere.

Two pairs of AMERICAN WIGEON dabbled close to shore in the Scheffler Creek area. The drake's handsome green crown swash ignited in the sun, very flashy. Two pairs of GADWALL swam nearby.

An adult BLACK SCOTER drake joined the first winter male, a pair of BARROW'S GOLDENEYES, a male SURF SCOTER, and a few HARLEQUINS just a short ways offshore. A cloud of GULLS swarmed the seafood processor's ground-up fish feeder by the buoys.

Five ARCTIC TERNS whizzed around the tidelands, performing aerial ballet at top speed.  Three NW CROWS patrolled the beach, alternating with 5 RAVENS. A juvenile BALD EAGLE stood quite still in the beach rye grass, hidden like a tiger. Unfortunately, I did not see it in time to turn away, and it flew off, only to be harassed by an adult MEW GULL. Maybe it sought peace from the aggressive gulls by concealing itself in the grass.

Only two GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE seen. Reports of SNOW GEESE in area, but did not see them. NORTHERN PINTAIL, GADWALL, MALLARD, GREEN-WINGED TEAL, and SHOVELER numbers seem to be increasing. One WILSON'S SNIPE flew up from the wetlands.

The snow and ice continued to sublimate and melt, exposing more and more ground and open water, a welcome sight for the incoming visitors. Snow is in the forecast, but IT CAN'T LAST.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Thursday, April 25, 2013 Snow Bunting, Swans, Shovelers, Sandhills, Sssspring!

Seward Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Sunrise 6:10 am, sunset 9:42 pm. Length of day 15 hours, 32 minutes; tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 19 seconds longer. Full moon rose at 10:19 pm, will set at 6 am tomorrow.

Clear blue skies cradled the bright warm sun all day, rocked by strong NNW winds at 15-20 mph, gusting to 39 mph. Max temp of 46ยบ melted a lot of snow along the edges of the snow patches and shrank their height. The Lagoon is almost ice free.

Bright green shoots of pushki and beach rye grass poked through last year's withered leaves and brown stalks. Sitka willows are in bloom, ready to attract insects to pollinate their flowers and feed hungry Kinglets,Warblers, and Hummingbirds whenever they arrive. 

Mile 1 Nash Road at 12:20 pm
A single TRUMPETER SWAN found the only, tiny section of open water at the back of the frozen wetlands. It blended in almost perfectly, easily overlooked, until it raised its head up on that long white neck to briefly look around.

Mile 5 Nash Road by the boat basin at 12:30 pm:
hunting spiders in the snow
pecking at loose gravel;
where did the others go?

Fourth of July Beach at 1:00 pm:
Two BLACK OYSTERCATCHERS napped at high tide at Fourth of July Beach, waiting for the tide to retreat and their grocery store to reopen.

One sleek and curious Steller's Sea Lion rose up from the waves to check us out, then another, and another, and another. Soon there were at least 7, possibly 10, treading water, bumping into each other, snorting, and splashing.

Town at 2:30 pm:
I heard the distinct bugling of SANDHILL CRANES from my house. I looked up and there were 8 flying right over town!

Seward Highway 3:40 pm:
Two SWANS flew past the eastern mountains near the Nash Road wetlands; one could be the same Trumpeter I saw earlier. A short time later, 11 SWANS circled over the bay, white against the snowy mountains.

13 CANADA GEESE with 7 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE circled over the head of the bay. A single SANDHILL CRANE led and then trailed a flock of CANADA GEESE and one CACKLING GOOSE north.

About 60-80 SNOW GEESE lifted up like a shaken down pillow, behind them in the distance 100s of GULLS likewise rose up in a cloud. Eagles or other raptors at work, perhaps?


Town just after sunset at 9:50 pm:
I scanned the violet twilight evening sky for a glimpse of Jupiter. Instead I found an undulating arc of about 200 SANDHILL CRANES preceded by an arrow of about 50 GEESE flying into the wind high in the sky. I watched through my binocs as they flew right over Race Point, heading north past Mt Marathon. What a glorious finale to a spectacular spring day!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Arctic Terns, Greater Scaup

Seward Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Great day for birds, thanks to the unsettled chilly weather, gusty north wind, and gray skies. It seems that it's clouds that bring birds, not sunbeams.

Passing by Dairy Hill Lane around noon today, I heard the jazzy syncopated song of a RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET. My friend and I walked back to find the little guy. He scolded from the depths of a low spruce, a sound I did not recognize. Then, there he was, ricocheting around the willows and alders like a green and yellow ping pong ball high on sugar. He barely stood still long enough for me to snap a photo before zipping off again. It is possible there were two kinglets, but it's also possible he moved fast enough to be in two places at once like an electron. Welcome home, Ruby(s)!

The HOODED MERGANSER male swam near the edge of the ice at the Lagoon, accompanied by a female COMMON GOLDENEYE. Male Common Goldeneyes courted females of their own species, the males beeping and dramatically tossing their heads backwards.

A hunky juvenile BALD EAGLE lurked at the edge of the ice, watching the ducks ignoring him. It toyed with a large stick, perhaps practicing for future nest building.

Over at the tidelands, 5 ARCTIC TERNS chirped and zinged, completely dominating the airspace, filling it with their presence. At least one tern carried a tiny fish in its beak, courting a sleek, beautiful companion. These were my first of season; so exciting to see them back from Antarctica!

Three FOS AMERICAN PIPITS walked along the beach, foraging in the driftwood and emerging beach rye grass, bobbing their tails. MALLARDS, PINTAILS, AMERICAN WIGEONS, GADWALL, and GREEN-WING TEAL dabbled near the large flock of SNOW GEESE intently feeding on the sedges. A small flock of about 20 CANADA GEESE flew overhead and circled back to join the Snow Geese. I did not go close for fear of disturbing them.

Lowell Creek Beach by the seafood processing plant attracts a lot of birds including HERRING, GLAUCOUS-WINGED, and MEW GULLS. Just offshore, HARLEQUIN DUCKS, BARROW'S GOLDENEYES, and SURF SCOTERS dove for small fish and mussels. The Surf Scoters included a young male, just getting some color in his bill and a dash of white on his nape. The three males crowded the female, who energetically chased them all away. A pair of PIGEON GUILLEMOTS in breeding plumage paddled along farther out.

Over by Sheffler Creek, south of the harbor Uplands, the first winter male BLACK SCOTER dove for blue mussels all by itself.  Dabbling ducks poked among the low intertidal zone, including a pair of AMERICAN WIGEON, GADWALL, and MALLARDS. Five FOS GREATER SCAUP paddled up to dive near shore; I could not tell what they were eating.

Near Second Lake, part of Two Lakes Trail in town, I heard the high "see-see-seet" of a few GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS. They have been scarce this winter.

Other news: KINGFISHER reported at Mile 3 Pond (Stash and Store) and a MERLIN at Preacher Pond across the highway.

Happy Spring Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter