Monday, April 27, 2015 Crazy April

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 6:06 am, sunset 9:46 pm, for a total day length of 15 hours and 40 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 18 seconds longer.

The winter that almost wasn’t arrived in April with unwelcome snow surprises, and day after day of chilly temps in the low to mid 30s. Repeated squalls punctuated with strong winds, hail, and even a dash of unusual, rolling thunder was a terrible challenge for both local and migrating birds.

Now, brave new green leaves poke through the brown lawn thatch, Tiny, perfectly folded origami shrub and tree leaves unfold a bit more every day. Dandelion rosettes of course, are looking perky and ready to rip. As the calendar eases into May, more seasonal April showers are in the forecast with steadily increasing temperatures into the mid to high 40s, possibly even the low 50s.

In the midst of all this wild weather, I have received several reports of baby birds. Already! Ava reported her first baby of the year, a PINE SISKIN, on April 17th. Another reported fledgling PINE SISKINS, WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS, and PINE GROSBEAKS on April 23.

The squalls and dark clouds delivered birds mixed with snow. On April 15 I received a credible report of about 75 SANDHILL CRANES flying north up Resurrection River valley towards Exit Glacier. The first bumblebee took a test flight. A GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE and 2 AMERICAN WIGEON were reported.

April 16: An excited flock of 32 swans including TRUMPETER and at least 14 TUNDRA SWANS touched down for a brief rest, also 50 CANADA GEESE, and 2 NORTHERN HARRIERS.

April 17: First report of BLACK OYSTERCATCHERS at Lowell Point. 32 SANDHILL CRANES spotted, and 2 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE.

April 19: the hard rain, hail, and southerly squalls delivered several dozens of STORM PETRELS to the inner bay. They danced so lightly on the surface amid the hulking gulls, like delicate gray and white butterflies. The opportunistic BALD EAGLES added them to their menu, strewing their feathers and small carcasses along the roads and into the forest.

April 20: first RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD, male, reported at a waiting feeder on Nash Road at 6 pm, right after it stopped snowing. That person was a real optimist and she was right! 150 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE reported as well as flocks of birds overhead.

April 21: ROBIN singing sweetly in the snowstorm. Ava reported her first RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD, male, near Nash Road.



April 24: First ARCTIC TERNS (5)!
Three large flocks of SANDHILL CRANES flew high over town about 7 pm, milling about, seemingly uncertain of which route to take. One group split up and the leaders formed a small but tidy V. The rest of that flock formed a straight line connecting to the V in an absolutely perfect arrow pointing north! And north they all flew. It was astonishing!

April 25: First RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET, singing in my yard.
Report of SNIPE winnowing over wetlands. Large flock of geese migrating north about 9 pm.

April 26: First RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD, male, reported in town.

April 27: A few more PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVERS, and BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS spotted at a distance. Report of a few WESTERN and LEAST SANDPIPERS trickling in.

Despite the inclement weather, Spring is definitely here. Bravo!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Friday, April 24, 2015

Seward, Alaska

I was hoping, but not expecting, to hear the exuberant raspy cries and chirps of the ARCTIC TERNS today. But like an apparition, there they were, five in all, flying buoyantly and triumphantly, clearly masters of the sky, water, and land. If any bird has more moxie, I don't believe we've met yet. 

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 Hot Tub Drama

Seward, Alaska

Last night, shortly after 9 pm, I received a call from a neighbor. While he was relaxing in the hot tub between snow squalls, two BALD EAGLES burst into the tranquil night.  An adult was in hot pursuit of a juvenile that was clutching a COMMON MURRE. The eagles collided with some spruce branches and the murre crashed to the ground.

As the startled eagles flew off to reconnoiter, my quick-thinking friend tossed a towel over the stunned murre to calm it down. Then he called me.
I arrived to find the white towel covering the prostrate bird, wings still outstretched as it had fallen. I carefully tucked the wings back in place and placed the package on newspapers in a cardboard box. There was no struggle and fortunately, no blood.

I drove the victim to the Alaska Sealife Center and alerted a security guard who called the rescue person on duty. While I waited in the car, I listened to the steady, slow, rhythmic breathing of the bird-in-a-box on the passenger seat. That was a real thrill for me.

Countless times I have watched bald eagles snatch these remarkable seabirds from the bay, obviously alive and peering about, firmly grasped in sharp talons en route to a dining perch. Then the valiant fight even while on the table, trying to escape. Finally, the almost inevitable end, as feathers fly and they are ripped to shreds, not always mercifully dead. Murre carcasses lie on the forest moss, city sidewalks, yards, and washed up on beaches. They seem to be the eagles’ favorite target.

While I do understand predators must eat, just once in a while, it is tremendously satisfying to be able to take advantage of a situation and intervene.

Halley arrived in about 15 minutes and gave the murre a quick check. Surprisingly, there were no puncture wounds, the feet were fine, the head looked fine. Judging from the partly digested small fish the bird had thrown up, it had recently eaten, a good sign.

We discussed a quick release back to the bay as another snow squall began. It was possible there was no harm done. Then we discussed the other option, an overnighter at the Alaska Sealife Center with a dish of fish. Given the bird had suffered a tremendous shock and fall, the choice was obvious, and the bird was checked in.

I called this morning, hoping for some good news. Unfortunately, the murre did not survive. Perhaps there was hidden internal damage from being clutched, or from the crash. Nonetheless, the ASLC will study this bird, try to learn more about it, and understand why they are struggling to survive while other seabirds seem to be finding adequate food.

Thus, the hot tub drama ends. Two eagles were disgruntled and one did not get supper. But one small seabird touched the lives of a few people and my heart, and just possibly contributed a little bit to science.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Monday, April 20, 2015 HUMMINGBIRD IN SEWARD!!!

Monday, April 20, 2015
Seward, AK

This is almost unbelievable, but the report is reliable. After a week of nasty weather including snow, rain, sleet, thunder, hail, etc, the sun broke through late this afternoon. Almost immediately, a RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD materialized at a hummer feeder on Nash Road and returned for seconds. This is incredible considering the weather and early arrival. I am amazed the little guy did not get killed by the large snowflakes or hail.

Wash up those feeders and get 'em hung. Spring is here on the wings of a miracle!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter