Tuesday, May 20, 2014 More Pectoral Sandpipers and Greater White-fronted Geese

Seward, Alaska

Another dazzling day! The north wind must have exhausted itself; it was just a pleasant breeze today with temperatures in the 60s. Fortunately, the smoke from the central Peninsula fire near Soldotna did not sully Seward's clear blue sky. According to the news, ash fell like snow in Kasilof and smoke hit the south Kenai Peninsula by Homer and Seldovia  thick enough to be a health hazard.

I found 15- 20 PECTORAL SANDPIPERS today, perhaps blown in with the clouds last night. Most of these travelers enroute from their South American wintering grounds were feeding in the tall grasses in a wetland slough, probing their long bills deep into the mud up to their eyeballs. That explains their nickname, "grass snipe." A few preened and napped in the warm sun.

Two birds feeding together offered a nice comparison, the male slightly larger and brighter than the female. They still have many miles to go on their 9000-mile migration to reach their high arctic nesting grounds on the tundra. What an extraordinary feat for a 2.6 ounce bird!

Out on the tideflats, an adult BALD EAGLE stood quietly, closely attended by a juvenile eagle. When startled, the adult lifted off, hauling an item of extreme interest in its golden talons: a large flounder. The juvenile gave chase, both screeching loudly. That racket attracted another adult who quickly sailed in and attacked the unfortunate fish-bearer. After a brief skirmish, the invader was rebuffed, but I never saw that flounder again. I think it seized the opportunity to submerge into the shallow water and make like a sandy beach, leaving the fisher to sit forlornly on a dead branch, contemplating the vicissitudes of life.

Constant eagle activity stirred up a nice surprise: 14 GREATER-WHITE FRONTED GEESE. I thought these big birds were done migrating, but it's always nice to see "speckle-bellies."

I did not see the swarms of ARCTIC TERNS, but many birds were resting and not as visible as when playing in the high winds yesterday. I did observe discrete flocks of 10 to 25 birds, perhaps migrating together. Some may have already pushed on north, ever north, leaving "our" birds to rule the Seward skies.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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