Wednesday, November 6, 2013 Swainson's Thrush refound, Trumpeter Swan, Great Horned Owl

Seward Alaska

Sunrise 8:34 am, sunset 4:47 pm for a total of 8 hours and 12 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 2 seconds shorter.

A cheerful sunny day with a brisk north wind, temps in the mid 30s to low 40s. Very shallow puddles sublimated last night, slightly deeper ones iced over, but the lakes and ponds remained mostly unfrozen. Rain and sun forecast to take turns over the next few days, with a downward trend in temps.

The abundant, brilliant red Mt Ash berries glowed against the rare blue sky. Even better, I refound the SWAINSON'S THRUSH plucking one orb after another in the sunshine. Maybe it will stay this winter with the nearby smattering of VARIED THRUSHES and ROBINS. Unfortunately, those inhospitable larger thrushes gave their little cousin the bum's rush and forced it to fly to different trees. Finally it flew to the brush pile on the bank and preened in peace. Yard Bird!

I crossed the resurrected Lowell Point bridge which amazingly withstood the powerful floodwaters last week. The heavy equipment operators have been working diligently to haul off the mountains of gravel piled on both sides of the "creek". Regrettably, it is being used to fill the former Roundhouse Pond on AKRR property. It's always sad to lose valuable wetlands.

A large flock of mostly MEW GULLS mixed with some GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS and very few BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES worked the surface water in front of the seafood processing plant. A Mew Gull "walked on water" like a storm petrel, stirring up the seawater soup with its pale webbed feet, then picked tiny morsels to eat. I could not see what the gulls were finding.

Suddenly, the whole flock took off, and a second too late, an adult BALD EAGLE swooped low, scattering everyone like a gust of wind. The small raft of BARROW'S GOLDENEYES immediately dove, and surfaced after the threat had flow away. Soon the gulls flew back, and continued feeding as if nothing had happened.

On the way home, I checked out the slightly sheltered lee of the harbor uplands. At least 10 MARBLED MURRELETS, 4 PACIFIC LOONS, 1 COMMON LOON, a raft of COMMON MERGANSERS, 4 SURF SCOTERS, and a smattering of BARROW'S GOLDENEYES skittered after invisible schools of feeder fish. Meanwhile, a blitz of gulls mobbed the seafood processor fish "waste" bird feeder.

I heard the distinctive rattle of a BELTED KINGFISHER and turned in time to see him hovering over Scheffler Creek, but not in time to get a photo. After a quick dive, he flew up and away, heading north. It's wonderful to see Kingfishers this fall; I hardly saw any until recently.

Unwilling to go inside, the sun lured me to the east side of the bay. To my amazement, there was a TRUMPETER SWAN feeding in the Mile 1 Nash Road wetlands. The light was behind the swan, making photography tricky, but I enjoyed the wonderful sight. 15 swans were reported from Lower Summit Lake this afternoon as well.

Next, I checked the boat basin at the end of Nash Road, Mile 5. A juvenile RED-NECKED GREBE, still sporting its striped head and reddish neck, bobbed up and down in the waves. A few HORNED GREBES popped up and down. A PACIFIC LOON dove smoothly nearby, unlike the showy jump-over-the-barrel dives of the PELAGIC CORMORANTS. A pair of HARLEQUIN DUCKS preened in the lee of the breakwater, enjoying the warm sun.

A raft of beautiful BARROW'S GOLDENEYES paddled back and forth, eyeing me suspiciously. A resplendent male with a royal purple head seemed to be the leader, and when he chose to move away or come closer, the rest followed. One bird, I believe to be a male in eclipse plumage, displayed with his head straight up.

The shadows soon moved in and I moved off. A few hours later around 6 pm, I heard a GREAT HORNED OWL hooting softly from darkened Little Bear Mountain.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

A few interesting websites:

Distinguishing Trumpeter Swans and Tundra Swans by David Sibley

Trumpeter Swans with yellow lore spots by David Sibley

The Mysteries of the Kingfisher's Belt by Deborah Richie

Keeping Birds Safe Around Windows

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