Wednesday, December 31, 2014 a second STELLER'S EIDER!

Seward, Alaska

This afternoon, after tracking a humpback whale in the inner bay (!) I spotted an odd looking harlequin all by itself right offshore. Just as I was leaving, I snapped a photo to look at later. To my amazement, there was that flattened head, little wing projections, and white bits on the back of an otherwise brown, drab bird. Could it possibly be another STELLER'S EIDER?

I zipped the photo to Tasha who confirmed a male, young of the year. What a great finale for 2014: a humpback and a Steller's Eider!

Look for him along the beach right in front of town by the bike path.

Happy New Year!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter




Monday, December 29, 2014 Seward Christmas Bird Count preliminary report

Seward, Alaska

Seward counted a phenomenal 69 species on Count Day, Saturday, December 27, 2014.

The most unexpected bird was a WESTERN SCREECH OWL perched quietly in a spruce tree. It was first found by mobbing kinglets and chickadees, then by astute birders Toby and Laura Burke while looking for the Killdeer at Afognak Beach around 2 pm. Subsequent birders refound it around 3 pm. Searching later that evening and the next day was unsuccessful.

Many other species were singulars including a surprise BRAMBLING, MERLIN, PEREGRINE FALCON, and SPRUCE GROUSE. The known PURPLE FINCH, STELLER’S EIDER, THAYER’S GULL, WHITE-THROATED SPARROW, DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT, EUROPEAN STARLING, HOODED MERGANSER, and TRUMPETER SWAN family counted.

The highest count was 855 WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS, which were found almost everywhere there were spruce cones, in contrast to last year when they were scarce.

Count Week added a NORTHERN GOSHAWK, GADWALL, PACIFIC WREN and KILLDEER, with one day to go.

I will post a complete summary when all the data has been submitted.

Many thanks to all the participants, many of whom drove from out of town to assist, and to Captain Mike Brittain who once again generously donated the use of his boat, the Dora, fuel, and navigation skills to survey the bay.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter and Seward CBC Compiler

Monday, December 22, 2014 Inspirational Glaucous-winged Gulls

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 10:01 am, sunset 3:51 pm for a total day length of 5 hours and 49 minutes. Tomorrow will be 17 seconds longer.

After a few flakes of snow yesterday, the temperature rose to 33ยบ and any hope of white vanished in the light winter rain. The forecast covers the gamut from snow showers, rain, mostly cloudy, partly sunny, back to snow.

This noon I enjoyed watching a very determined GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL dive for a salmon carcass at the Lagoon. The glimmering white carcass lay on the bottom, much too deep to easily reach from the surface. So the gull took a flying leap to plunge down and grab whatever it could. Bits floated away, snapped up by a very interested MALLARD hen.

The reflections of the gull’s outstretched wings on the green water were stunning. Soon, the tide rose too high and the gull retreated to the shore to preen and digest the meager meal. An immature GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL and its reflection splash-landed on the same dining spot, but was not able to eat, and left. I also departed, inspired by these common and ordinary gulls that illuminated an otherwise very gray day.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter








Friday, December 19, 2014 Purple Finch still here and lots of other birds

December 19, 2014 Purple Finch still here and lots of other birds!
Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 10:00 am, sunset 3:50 pm, for a total day length of 5 hours and 50 minutes. Tomorrow will be 17 seconds shorter as we approach the Winter Solstice on December 21.

The only snow remaining from a meager snowfall ages ago is the compressed snowballs left along the roadsides by the plow. Green grass pokes up optimistically, ready to resume growing.

Temps in the 30s and partly cloudy. The forecast covers all scenarios from partly sunny with rain and snow showers for the next week. As always, we shall see!

This morning at about 8:30 while walking the dogs, I heard a lonely, odd call and looked up to see what appeared to be a goose! flying low overhead, heading due south. It called once more then disappeared in the dark. It appeared very light or even white but it was hard to say as I had only the light from the streetlights that early.

At 10:30, after the sun had finally risen but hiding in a gray cloud bathrobe, I drove along the shoreline, looking for it. Robin C checked Lowell Point and found 2 GREAT BLUE HERONS and a flock of WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS, but no goose.  It may remain a morning mystery, but one never knows with birds. I hope it shows up again.

The Lagoon, once again, was a bonanza of birds with BALD EAGLES of all ages flew overhead and cried shrilly from adjacent spruce trees as others flew past. COMMON GOLDENEYE drakes beeped and courted admiring hens, stretching their handsome necks. The perky HOODED MERGANSER paraded about surrounded by his goldeneye admirers. MALLARDS milled around, trying to reach salmon carcasses. Even at high tide, the salmon carcasses reeked. They must be everywhere, and way past their prime.

As male KINGFISHER rattled his way along the shore as three RIVER OTTERS popped up after diving to the bottom for salmon.? They were definitely finding something edible. NW CROWS scavenged along the shore and investigated salmon skeletons frozen to the boardwalk. PIGEONS (yes, they count) flew quickly overhead, first to the north, then to the south, no doubt covering accessible bird feeders. A small flock of WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS flew over the nearby horse corral. JUNCOS flitted in the bushes.

Over at Ava’s, we scarcely arrived when I found the PURPLE FINCH chasing some PINE GROSBEAKS around the cottonwood and willow trees. It settled down to pick at willow buds. An AMERICAN TREE SPARROW, much smaller, landed nearby. PINE GROSBEAKS mobbed Ava’s yard, picking sunflower seeds off the green grass. About 4 GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROWS hopped in with a WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW and a small flock of DARK-EYED JUNCOS.

The usual DOWNY and HAIRY WOODPECKERS zoomed in to the suet feeders. BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEES daintily took one sunflower seed at a time and flew off to eat it. A RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH seemed to own the place. Even a few PINE SISKINS stopped by.

Over at the Greenbelt, once again looking for the mystery goose, I found sea lions and sea otters to add to the mammal list. NW CROWS flipped ice off a puddle and ate the small chunks. RAVENS gobbled gravel for their gizzards. COMMON MERGANSERS, BARROW’S GOLDENEYES, HARLEQUINS, MARBLED MURRELETS, and PELAGIC CORMORANTS swam just offshore.   

I checked for the Red-breasted Sapsucker on Fifth and Madison without success. I doubt there’s any sap running anymore, but it would be so great to have him for the Christmas Bird Count.

Please let me know if you would like to help out as a field counter next Saturday, December 27 from 9 to 5. There’s a lot of birds and territory to cover. Who knows? YOU may find that goose!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter