Friday, December 19, 2014 Purple Finch still here and lots of other birds

December 19, 2014 Purple Finch still here and lots of other birds!
Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 10:00 am, sunset 3:50 pm, for a total day length of 5 hours and 50 minutes. Tomorrow will be 17 seconds shorter as we approach the Winter Solstice on December 21.

The only snow remaining from a meager snowfall ages ago is the compressed snowballs left along the roadsides by the plow. Green grass pokes up optimistically, ready to resume growing.

Temps in the 30s and partly cloudy. The forecast covers all scenarios from partly sunny with rain and snow showers for the next week. As always, we shall see!

This morning at about 8:30 while walking the dogs, I heard a lonely, odd call and looked up to see what appeared to be a goose! flying low overhead, heading due south. It called once more then disappeared in the dark. It appeared very light or even white but it was hard to say as I had only the light from the streetlights that early.

At 10:30, after the sun had finally risen but hiding in a gray cloud bathrobe, I drove along the shoreline, looking for it. Robin C checked Lowell Point and found 2 GREAT BLUE HERONS and a flock of WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS, but no goose.  It may remain a morning mystery, but one never knows with birds. I hope it shows up again.

The Lagoon, once again, was a bonanza of birds with BALD EAGLES of all ages flew overhead and cried shrilly from adjacent spruce trees as others flew past. COMMON GOLDENEYE drakes beeped and courted admiring hens, stretching their handsome necks. The perky HOODED MERGANSER paraded about surrounded by his goldeneye admirers. MALLARDS milled around, trying to reach salmon carcasses. Even at high tide, the salmon carcasses reeked. They must be everywhere, and way past their prime.

As male KINGFISHER rattled his way along the shore as three RIVER OTTERS popped up after diving to the bottom for salmon.? They were definitely finding something edible. NW CROWS scavenged along the shore and investigated salmon skeletons frozen to the boardwalk. PIGEONS (yes, they count) flew quickly overhead, first to the north, then to the south, no doubt covering accessible bird feeders. A small flock of WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS flew over the nearby horse corral. JUNCOS flitted in the bushes.

Over at Ava’s, we scarcely arrived when I found the PURPLE FINCH chasing some PINE GROSBEAKS around the cottonwood and willow trees. It settled down to pick at willow buds. An AMERICAN TREE SPARROW, much smaller, landed nearby. PINE GROSBEAKS mobbed Ava’s yard, picking sunflower seeds off the green grass. About 4 GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROWS hopped in with a WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW and a small flock of DARK-EYED JUNCOS.

The usual DOWNY and HAIRY WOODPECKERS zoomed in to the suet feeders. BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEES daintily took one sunflower seed at a time and flew off to eat it. A RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH seemed to own the place. Even a few PINE SISKINS stopped by.

Over at the Greenbelt, once again looking for the mystery goose, I found sea lions and sea otters to add to the mammal list. NW CROWS flipped ice off a puddle and ate the small chunks. RAVENS gobbled gravel for their gizzards. COMMON MERGANSERS, BARROW’S GOLDENEYES, HARLEQUINS, MARBLED MURRELETS, and PELAGIC CORMORANTS swam just offshore.   

I checked for the Red-breasted Sapsucker on Fifth and Madison without success. I doubt there’s any sap running anymore, but it would be so great to have him for the Christmas Bird Count.

Please let me know if you would like to help out as a field counter next Saturday, December 27 from 9 to 5. There’s a lot of birds and territory to cover. Who knows? YOU may find that goose!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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