Friday, March 14, 2014 EAgulls in the storm

Seward, Alaska

A terrific storm moved in this morning, bearing hard rain on a strong southeasterly wind. Resurrection Bay seethed with white caps and breakers, pounding in from the Gulf of Alaska. The serious sky melded with the sea, reducing visibility to a gray wall. By mid-day, the temperature dropped; sleet alternated with some version of white precipitation. The rain froze to an extremely slippery ice sheet. Soggy birds must have suffered greatly in this extreme weather.

In between the squalls, however, was a slim chance for the birds to shake off, preen, and blow dry. I lucked out on a beach venture, comfortably cocooned in my car-blind. Two BALD EAGLES flew directly down the beach and over my parked car. One settled on the beach just ahead, the other landed precariously in the tiny upper branches of a small cottonwood nearby.

I enjoyed watching the younger, grounded bird preen and dry out while white-capped waves crashed against a Samson barge that was holed up just offshore. It didn't seem to mind this paparazzi clicking away, documenting its various wild hair-dos. Meanwhile, the treed adult eagle swayed in the wind, trying to hold on and simultaneously deflect mobbing NORTHWESTERN CROWS that didn't care for its company. Eventually, both eagles took off into the wind to pursue other needs.

I too left and passed a very brown, first year BALD EAGLE perched in yet another cottonwood. This bird soon flew out over the bay over a small flock of gulls and Goldeneyes. After they dispersed or dove, it flew down to join the relocated adult Eagle on a lookout perch on the historic pilings.

A white gull in a flock of gulls in the parking lot just ahead caught my eye. Ah ha! A first year GLAUCOUS GULL with dark eyes mingled with GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS, mostly adult, but with a few youngsters. It was fun to watch this beautiful gull. It preened, walked around, daintily took a drink, plucked some tidbit out of the puddle and contemplated its edibility, then finally dropped it. (Is anything inedible to a gull?) 

A small HERRING GULL stood off on the side. For some gull reason, a few Glaucous-winged Gulls took offense to its presence and ran it off. Then an eagle overflight stirred them all into the air. Fortunately, they soon circled back and landed for more observations. Yet another eagle flyby sent them on their way.

Late in the afternoon, the precip suddenly stopped, the angry sea subsided, but the cold south wind felt like someone had left the freezer door open. I headed out to Lowell Point to look (unsuccessfully) for that Black Oystercatcher. The seafood processing plant was deserted, the opposite of yesterday's excitement.

Halfway to the Point, an adult Bald Eagle sat on the ground next to the road, looking perfectly groomed and dry. A line of SURF SCOTERS paddled about with one female WHITE-WINGED SCOTER. The usual BARROW'S GOLDENEYES, PELAGIC CORMORANTS, COMMON MERGANSERS, HARLEQUIN DUCKS, and a few MALLARDS patrolled along the shore.

A pod of 7 or so Steller Sea Lions rolled past. Three Sea Otters bobbed in the waves, eating, eating, eating. A curious Harbor Seal popped up.

I didn't see anything new at the beach, but on my way back, that Bald Eagle was actively hunting. From high in a snag above the road, it plummeted to the water and flew low and fast, circling around the sea ducks, farther and farther out from shore. Finally, it gave up and cruised back to the perch to rest and reconnoiter. Remarkably, at 7 pm, there was still time for a life-sustaining exchange of energy for both predator and prey.

I rolled on home, impressed by the fury of the storm, and very pleased with the EAgull show and study on this tumultuous late winter day.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

No comments:

Post a Comment