Tuesday, May 14, 2013 Wandering Tattler, Cranes, Geese, and Hummers

Seward Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Stinging cold rain with a brisk north wind and temps in the high 30s did not favor photography today. But a wary female and a noisy male RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD found my feeders. What tough little miracles! I sure hope they stick around!

Birding by car I finally heard a WANDERING TATTLER tootling in the intertidal zone just south of Scheffler's Creek by the Harbor Uplands. It was well camouflaged against the barnacle and mussle-studded rocks, sitting forlornly in the rain at low tide. Five peeps, likely WESTERNS, probed along the shoreline.

A pair of MALLARDS, several pairs of HARLEQUINS and BARROW'S GOLDENEYES, and a single HORNED GREBE in flashy breeding plumage dined in the shallow waters nearby. A pair of SURF SCOTERS cruised around in deeper water with MARBLED MURRELETS and PELAGIC CORMORANTS. Several BONAPARTE'S GULLS flew among the numerous BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES, MEW GULLS, GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS, and those pesky HERRING x GLAUCOUS-WINGED hybrids at the seafood processor bird feeder. ARCTIC TERNS racheted overhead and plunged into the water. DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS rested on the old pilings. It was a busy scene, despite the rain.

Out at the sedge meadow at the head of the bay at noon, the NORTHERN HARRIER worked the soggy ground. A few SAVANNAH SPARROWS flitted in the grass. Two PECTORAL SANDPIPERS, and three DOWITCHERS poked around the muddy edges of the pond. Lots of NORTHERN SHOVELERS, GREEN-WINGED TEAL, MALLARDS, NORTHERN PINTAILS, a few GADWALL, and a dozen CACKLING GEESE fed and rested.

I wonder if that north wind blew some cranes and geese back to Seward? Over at Lowell Point beach around 5 pm, there were five stately SANDHILL CRANES feeding in the beach rye grass. As people arrived they eased over to the far end, and mostly remained undetected, perfectly blending into the brown and tan dried grasses like gray ghosts. This is the first time I have seen cranes here.

I also looked for the Mt Bluebird, without success.

By 6 pm the weather improved dramatically, with blue sky peeking through the drab gray clouds. What a delightful difference! Back at the tidelands at 8 pm, the ARCTIC TERNS patrolled their airspace, driving out resident RAVENS, and even harassed passing BALD EAGLES, assisted by equally brave MEW GULLS.

A nice-sized flock of at least 24 SANDHILL CRANES fed peacefully in the sunshine until a pair of determined adult BALD EAGLES roared overhead like fighter jets, chasing each other in the blue sky, oblivious to the pandemonium they caused below with ducks scattering everywhere. The cranes gathered together, but did not fly, and soon resumed feeding.

Just as the sun disappeared behind Mt Marathon, casting long shadows, a flock of 25 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE and a few CACKLING GEESE came winging up Resurrection Bay, honking joyously. They circled wide as if deciding on whether or not to stay, then descended to the darkening wetlands.

Coincidentally, I purchased my $5 State of Alaska duck stamp today at the Fish House in Seward to support conservation efforts. This year's design features two beautiful Greater White-fronted Geese. I also purchased the Federal Duck Stamp, a gorgeous Wood Duck, at the Post Office for $15.

At the recent Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival keynote speech by ABA president Jeffrey Gordon, I learned that birders should support this program, not just hunters. According to the website, http://www.fws.gov/duckstamps/Info/Stamps/stampinfo.htm, 98¢ of every dollar goes directly to purchase or lease wetland habitat for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

I also encourage all birders to buy both the State and Federal duck stamps. It's a totally worthy cause, and about time we changed the perception that only hunters support this conservation effort.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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