Sunday, May 19, 2013 Storm-bound Birds

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Sunrise 5:08 am, sunset 10:42 pm for a total of 17 hours, 32 minutes. Tomorrow will be 4 minutes and 26 seconds longer.

Weather: Sunshine and clear blue skies again today! The crazy winter storm that hit Southcentral Alaska spared Seward the drama of snow, but pummeled the area with strong north winds gusting to 39 mph yesterday and chilly temperatures all weekend.  Today the wind lessened to 22 mph gusts, and finally all but gave up by late this afternoon as the thermometer rose steadily to the high 40sº, possibly hitting 50º.  The storm pinned a lot of birds in Seward, as it did in other areas, resulting in very exciting birding.

By far, the most exciting bird was a NORTHERN WHEATEAR, discovered Sunday evening at 9:30 pm by Tasha and Sadie. This species flies 9,000 miles across eastern Africa, across Arabia, across Siberia, and then across the Bering Strait to breed in Alaska. This may be a record for songbird migration. And this one managed to find Seward. Amazing! Check out

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I rushed out to the sedge meadow at the head of the bay and refound the 6" songbird sitting on an ancient piece of driftwood. At that dusky hour, I did not see any color; it blended in well with the bleached wood except for its thin black eyeline, and striking black pattern on its back. The drabness probably indicates a female. Just like the Mt Bluebird, she perched quietly for a time, then dove down into the grasses for a minute to forage for insects, then back up to the same lookout perch or one nearby. I watched until it was too dim to really appreciate. I was bummed to find later that I accidentally deleted my photos, poor as they were.

AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVERS and PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVERS by the dozens roamed the grassy meadows and sedge wetlands with numerous PECTORAL SANDPIPERS. I have never seen so many of these species here before. The 40-50 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE, 25 SNOW GEESE, a dozen or more CACKLING GEESE, one lone BRANT, 4 HUDSONIAN GODWITS, many DOWITCHERS, and 5 SANDHILL CRANES delayed their departure due to the storm.

Other species that the storm backed up included a large number of GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROWS heard singing all over town, and seen in flocks of a dozen or more. SAVANNAH SPARROWS, FOX SPARROWS, and LINCOLN SPARROWS suddenly appeared and filled the air with their melodious songs.

Large numbers of HERMIT THRUSHES in groups popped up too, but I only heard one singing its haunting wood flute song. Most were too busy feeding along the ground and scratching in the dead leaves and duff.

Warblers blew in, with reports of ORANGE-CROWNED, YELLOW, YELLOW-RUMPED, TOWNSEND'S and WILSON'S from town to Exit Glacier. TREE and VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS also reappeared, swooping over open areas for insects.

I heard WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS singing and saw two; also enjoyed watching a female PINE GROSBEAK feeding on fallen sunflower seeds on my deck. She then flew to a nearby tree and began singing; not all singers are male!

The RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRDS continued to feed on the icy sugar water with more reports from around the area.

As the front eases, many may continue their migration north, but it was a delight to host them all even for a short time.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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