Saturday, May 31, 2014 Bar-tailed Godwit!

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 4:46 am, sunset 11:05 pm for a total day length of 18 hours, 18 minutes. Tomorrow will be 3 minutes and 16 seconds longer.

Torrential rain hammered down yesterday afternoon and all night, a real soaker. Mt Marathon and other high peaks wore a new white cloak this morning and the Race Point sported a lacy white shawl. Brrrr! The south wind blasted in by afternoon, cold and strong at 10-17 mph gusting to 28 mph at times. The temperature apparently rose to 51ยบ but felt much colder. Sprinkles alternated with brief bursts of sunshine and blue sky, but dark clouds chaperoned any summery aspirations. It seems like we already had summer, followed by fall's rain, and now termination dust. What's next? What a May!

I did the COASST survey at the head of the bay, no dead birds. Instead I found a lone BAR-TAILED GODWIT foraging along the beach. I first spotted it flying along the incoming tide's edge, harassed by ARCTIC TERNS who didn't bother to inquire who, exactly, it was.

One would think they might welcome yet another incredible long-distance flyer. Or maybe they were jealous of this species' record as the longest non-stop bird migration of 7,145 miles, from Alaska to New Zealand. Those terns fly as far, or farther, but take breaks on the ocean to eat and rest.

A banded Bar-Tailed Godwit did the journey all the way across the immense Pacific Ocean in nine days. Non-stop flying. Absolutely mind-boggling.
Birdnote by Nils Warnock: <>

After getting a long-distance photo that revealed the bars on the tail, I lost it on the tide flats. A while later, I spotted it again, much closer, feeding. After such a long flight, it must have been extremely hungry! The long, slightly upturned bill was very slightly pinkish at the base, and the colors muted. I'm guessing it’s a female.

In the foreground, several SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS worked the sand with their characteristic stop-start behavior. Nearby, a SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER walked along in their company, probing for tiny invertebrates.

It was tricky to get good photos with the wind trying to help, but I am pleased to document all these amazing birds, each so special and extraordinary in their own way.

Check out this link to Moonbird, a 21-year old RED KNOT who has flown enough miles to travel to the moon and halfway back on his 20,000 round-trip migration from the Arctic breeding grounds to the tip of South America.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

1 comment:

  1. Mallards are another incredible long-distance flyer. Leg bands on ten Mallards seen in Victoria, B.C. parks in 2013 prove the ducks were banded near Fairbanks, Alaska, more than 2000 miles straight north. It seems amazing that Mallards, heavy birds with short wings, migrate that far. Not only that, a Mallard flock was recorded flying 25 miles per hour.