Sunday May 12, 2013 Horned Lark at Anchor River

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Just getting somewhat caught up after the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival, May 9-12, and posting this on May 16th.

I spent several wonderful hours birding at Anchor Point beach and searching for the elusive EURASIAN HOBBY on Sunday afternoon. Walking down the beach, it was hard to avoid disturbing the tiny WESTERN and LEAST sandpipers resting with their beaks snuggled into their warm back feathers. We almost stepped on the first few, they were so well camouflaged against the beach rocks and wrack. A large flock of AMERICAN PIPITS, easily 3 dozen, canvassed the sandy areas ahead for fast food flies.

A dozen or so birders monitored the driftwood snag by the meandering river where the BIRD was previously seen. With Pavlovian faith, we hoped that it might return with the right alignment of time, tide and shorebirds.

I turned to check the COMMON LOONS diving in the ocean. Suddenly a flash of movement caught my eye. I spun around, following the speeding shape. Without flapping its wings, a MERLIN unerringly shot like a laser into a group of unsuspecting peeps hidden behind a sandy islet in the river. Flaring briefly to grab one, it bounced up and laboriously hauled its dinner towards the bluff, followed by a cawing NORTHWESTERN CROW, hoping for a bite.

It was all over in a trice. Several nearby birders missed it. Then the surviving peeps burst into flight and scattered, too late. I think the Merlin must have been hovering up high to even see those birds, and then took advantage of its height to power dive into their midst. Such a dramatic, exciting, life-and-death spectacle!

On the way back to the parking lot, my friend Deborah and I checked out the dried grasses for a NORTHERN HORNED LARK that was reported earlier. I didn't find it and was headed away when she called me back. Sure enough, there it was! Although apparently widespread in Alaska, we rarely see them in Seward.

According to the bird book, this one is likely Eremophila alpestris subspecies arcticola, a large, very pale bird of northwest Canada and Alaska. The black and white face pattern was quite dramatic, topped by tiny black horns. It wasn't the Hobby, but nonetheless, a great bird to send us on our way back home to Seward.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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