Sunday, May 4, 2014 Peeps and hummers

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise: 5:46 am, sunset 10:04 pm for a total day length of 16 hours and 18 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 8 seconds longer.

The drought continues with day after day of brilliant sunny weather and temperatures into the 60s. It's summer without the leaves! Buds are bursting and rapidly unfolding their intricate, miniature origami designs complete with future flowers, and blueprints for fruit and seeds.  Showers are forecast starting late Monday evening for a few days. We need the rain for spring green up.

I have received several exciting reports of spectacular northern lights for the past several nights, if one can get up at 2 am.  Bright Saturn and reddish Mars anchor the late evening sky, trailing a waxing crescent moon. The stars are on the late-late night show now.

News Flash! 8:59 pm: 4.7 magnitude earthquake 39 miles north of Seward on the Kenai Peninsula, from a depth of 21 miles. Definitely noticed this one; glad it stopped! I did not feel the subsequent 1.12 quake at 9:37 pm, just one of hundreds that are not noticed. For more information, visit the Alaska Earthquake Information Center at

Thursday May 1: First RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD at my kitchen window! He was just a flash of fiery orange and then gone. A neighbor reported seeing her first hummer, also a male about a half hour later, possibly the same one. She also noted her VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW female popped right into the waiting nest box. Their numbers are still low; hopefully there will be many more.

I observed the two swans at Mile 1 Nash Road. I believe they are TRUMPETER SWANS. One swan fed leisurely while the other industriously gathered grasses and sedges with its long neck outstretched, reaching in a radius all around. Sure looked like a nest in the making. Time will tell. The Trumpeter Swans at Mile 15 Seward Highway were reported to be back. Last year, they successfully raised three cygnets while hundreds of people enjoyed watching them. Finally, a reason for that boardwalk!

Also on May 1st, I heard the Exit Glacier Road WESTERN SCREECH OWL shortly after 10:15 pm, accompanied by the whine of hungry mosquitoes and a brief message from a nearby NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL. While Terry D and I were listening, a flock of geese, possibly CACKLING GEESE flew over in the darkening sky, heading towards the fingernail moon suspended in the northwestern sky. Their excited cries were very high in pitch and rapid. The SCREECH OWL called only intermittently and briefly.

The Mt Marathon SAW-WHET continues to call, starting later every night.

May 3 brought a surge of GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROWS and FOX SPARROWS. The morning chorus included their delightful melodies augmented by a PINE GROSBEAK, DARK-EYED JUNCO, ROBINS, RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS and the incessant, dawn-to-dusk calls of the VARIED THRUSHES. An entry in the local police log noted a worried caller reported an alarm ringing. The responding police officer found it to be a bird behind the mountainside apartments, a Varied Thrush no doubt.

Shorebirds snuck in under the northern lights last night, not in abundance, but nice to see. Mostly LEAST SANDPIPERS with a few WESTERNS, several SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS, and GREATER YELLOWLEGS. I saw a DUNLIN in breeding plumage, but it could be one of the overwintering birds. Same long, drooping bill, but a complete change of feathers with the instantly recognizable black belly patch. The peeps were ravenous, plucking amphipods from the seaweed and silt. Some napped in the sunshine, exhausted from their long journey.

I finally found a WILSON'S SNIPE, or it found me. After circling overhead, it perched at the very top of a tall spruce tree and sat there, calling loudly. What an odd roost for this round shorebird with a beak longer than its legs, but I was very glad to see him.

Increasing numbers of ARCTIC TERNS plunge for small herring in the boat harbor and at the seafood processing fish waste outfall with MEW GULLS, GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS and BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES. The PIGEON GUILLEMOTS and MARBLED MURRELETS are in breeding plumage, but low in numbers.

If you are a night bird, be sure to check for those northern lights while listening for owls and migrating birds!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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