Thursday, September 18, 2013 Western Tanager update

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 7:36 am, sunset 8:05 pm, for a total length of day of 12 hours and 29 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 25 seconds shorter. Full moon tonight; moonrise was officially at 7:45 pm, but she didn't peek over the mountains until 8:26 pm, and then rose like a helium balloon into the deep indigo blue night sky. What a lovely sight!

After a few days of calm and clouds, a brisk north wind cleansed the stratus cobwebs, revealing a brilliant blue sky. Splashes of gold and red blazed in the Mt Ash trees; fluttering yellow cottonwood and willow leaves all mimicked Western Tanagers; alder leaves skipped the finery and dropped dead dressed in faded green and drab brown. The temps hovered in the low to mid- 50s, after dipping into the high 30s at night.

First things first: A WESTERN TANAGER was refound today around 4:30 pm in the 700 block of Fifth Avenue at the corner of Monroe. Either a bright female or winter male, it was busy juicing serviceberries in the wonderful hedge in the middle of the yard. After plucking a single berry, it really worked it over, squeezing it thoroughly, providing wonderful views during the process. I still didn't see if it dropped the berry's skin when finished, it was so quick, but suspect it ate the whole enchilada. Then it went back for another sweet ripe berry.

Earlier in the afternoon, a SPRUCE GROUSE suddenly whirred up from around a curve in the Tonsina Trail, and disappeared into a stately tree bearing its name. I haven't seen a spruce grouse in a long time; other times, it's hard to get them off the trail.

A few PACIFIC WRENS chipped unseen from the dense woods along the trail. A VARIED THRUSH sang tentatively, and two FOX SPARROWS jump-scratched in the dead leaves. HARELQUIN DUCKS dove for fish eggs in Tonsina Creek as a few late spawning pink salmon swam past along the shore. GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS, both young and adult, and an adult HERRING GULL sunned on a remnant stretch of beach just out of reach of the high tide.

I scanned the fall colors of the mountainside and watched an adult BALD EAGLE shoot over the crest, sailing in the wind on its broad wings.

In other news, I received a report of the Mile 15 TRUMPETER SWAN family. Apparently this past weekend, the whole family was spotted walking in the ditch alongside the road, the four cygnets bookended by the adults, heading south. Speculation ranges from a lack of clear water to take off; the cygnets can't fly yet but can walk; they just wanted to go for a little stroll. One never knows with birds. I'd be interested in any further updates of this unusual and fascinating swan family. So far, the reports are that they are gone.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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