Friday, March 27, 2015 Spring trickles in

Seward, Alaska

Today is the 51th anniversary of the Great Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami of March 27, 1964.

Sunrise 7:37 am, sunset 8:29 pm for a total day length of 12 hours and 51 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 30 seconds longer.

Mornings this past week started a little cool in the low 30s, and by afternoon the thermometer rose to the high 40s. The forecast was actually vaguely correct: we had a mix of sun for a few spectacular days, then hard, hard rain that dusted the mountains with fresh snow, some wind, but mostly light. It’s the special spring mix of rainbows and southerly squalls that delivers the migratory birds to the melting ponds and brown but budding landscape.

Until recently, it’s been hard to tell if spring was here. Due to the mild winter, the TRUMPETER SWAN family never left, the young GOLDEN EAGLE lingered, a few NORTHERN PINTAILS hung around, as did a small flock of DUNLINS and ROCK SANDPIPERS. The BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES arrived way early, and 2 juvenile RED CROSSBILLS popped up.

Singing is not a good clue as PACIFIC WRENS, VARIED THRUSHES, and PINE GROSBEAKS have been singing since December. The dapper DIPPER sings no matter how inclement the weather seems to us, and the sweet SONG SPARROW seems inspired regardless of the calendar.

All winter, the multitudinous WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS filled the air with their songs, winding up like a musical toy, crank-crank-crank, followed by a torrent of rapid notes. SAW-WHET OWLS took over the night duty, with GREAT HORNED and infrequently, WESTERN SCREECH OWLS. In early March, the DARK-EYED JUNCOS began ringing their little bells. They’ve been here, but had sense to wait.

On March 17, I spotted my first PIGEON GUILLEMOT in breeding plumage, and a GADWALL flew by. On March 18, the first wave of Euphasid krill washed up on the beaches. I don’t know why they die in the spring, but it’s now a usual March event.

On March 21, I spotted my first of spring HERRING GULLS, crying and carrying on in small flocks overhead, glad to be on their way north. RAVEN pairs carried wads of moss and dead grass to line their nests. They know it’s time.

On March 24, I heard five PACIFIC WRENS singing along Tonsina Trail. A few more sing in the morning along the forested slopes of Mt Marathon, and along Lost Lake Trail. That seems like enough birds to include at least a few migrants. 

Today there were a dozen or more NORTHERN PINTAILS feeding with the usual MALLARDS. Robin C spotted a FOS HARLAN’S HAWK.

The squalls forecast for the coming few days bear winged gifts. Keep your eyes open and ears to the sky.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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