Tuesday, December 31, 2013 Seward Swamp Sparrow still here!

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 10:01 am, sunset 4:00 pm for a total length of day of 5 hours and 59 minutes. Tomorrow will be 1 minute and 55 seconds longer.

After several sunny, mild, spring-like days, the clouds returned laden with gifts of rain as the temperatures rose steadily into the high 30s. The wind woke up on the wrong side of the bed, gusting from the south. The forecast calls for snow showers for New Year's Day through Friday.

I checked for the SWAMP SPARROW at 2:30 pm today. The setting looked hopeful with a few SLATE-COLORED and OREGON JUNCOS hopping about on the snow, sifting through the sunflower seeds scattered in front of the deck. BLACK-CAPPED and CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES cheerily announced their arrival; the loud whirring of the HAIRY WOODPECKER'S wings preceded his claim on the suet feeder; a DOWNY WOODPECKER sounded off with a big "peeenk!" as she scaled up the Mayday tree. RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES "yank-yanked." But no Swamper.

Perhaps it was Killdeer time. I hoped the tide would be out far enough at Afognak Beach so I drove to the pullout at Mile 3, Nash Road. With the new moon, the tide had been quite high, 13.0' at noon. Three hours later, the choice intertidal rocky habitat just offshore was still underwater. No sign of the Killdeer, but as the grocery store was still closed, there was really no reason for it to be there yet. It would be dark before the saltwater receded far enough; morning would be a better time to check this beach.

I thought it might be too late at 3:30 pm to recheck Ava's, but as dusk descended, so did the sparrows at Ava's. First the JUNCOS hopped out from under her deck, then a TREE SPARROW or two. Then, ta-dah! out came the SWAMP SPARROW! Compared to the petite TREE SPARROWS (now numbering five), it looked chunky. Even the JUNCOS looked more svelte. All fed ravenously in preparation for the long, wet, night. Soon, it was too dark to see much, and it was time to go home.

I hope the Swamp Sparrow, Killdeer, Brambling, and White-throated Sparrow will be here next year, especially this weekend when several birders are planning to bird in Seward. Safe travels!

Wishing you all a very Happy, and Birdy, New Year!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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