Sunday, November 24, 2013 Swan Rescue

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 9:18 am, sunset 4:08 pm for a total of 6 hours and 49 minutes. Tomorrow will be 3 minutes and 58 seconds shorter.

After an intense, frigid cold spell, the thermometer has teetered capriciously on the freezing point. Swollen dark gray clouds waffle between snow and rain, often delivering both. About four inches of dense, wet snow fell overnight, concealing yesterday's treacherous icy base. Skating would be ideal as travel by foot or vehicle is hazardous. At least it has been calm.

Today, about a half hour before "official" dawn, I heard several MARBLED MURRELETS calling loudly as they flew from their forest bed to the bay diner, along the shrouded shoulder of Mt Marathon and Bear Mountain. It certainly is a mystery why this petite seabird would choose to commute from the ocean full of fish to the isolated, dangerous forest. Especially when the nesting season is over. Nonetheless, it is always a thrill to hear them as they fly overhead at the edges of the night.

Around 10:30 am, I headed back to the tidelands to check on an adult SWAN that I discovered yesterday in a tiny stream channel flowing from a wetlands. When I first saw it, I was amazed. Then I wondered if it was stuck in the nearby ice, it was so still. After watching a bit longer, I became concerned as it was listless, bedraggled, and injured.

In addition to the usual iron stains from wetland sediments, dried blood stained the feathers on its forehead and right side, perhaps from an eagle attack. I did not see it feed, but it drank the cold water like a fine wine connoisseur, lifting its head to swallow, then slowly and carefully going back for another sip. It was alert, and aware of me, so I kept my distance.

I was relieved to find it alive after yet another tough night. I called the Alaska Sealife Center rescue staff who were standing by for an update. Tasha arrived first and after verifying the poor condition of the swan, authorized the rescue. Around noon, three folks came from the Rehabilitation Team and easily captured the weakened bird. The head was carefully tucked in next to its wing and the swan was carried under one arm back to a kennel waiting in the rescue truck. After stabilization, it is hoped that Tasha can deliver it to the Bird Treatment and Learning Center in Anchorage on Monday.

The ASLC verified that this is a TUNDRA SWAN. Note that the eye appears nearly separate from the bill, and the border on the bill is U-shaped or almost straight like a Tundra swan. David Sibley has an excellent discussion with links to photos at 
<> I will update this report when I hear back from the staff.

Of note at the tidelands were about 100 SNOW BUNTINGS, busily picking through the debris left by the tide. This is the first big influx I have seen this fall. A single Pribilof ROCK SANDPIPER probed the muddy shore; I wonder where the rest of the flock might be? A female BELTED KINGFISHER rattled overhead. BALD EAGLES cruised across, perhaps checking for the swan; they will surely find something else to eat.

Late yesterday afternoon, first one, then another, then a third GREAT BLUE HERON flew in from the tidelands heading to the wetlands through the sn'rain. It's a wet, cold time for all the birds, and a long, wet, cold night too. I'm so grateful that the Alaska Sealife Center and the Bird Treatment Center are willing and able to help a beautiful swan in need.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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