Saturday, April 11, 2015 Wintery Spring

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 6:52 am, sunset 9:06 pm for a total day length of 14 hours and 13 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 28 seconds longer.

Squalls this past week delivered a smorgasbord of rain, snow, hail, sunshine cameos, strong winds, white caps and heavy surf.  Cold air funneled down from the north, turning April showers into more snow than we had all winter. Daytime temperatures in the high 30s and low 40s soon melted it off in town, but the mountains are still clad in fresh white. It’s a very cool spring so far.

Nonetheless, many shrubs including elderberries and blueberries are budding out, joining the willows that began flowering in the false spring in February. Stoneflies and caddisflies hatched out from clear creeks a few days ago. I even saw a wolf spider on the snow, hungry and quick.

This past week, I have heard more PACIFIC WRENS singing in the forest than ever. The VARIED THRUSHES continue to sing, but it seems that the large numbers have diminished, perhaps due to migration. PINE GROSBEAKS are also still around, but harder to find, except at Ava’s Place. The WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS numbers are also down.

April 2, a pair of LESSER SCAUP popped up at Lagoon with the usual MALLARDS, COMMON MERGANSERS, and COMMON GOLDENEYES. The two resident TRUMPETER SWAN cygnets, about 10 months old, are on their own, and occasionally feed here. Their plumage is getting much whiter, but the head is still brownish-gray.

PIGEON GUILLEMOTS in breeding plumage are moving into the bay. COMMON MURRES are very common in the bay just offshore, and continue to be the #1 meal for BALD EAGLES. Murre carcasses are washed up at every beach, or scattered on the ground in town under favorite dining trees. It is strange that the murres are starving and suffering while so many other seabirds seem to find food.

April 4, sunny! A pair of DIPPERS shared a mountain stream, one singing its gurgling stream song. As these birds are very territorial, perhaps they are a pair thinking about family matters. A NORTHERN SHRIKE perched on a fallen tree sang a surprisingly sweet song.

April 7, Robin C reported a GLAUCOUS GULL at the Uplands, and 2 THAYER’S GULLS at Lowell Point between the squalls.

April 8, Robin reported 2First Of Spring CANADA GEESE. Also spotted were 2 NORTHERN SHOVELERS with increasing numbers of NORTHERN PINTAILS. I heard a GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW singing its "O, dear me!", but it may be one that over-wintered.

April 9, VARIED THRUSHES singing in the snowstorm. Such optimists!
The overwintered TRUMPETER SWAN parents continued work on their nest at Mile 1 Nash Road in about the same spot as last summer. They looked like angelic white excavators; the male pulled up dead grasses and swiveled smoothly to deliver to the female who added them to the nest, back and forth like geared clockwork. They have about a 2-month start over last year. The STELLER’S EIDER male spotted, still hanging out with the HARLEQUINS at Spring Creek. FOS GREEN-WINGED TEAL.

April 10, Robin found a FOS HARLAN’S HAWK being harassed by crows, Steller’s jays, and magpies. I found 3 CANADA GEESE, a single SNOW BUNTING, 4 AMERICAN PIPITS, and wonder of wonders, a single FOS GREATER YELLOWLEGS, "Tew! Tew! Tew!" How any of these birds survived the tremendous winds, hail, and squalls is unfathomable. They are tough survivors!

April 11, frost on the ground this morning, but sunny with blue skies until early evening. (Un)COMMON REDPOLLS, CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES, VARIED THRUSHES, and 2 PACIFIC WRENS serenaded from the forest at the edge of the Marathon Trail. Nine TRUMPETER SWANS reported by the Trail River Bridge north of town, standing on ice.

It’s quite a conundrum, wanting to hear and see the migrating birds, but not  wanting them to risk flying through squalls, hail, and snowstorms. Spring may be wintery, but it is irrepressible. The birds are too. I’ll be waiting and watching, hoping, and cheering.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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