Tuesday, June 4, 2013 Late Spring Sightings

Seward Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Sunrise 4:40 am, sunset 11:12 pm for a total of 18 hours and 31 minutes. Tomorrow will be 2 minutes and 43 seconds longer.

After our "summer" heat wave last week, the weather settled back to normal with temperatures in the 40s to low 50s, partly cloudy skies, with occasional showers. A fleece once again feels good.

With over 18 ½ hours of daylight, it's a palette of greens of every hue and plants are growing like mad. It's still possible to find warblers flitting and tumbling in the willow trees, chasing tiny insects attracted to the flowers, but not for much longer.

Willow, alder, and cottonwood are not the only flowers in bloom now. Nagoonberry and salmonberry flowers add a splash of magenta; a single lupine offered its spire of blue and white blooms; and dandelions have competition with the yellow flowers of the skunk cabbage and marsh marigold.

The rapidly growing leaves also hide the new nests under construction. The male birds loudly and beautifully proclaim their territories now but soon the boundary disputes will be settled and the nesting birds will be very quiet, incubating, then feeding their families.

This is a great time to hop on a boat and tour the seabird colonies on the cliffs and islands at the mouth of Resurrection Bay and beyond to the Chiswell Islands. It's the only time these seabirds come to shore because they haven't figured out a way to lay an egg in the ocean. They are devoted to their rocky nesting sites, and easy to find.

I was surprised to find BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES still gathering mud and vegetation for their nests, one beakful at a time, at the mudflats at the head of the bay. What a long way to carry this precious material back to the seabird colony! It seems a bit late, just like everything else this spring.

Also a bit late, were two GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE, lagging far behind the rest of the flocks, and two WANDERING TATTLERS.

The euchalon (hooligan) continue to run in Resurrection River, attracting hoards of gulls: MEW, BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES, GLAUCOUS-WINGED, HERRING hybrids, and I think, a GLAUCOUS GULL. A local fisherman thought the fish were late this year as he only caught males in his dipnet when the females should also be here by now.

The RAVENS fish, steal, and scavenge, eating the tasty, oily fish on the spot or haul them back to their young in the nest. They run the gauntlet past the Mew gulls and ARCTIC TERNS that fiercely attack from above. The Ravens quickly flip to present their beak and claws, then either flip back or complete their 360 roll, acrobats that they are. I suspect they enjoy the challenge! Eagles too, are attacked and harassed by the bold birds, sometimes seeming to fly through just to stir things up into a boiling flurry of feathers.

I happened to catch a photo of an immature ARCTIC TERN with a white forehead. It takes 3 springs to reach adult plumage, so this bird migrated all the way from the southern hemisphere without any hopes of breeding. One source called this stage a "loafer", though it might be very helpful in guarding others' nests and territories. I have never noticed this before and wonder how common it is. There is always something interesting to see and wonder about in the bird world!

Other notes:
May 24: a juvenile SNOWY OWL missing its head was found at the Exit Glacier outwash plain. How strange and interesting! No further details.
May 27: 8 WANDERING TATTLERS counted along Greenbelt at low tide, a surprising find on a busy Memorial Day.
May 30: single BRANT spotted in the wetlands with the two TRUMPETER SWANS at Mile 1 Nash Road.
May 31: COMMON LOON in breeding plumage diving near Lowell Point Road
June 1: FOS BANK SWALLOW; either there aren't many around, or the swallows just move too fast and erratically to properly identify.
June 3: GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH reported from coniferous yard in town. None  at Exit Glacier yet.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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