Friday, January 9, 2015 Purple Finch and Steller's Eider still here

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 9:54 am, sunset 4:15 pm for a total day length of 6 hours and 21 minutes. Tomorrow will be 3 minutes and 14 seconds longer.

The wind completely vanished today, permitting the ghostly fog people to rise and leisurely drape their silky gray scarves through the waiting trees undisturbed. At 39ยบ, puddles appeared, transformed into mirrors reflecting the snowy mountains. The Lagoon is once again breaking up, cycling through a rapid series of freeze-thaws in a winter masquerading as spring.

Around 9:15 am in the predawn walk around the block, I heard a distinctive 3-chip call like the “S” in Morse code, from 3 separate PACIFIC WRENS! Wonder of wonders! I immediately stopped and peered through the twilight, but could see nothing. After several minutes, I moved a bit farther and froze. As if to confirm my identification, one was actually singing a shortened version of its long spring song! He sang again, paused, and yet again! I was stunned! What a great bird to start the day! A more usual RAVEN quickly piped up in time for second place.

I tested my luck at Ava’s later and found a lot of PINE GROSBEAKS and a small but growing number of PINE SISKINS. Then the PURPLE FINCH appeared, perched on a nearby branch with bits of suet still stuck to its fat, conical bill. After posing nicely, off he flew.

On a roll, I drove to SMIC at the end of Nash Road. There in the boat basin I found an oversized BARROW’S GOLDENEYE surrounded by several females in breeding plumage. Its bill was not yellow like theirs, but mostly dark with some orangish coloration. Other than the bill color and size, it closely resembled the more normal females. Hybrid? Very odd!

UPDATE: Thanks to Tasha who knows that male Barrow's Goldeneyes can be up to 200 g (7 oz) heavier than females. This one is a first year male and is one hunk of a fella! No wonder the ladies were circling!

Two HORNED GREBES paddled past, one with red eyes, the other with pale orange eyes. COMMON MERGANSERS and PELAGIC CORMORANTS fed on small fish. The lone drake LONG-TAILED DUCK swam and dove farther out.

On the way home, I stopped at an overlook and looked over. Sure enough, there was the male STELLER’S EIDER in the good company of his buddies, the HARLEQUIN DUCKS. He really stands out, however far away, with his mostly white plumage.

I looked for the Golden Eagle at the Lagoon, but only found BALD EAGLES and a tree full of RUSTY BLACKBIRDS, chattering and preening. A pair of COMMON GOLDENEYES seemed to float in the gray sky, the male displaying to his demure companion. Several MALLARDS gleaned goodies from the stream; the drakes are really quite handsome, especially with that perky little duck tail.

From the rare to the common, it was fun to take a peek into these birds’ busy lives today and to share it with you.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

                                        The big one is a first year male Barrow's Goldeneye.

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