Friday, October 31, 2014 Red-breasted Sapsucker in Seward

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 9:18 am, sunset 6:03 pm for a total day length of 8 hours and 44 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 13 seconds shorter. Don’t forget to set your clock behind one hour on Saturday night!

The wind died away and the forecasted snow finally arrived, dusting the green grass with less than an inch of short-lived white and a taste of winter. With the temperature rising to the low 40s, it looks like rain and sn’rain for the next week.

For a change, I drove out to Lowell Point this noon. I stopped along the roadside for a COMMON MURRE in winter plumage, diving in water as gray as the sky. I haven’t seen this normally common seabird in a long time, and it was odd to only see one.

While waiting for the murre to surface, I enjoyed the melodic sweet song of a KENAI SONG SPARROW, standing on a barnacle-encrusted rock at mid-tide. Soon, another songster replied, and then another. In a short time, I saw four song sparrows along the rocks. It was fun to watch them poking in the barnacles, often prying off a delicacy of escargot a la periwinkle, just the right size for a gourmet sparrow. It was hard to tell if they were also eating the surrounding barnacles, but it’s possible. Lots of protein stuck to those intertidal rocks.

I heard the rhythmic breathing of a sea mammal and looked up to find a Steller Sea Lion swimming my way. It paused and took several deep inhalations, then dove and disappeared, leaving nothing but a watery footprint. What a pleasure to hear and see this powerful sea mammal!

A flicker of white and a flash of a black-tipped tail dashed along the rocks. I looked hard for the little weasel/ermine, but it remained elusive. There’s not quite enough snow yet to match its peerless coat.

A person could see a lot of interesting wildlife along this road if one just lingered a bit.

Out at Lowell Point Beach, I heard the scolding of a PACIFIC WREN from the shelter of the spruce boughs. A BELTED KINGFISHER rattled off and away from its perch overhanging the water, and a BALD EAGLE chittered from a branch higher up. Two more Steller sea lions quietly surfaced and cruised past. It was very peaceful, calm, and gray except for the colorful wheel-spoked jellies lined up along the recent high tide rows of wrack.

A few hours later, I received the welcome news that the RED-BREASTED SAPSUCKER was back, tending his sap wells in a large old Mt Ash tree down the alley. This bird, if it’s the same one, has not been seen since his unfortunate crash into a window on October 19th. I’m glad he survived!

I rushed over and enjoyed watching this beauty methodically carve out new sap wells in the Mt Ash. I counted over 20 along one side, very shallow, and not nearly as destructive as a single swipe of a moose. He tended to other sap wells on the other side of the tree, flew up to investigate possible insects in an adjacent alder with a male DOWNY WOODPECKER, then flew back to the main tree. The suet blocks were periodically enjoyed by the Downy, but the Red-breasted Sapsucker ignored them. If the tree is producing any sap, this bird should be easy to find, tending his sap wells. Several Seward birders also enjoyed watching him.

DARK-EYED JUNCOS, CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES, and STELLER JAYS flitted through the neighboring trees.

Almost at sunset, I took the good dogs for a walk around Two Lakes Park. First Lake has a thin layer of ice in the middle, and Second Lake is frozen all the way across. Thanks to that guy’s video of the “singing lake”, there’s a boatload of rocks on Second Lake. I guess the ice sang! Hopefully, this will all melt and drop the rocks before ice skating starts.

Another PACIFIC WREN scolded from the spruce at the edge of the lake. GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS seeped and sighed high in the treetops. As I approached First Lake, the cheerful, contented song of a DIPPER merged gently into the dusk.

As I drove home, a flock of about 10 ROBINS flew overhead, heading for their night-time roost somewhere in the heart of a dense spruce. Another great day for birds and wildlife!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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