Wednesday, February 11, 2015 Red Crossbills

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 8:46 am, sunset 5:38 pm for a total day length of 8 hours and 51 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 19 seconds longer.
Despite a gloomy forecast for snow turning to rain, the clouds took a little vacation today and let the warm sun roll unimpeded across a brilliant blue sky. The temp rose to a spring-like 41ยบ that nullified the north wind’s feeble efforts. By late afternoon, the tiniest, token light rain fell for a few minutes, heralding the arrival of a dark load fresh from the Gulf of Alaska. Snow showers are back in the forecast, but we shall see!
I searched unsuccessfully for the phantom Killdeer and ended up enjoying a walk on the ocean bottom/tide flats at low tide. NW CROWS noisily rummaged through the scattered, exposed blue mussel beds, extracting delicacies for lunch. One crow flew quite high and dropped its mussel only to swoop after it and adroitly catch it midair, then powered back up and dropped it again and again in a fine game of drop and catch. Very entertaining, I imagine, except for the reclusive clam.
A female BALD EAGLE stood in a tidal stream up to her belly. We unfortunately interrupted her fishing or bathing and she soon flew over to shore to join her smaller mate at the top of a spruce tree. It was amazing to watch her delicately preen her feathers with that massive, bone-crunching yellow beak.
In the distance, I spotted a flock of about 30 SNOW BUNTINGS flitting here and there, searching for grit and maybe grub. No luck spotting the small flock of DUNLINS which were seen on Sunday, or the ROCK SANDPIPERS.
I hated to leave, but one can’t argue with an incoming tide reclaiming its bed. So I checked out Spring Creek Beach from North Dock.
The STELLER’S EIDER and the female GREATER SCAUP were there with the usual HARLEQUIN DUCKS, BARROW’S GOLDENEYES, SURF SCOTERS, COMMON MERGANSERS, HORNED GREBES, PELAGIC CORMORANTS, MARBLED MURRELETS, a dozen or so COMMON MURRES, 2 LONG-TAILED DUCKS, a lone PACIFIC LOON, a few BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES, MEW GULLS, and GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS. The seafood processing plant was not operating today, so the seabird and gull numbers are way down.
While scanning for seabirds, I heard some crossbills approach and saw them land in a nearby alder thicket. I slowly strolled over to find four RED CROSSBILLS! These are quite uncommon in the area compared to the abundant White-winged Crossbills.
Two greenish females obliged my curiosity by flying down to a rusty stack of pipes where they pried and poked at old barnacles with their phenomenal crossed bills. The two tropically-hued males watched from a cottonwood and one actually tried to drive the other away. Too soon, they regrouped and dashed off. Quite the treat!
Glassing the bay again, I spotted the characteristic rooster tails of 10-20 Dall’s porpoises as they surged after fish. There were many pods of these speedsters all down the bay. Even in the distance by Fox Island, the showy white spray was easy to spot, illuminated by the sun.
Tonight, I will listen for the steadfast beeping of the SAW-WHET OWL that has been calling the last several nights. Love is in the air as Valentine’s Day approaches!
Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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