Wednesday, February 4, 2015 Fabulous winter birding

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 9:04 am, sunset 5:19 pm for a total day length of 8 hours 14 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 9 seconds longer.  99% full moon!

Another spectacular sunny winter day, made even brighter by the reflected light off the scant, crusty snow. Temps in the 20s, north wind calm at midday, but picked up again by midafternoon to 17 mph.

Shirley B rode the Tustumena ferry from Kodiak on Tuesday and drove directly to Ava’s Place in Seward. She watched for the PURPLE FINCH most of the afternoon without any luck, but with all the birds it was very enjoyable.

The PINE GROSBEAKS surged in and out, as if fleeing for their lives every few minutes. Something really has them spooked. I learned not to park too close as one flew right into my open car window on Monday and hit the inside of the windshield hard enough to hurt. I held the stunned bird, keeping her warm, for about 15 minutes as she gradually regained her senses. I was so relieved when she flew from my opened palm to the nearest cottonwood.

It seemed that every time the Grosbeaks returned, they brought another species with them. One wave brought my First of Year COMMON REDPOLL; they are very scarce so far this year. Another wave delivered a female WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL, a species more likely to be foraging high in the spruce spires for cones with its buddies. Next, four AMERICAN TREE SPARROWS popped in, and then two GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROWS.

The usual PINE SISKINS, PINE GROSBEAKS, DOWNY and HAIRY WOODPECKERS, BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEES, and RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES provided interest and entertainment as we watched and waited until the light faded and it was time to leave.

This morning, Shirley found the PURPLE FINCH around 9:30 am, just as it got light enough to see clearly, and was elated! Congratulations, Shirley! The VARIED THRUSH started singing in my neighborhood about the same time, crazy bird. Just before noon, Robin C relocated the KILLDEER briefly at Afognak Beach before it flew off around the point. Tasha and Sadie puzzled over an odd sea duck hanging out with a GREATER SCAUP drake and hen at Spring Creek Beach. The STELLER’S EIDER preened on shore, then paddled near a raft of stunning BARROW’S GOLDENEYES.

The seafood processing plant must have tapered off as instead of the recent blizzard of 2,000 crying, swirling MEW, GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS, a few HERRING GULLS, and many BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES, only a 100 or so lingered out in front. Four LONG-TAILED DUCKS, a few COMMON MURRES, HARLEQUIN DUCKS, HORNED GREBES, PELAGIC CORMORANTS, COMMON MERGANSERS and a small raft of SURF SCOTERS dove for pollock slurry and small bait fish.

A pod of 3 Steller’s Sea Lions surged into the boat basin; so cool to hear (and see) their explosive exhales and sharp inhales. A MARBLED MURRELET paddled quietly in the basin, all alone. Out in the bay, plumes of white spray marked the exuberant passage of Dall’s Porpoises playing in the white caps.

All in all, fabulous days for winter birding!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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