Wednesday, October 2, 2013 Peregrine Falcon and Storm-petrels

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 8:06 am, sunset 7:25 pm for a total day length of 11 hours and 18 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 24 seconds shorter.

After a hard rain last night, the crack of dawn brought exhausted clouds and freshly washed, vibrant fall colors to the neighborhood trees. By midday, the sun prevailed and shone a spotlight on the action along Lowell Point Road. The temp hovered in the mid to upper 40s, but that spotlight felt remarkably warm when it hit 50ยบ without any wind interfering!

Good news! The beautiful BARROW'S GOLDENEYES are back! About 15 gathered in a cautious raft by the Lowell Creek outfall near the dozens of GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS, HERRING hybrids, MEW GULLS, and BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES.

Dozens of silent FORK-TAILED STORM-PETRELS flitted up and down the calm bay, pattered along the water, and briefly landed to get a drink of saltwater or a snack. A PELAGIC CORMORANT and a MARBLED MURRELET in winter plumage surfaced quietly and dove.

The gulls paddled about in front of the seafood processing plant, diving now and then, and complained as gulls do best. A BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE sounded off with an uncharacteristic harsh cry as it circled the other gulls. Suddenly, they all forgot their petty woes and took flight as an almost mature BALD EAGLE dashed into their midst. I'm sure it would have been pleased to catch any one of them, but it focused on a plump dock pigeon and unfortunately missed.

Seconds after the eagle had returned to a shoreside perch to muse about the lack of lunch, a PEREGRINE FALCON shot out over the water. The rattled gulls dispersed farther out, and the disappointed falcon stroked back to shore and landed in a spruce tree behind me. Wow! What an impressive bird! Truly a bird far too fine for kings! As it sat preening in the glare of the sun, I resumed watching the storm-petrels.

A tiny one landed nearby and began beating the water with its teeny feet, churning up plankton and other bits to eat. It took a little drink, lifting its head up high to let the cool seawater slide down. No problem with that ingenious salt-extracting tubenose. It was oblivious to me, and to the Peregrine that was also watching with great interest from high above in the spruce.

The next second, the Peregrine shot out of the tree towards the Storm-petrel. All the gulls that had returned flew away again, and the Storm-petrel wasted no time following them. The Peregrine quickly spun around and stroked low over the water after the little sprite.

A strike! The Peregrine's right talons grabbed the Storm-petrel by the right wing and the bird twisted midair. I thought it was all over, but the little mite broke free. Apparently there was no serious damage to its wings; it flew hard. After a brief chase, the Peregrine broke off and stroked back to shore to another spruce perch. Raptors 0, prey 2.

The Storm-petrels quickly resumed flitting and feeding. The gulls flew back to tussle over tidbits and voice their complaints. It was as if nothing dramatic had happened at all; just another sweet moment on a rare, calm, sunny afternoon in October.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

1 comment:

  1. Very cool, Carol, and great pictures. I've always enjoyed your prose on the listserve, and will continue to on this site now. Thanks!

    Robert Ambrose