Friday, March 20, 2015 Happy Spring Equinox!

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 7:50 am, sunset 8:12 pm for a total day length of 12 hours and 13 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 30 seconds longer. Today is the Spring Equinox, although Alaska snuck over the 12-hour mark a few days ago.

It felt like a mild spring day too, with calm winds, a lightly veiled sun high in the sky, and temps in the high 40s. The ice on local lakes and ponds looked gray and soggy. A few insects, maybe early hatch stoneflies, fluttered about. The usual assortment of rain, snow, and sun is in the forecast, all well within the parameters of Spring.

It’s always a treat to watch RED CROSSBILLS. They remind me of jeweled Lovebirds with their radiant colors, short legs, stubby tails, large heads, stout beak, and amusing antics. Today I found two juveniles with a first year male and two females. The drab, streaky juveniles look remarkably like oversized Pine Siskins with a big bill. Apparently, one juvenile was not appreciated by the young male, who drove it off with a hissing warning and angry, wide-open beak. The young Romeo then cozied up to a female and spent a little quality time with her, prying old barnacles apart in the sunshine. The arrival of a handsome NORTHWESTERN CROW frightened them all away.

I wandered down to the Seward harbor to watch the COMMON MURRES paddle about like little put-put boats, doze in the warm sunshine, preen, and dive. When they popped up, they made a soft liquid sound, "blip!" There are many dozens of them, most in winter plumage, but a few are in chocolate-backed breeding plumage. The green water was so clear, I could watch the murres flying underwater. In the distance, I saw a BALD EAGLE fly off with a murre snack pack in its talons. Those napping murres are marked birds.

One harbor finger seemed empty, when suddenly a sea otter emerged, paddling backwards towards me with an octopus spread over its belly. What a prize! I wonder where it found such a large octopus? Another sea otter popped up behind its head and a near collision was avoided when the diner exploded into a dive and swam under the dock to another area. That is the price for swimming backwards without a rear view mirror! The second sea otter got busy harvesting mussels from under the dock, audibly crunching and smacking, then deftly spun the shells off.

I quietly followed the first otter and enjoyed the spectacle of it thoroughly relishing this gourmet meal that draped the otter from neck to tail. The octopus was rubbery and very elastic; it was amazing to see how far it would stretch before snapping. The otter frequently spun over, often with one or two long, pinkish tentacles trailing around its body. Its sharp, white teeth had no trouble peeling the meaty suckers off the tentacle, and the amorphous white head seemed to be a particular favorite. It was a little disconcerting to see what seemed to be the octopus eyeball, one that once saw in color; such an incredible, smart mollusk.

A lovely spring song burst forth from a SONG SPARROW hidden amidst the fishing boats, speaking for us all, happy to be here, welcoming Spring.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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