Tuesday, September 3, 2013 It's Raining Birds

Seward Alaska

Sunrise 6:58 am, sunset 8:54 pm, for a total of 13 hours, 55 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 23 seconds shorter.

Could it possibly rain any harder??? Spasms of waterfalls erupted throughout the day and continued into the night, reminding me of a gutter I recently cleared. Whooosh!  Luckily it was calm, and peaceful interludes included a symphony of sunshine at noon. What a crazy storm!

This morning, the dogs and I entered a continuing drama between three SHARP-SHINNED HAWKS and the neighborhood STELLER'S JAYS and MAGPIES. This has been going on all day long for weeks. The jays squawk and fly, the hawks give chase; the jays escape and nonchalantly resume planting peanuts in the lawn, flower pots, or gutters while the hawk(s) rest. Then a 3 to 5-note cry from the hawk, and another high speed thriller through the trees ensues. I snuck into the house for my camera and got a few photos of one yellow-eyed juvenile Sharpie resting on a cottonwood branch.

At noon, we went out Lowell Point Road where rocks tumbled off the super-saturated cliffs into the road right by the "Caution, Rocks on Road" sign. That road is always exciting! Though we started in the rain, miraculously, the skies cleared and the sun came out while the east side of the bay hunkered down under a dark blue-black squall.

Two DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS flew on top of Pinnacle Rock to stretch and dry their wings in the stiff south breeze. It's about time for them to migrate. MARBLED MURRELETS bobbed in the waves while gulls flew overhead. I was hoping for a Storm Petrel, but did not succeed.

On the loop around Lowell Point behind the sewage treatment plant, I saw a bird in the road. As traffic was zero, I stopped to investigate. What do birds do when it stops raining? They take a bath! There must have been at least eight VARIED THRUSHES in the area. Two splashed in the rain puddle; one snatched red Devil's Club berries, others hopped along the shadowy edge of the road. I heard their soft clucking and feeble trills.

Close by, a young HERMIT THRUSH fluffed up all its feathers and turned this way and that, enjoying the warm sun. Several FOX SPARROWS chipped from the bushes, then hopped down to jump-scratch in the leaves. An ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER dashed across the road while a female DOWNY WOODPECKER poked for insects on an alder trunk. It was quite a lively scene!

I moved on, and soon returned to the seafood processing plant at the beginning of the road. The mob of BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES mixed with MEW GULLS, and GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS fluttered like twinkling stars above the water, diving down to grab something small, then up again to spot the next tidbit. It must have been something good!

It was fun to see the beautiful juvenile Kittiwakes with their first winter finery, decked out with black earrings, scarves, and tail bands. The attire on different individuals varied. The gray-brown young Mew Gulls' plumage was more subdued, but their patterning was very delicate. And the young Glaucous-winged Gulls were just gray lunks with black bills. All were very vocal, excited about the bonanza and maybe even the lull in the storm.

Back home, the Sharpie show continued, a seemingly endless loop until dark. Too bad they don't eat peanuts!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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