Sunday, December 15, 2013 Seward Sparrows du jour

Seward, Alaska

Note: This post was updated on December 16 to correct misidentification of the Swamp Sparrow.

Sunrise 9:56 am, sunset 3:49 pm for a total length of "day" of 5 hours and 52 minutes. Tomorrow will be 59 seconds shorter.

The recent storm dropped about 4-5" of snow just in time for a white Christmas. The hyperactive north wind soon got to work sculpting it into hard-packed drifts. With the ground now buried, the songbirds are concentrating at the feeders more than ever.

After a two-day visit, the clouds departed this morning making room for the slug-a-bed sun. It finally crept over the eastern mountains in the southern sky, cast its sheepish smile on the bright snowscape for a few hours and then snuck behind the western mountains for a long night's sleep. The waxing round moon enjoyed a long sail across the sky, creating magical moonshadows.

The forecast for Monday and Tuesday is clear with temps from 5 to 15 above, north wind 20-30 mph with gusts to 40 mph, and wind chill from 5 below to 20 below in the mornings and at night. Brrrr!!! Keep those feeders full!

I refound the reclusive female BRAMBLING with many SLATE-COLORED JUNCOS and several OREGON JUNCOS today in the 500 block Second Ave. I hope she sticks around for our Dec 22 Christmas Bird Count. Many more flocks of JUNCOS are reported around town. 

Eight ROBINS materialized in a nearby Mt Ash tree and gobbled down the whole, frozen berries. A male DOWNY WOODPECKER checked for invertebrates and insects in a peeling tree. BLACK-CAPPED and CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES sang and called cheerily as if they hadn't a care in the world.

Over at Ava's, the first bird spotted was an AMERICAN TREE SPARROW. It was soon joined by 3 or 4 others; hard to tell with the activity back and forth under her deck. A SWAMP SPARROW hopped out from under the deck and soon traced the source of the ground seeds to the tray feeder on the deck railing. I estimate it spent 10 minutes sitting there, eating sunflower seeds.

After a while, it flew back down to the ground to rummage around in the snow with the JUNCOS and TREE SPARROWS. One spot must have been desirable; the SWAMP SPARROW and SLATE-COLORED JUNCO duked it out. The little sparrow fluffed up as big as possible as they eyed each other, then it made a sudden hop towards the Junco who leapt up into the air in surprise.  Upon landing, the Junco judiciously moved away, keeping an eye on the cranky puffball.

Fearless HAIRY and DOWNY WOODPECKERS flew in, landing on nearby trees for a look-see before heading to the generous suet feeders swinging from the porch. It is likely that several of these woodpeckers were hatched and raised nearby.

The RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES chased just about every bird away from their desired feeder selection. Remarkably dominant little bits! BLACK-CAPPED and CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES daintily selected one sunflower seed at a time, then flew off to a tree branch to whack it open between their tiny black feet.

The sun was rapidly exiting stage right. I headed over to Lowell Point Beach as my car couldn't clear the drifts blocking access to the beaches on the east side of the bay. The patient good dogs enjoyed a frolic and a refreshing swim, emerging with frosty fur coats. Cold? Bah!

Two GREAT BLUE HERONS flew overhead, heading to their evening roost. In the fading light, I was lucky to photograph a WHITE-THROATED SPARROW! Its white throat and patterning was very distinctive, but it was the tail that stood out. It looked peculiarly narrow. I realized after I got home and checked the photos that half of the tail was missing. There must have been an accident or a narrow escape from a predatory attack. Here's another bird I hope sticks around for the Seward CBC. It's way out of its normal range, but it's not unusual for one to show up. Good timing!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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