Sunday, May 31, 2015 Red-winged Blackbird.

Seward, Alaska

Ava called to report a RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD feeding in her yard on dropped suet bits. When he flew to nearby perches, he was hard to see but easy to hear with all his various whistles and songs. Ava did not see two at once, but suspected there might be two, judging from the calls.

Later that afternoon, I found a juvenile male RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD at the mile 1 Nash Road wetlands, which is not far from Ava’s Place. He sat at the top of a dead spire, singing “Coke-a-Reeeee!” loudly in case any other Red-wings were listening within a mile. His shoulder patch was more orangish than red, but will continue to develop to match his attitude.

It is interesting that another Red-wing Blackbird was recently reported at Potter’s Marsh in Anchorage. While Seward has had this species before, it is uncommon and very irregular.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter 






Wednesday, May 27, 2015 Single Sandhill and Six Cygnets

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 4:53 am, sunset 10:57 pm for a total day length of 18 hours and 03 minutes. Tomorrow will be 3 minutes and 45 seconds longer.
Sunny skies rocketed the thermometer to 67º this afternoon, tempered by a strong south wind. The forecast predicts sunshine until next Tuesday (!) with steadily rising temperatures into the high 70s, a heat wave for Seward. Summer is already upon us.

“I hear a crane!” Much to my amazement, a single SANDHILL CRANE flew high overhead from the north. Its occasional bugling cries sounded so sad. I wonder why it is not with its buddies? Hopefully, it will get turned around and head back north soon.

More excitement over at the Nash Road mile 1 wetlands: The TRUMPETER SWAN eggs hatched sometime over the weekend. Their most excellent mother sat on her nest incubating the eggs through April’s snows, heavy rain, and hail. At times, she looked exhausted, lying prone, neck outstretched, wilted.. The expectant dad hovered nearby, always guarding.

Her diligent efforts were so worthwhile! Now, six extremely cute, snow-white cygnets paddle after their stately parents, learning how to find food. All the swans seem to relish the water horsetails and the insects clinging to the stalks. The babies mill about when either parent goes tail-up and their long neck and head disappear underwater. Good trick, dad! It will be fun to watch this new family grow.

As we were leaving, we spotted a moose standing alongside the road ahead. We pulled forward and parked. It crossed right behind the car and vanished quickly into the willows. Magic and wonder abounds!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter






Monday, May 25, 2015 Pomarine Jaeger and 7 Black Turnstones

Sunrise 4:57 am, sunset 10:53 pm for a total day length of 17 hours and 55 minutes. Tomorrow will be 3 minutes and 57 minutes longer.

While walking along the tidelands this afternoon, I heard an unusual cry and looked up. GLAUCOUS-WINGED and MEW GULLS were mobbing a light adult POMARINE JAEGER, giving it a thorough escort out of their territory. The black helmet, yellow wash on the throat, and black breast band really stood out. The knobby-looking, twisted tail feathers cinched the identification of this heavy-bodied jaeger. I have never seen a Jaeger, much less a pelagic Pomarine Jaeger in Seward, 40 miles from the continental shelf. What an astonishing discovery!

A short time later, I heard another sound, “keerrt!” and turned around to see 7 BLACK TURNSTONES flying past, low over the beach. The black head and breast contrasted sharply with the white underwings and belly; then, flip! the overall black upperside accented with artfully placed white stripes and brown and white wings. What a striking pattern! The white eyebrow and lore spot were harder to see. This is another unusual species for Seward, but not as uncommon as the Jaeger.

DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS flew past. A flock of 17 GREATER SCAUP rafted up then flew farther down the bay.

To top it all off, a HUMPBACK WHALE blew and surfaced just offshore. What a thrill!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter











Thursday, May 21, 2015 birding at Kenai Fjords National Park

Seward, Alaska

I managed to make it to Kenai Fjords National Park, at 8:30 this morning before the traffic picked up, in search of the elusive NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH.  Barely inside the boundary, I parked at the pullout by the park sign and wandered along and in the road nearby and back to the bridge. This area is a rich riparian area with wet lowland thickets interspersed with cottonwoods, willows, and alders. Perfect habitat for warblers and many other species.

The “skulking ground dwelling” Waterthrushes sang loudly and emphatically from perches high in the cottonwoods and willows on both sides of the road. The few I could actually see did not exhibit any characteristic rapid tail bobbing, and were the “whitish” variety, ie no yellow wash. The males sang, then listened as other males nearby answered. It was a lovely, musical exchange of territorial declarations.

YELLOW, ORANGE-CROWNED, WILSON’S, and YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS joined the morning concert, their songs entwined with the Waterthrush as they darted through the willows, gleaning insects. Tiny RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS belted out their song, one from the very tip of a spruce tree, about the same size as a cone. VARIED THRUSHES blew their umpire whistles, HERMIT THRUSHES played their sweet flutes, the notes floated gently through the trees. FOX SPARROWS sang about the beautiful day. A distant SNIPE winnowed in the air. PINE SISKINS and COMMON REDPOLLS flew overhead.

As I approached the bridge over Resurrection River, I heard the ringing “tew-tew-tew!” of a GREATER YELLOWLEGS. The shorebird landed at the very top of a spruce tree and stood there, calling, while he watched me walk past. It always seems odd to see a shorebird in a tree, especially one with such long, yellow legs and long, black bill.

Closer to the spruce forest at the Resurrection River Trail, I heard another warbler, the TOWNSEND’S. Missing today was the Blackpoll Warbler’s thin, insect-like song. CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES fussed about the spruce branches.

While reading the trail register, I heard a massive splashing over the normal gurgling, rushing sound of the river. I slammed the cover down and ran back towards the bridge just in time to see a giant moose (aren’t they all?) walking steadily across the river against the current. The water was surprisingly shallow, barely below the moose’s belly. When it reached the opposite shore, it stopped to take a long look at me, then easily climbed up the bank and quickly disappeared into the willow thickets. What a thrill to watch!

By 10:00 am, traffic was increasing, and so I headed to the main parking lot. Scanning the mountainside for bears, instead I found an adult GOLDEN EAGLE hunting just above the newly emerging false hellebore and grasses.

Knowing there was so much more to see and hear, but out of time, I reluctantly drove away. But I will be back to visit my National Park!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter











Tuesday, May 19, 2015 Arctic Tern courtship

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 5:09 am, sunset 10:40 pm for a total day length of 17 hours, 30 minutes. Tomorrow will be 4 minutes and 26 seconds longer.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of observing a sleek male ARCTIC TERN courting his equally beautiful true love. While the light of his life watched, he flew buoyantly over the water, searching for fish. Once spotted, he hovered expertly, swooped lower for a better look, and then dove headfirst with a big splash. Sometimes he emerged, shaking off water droplets, without a fish. Occasionally he ate a very small one, but he repeated the hunt until he had a perfect, small fish to deliver.

Upon his approach, the female ratcheted loudly in anticipation. The male hovered overhead, delicately transferring the offering into her waiting red bill. What a gorgeous suitor, with his jet-black crown, red bill, red legs, white body and angel wings! Delivery accepted, he would sit nearby, taking a little time to bask in her adoration.

She, however, was done adoring, and continued to wait expectantly, her petite little red foot tapping impatiently. So off he went to seek yet another treat. After some time, he nailed a 3-spine stickleback. What a prize! He proudly flew back to his darling and offered it, as before. Her happy cries abruptly ceased when she got a look at the formidable spines, pointing her direction.

She snapped her red bill shut while he hovered anxiously overhead, gently bumping her bill with the stickleback, then the back of her head when she turned away, giving him a very clear message. He couldn’t believe that she didn’t want it, and continued to try, futilely hitting her on the back and neck. Finally, he got the message and settled down nearby to deal with this fish himself.

He sat for several minutes with the head down his throat, the 3 dorsal spines sticking out on one side, the 2 orange barb-like ventral spines on the other. The stickleback fought valiantly, flipping its tail up and down, keeping those fierce spines erect.  It took a long time, but finally, the fish must have relaxed due to lack of oxygen. The tern opened his bill even wider and somehow managed to swallow it, a huge bulge showing its progress down the hatch. 

The female, watching the whole show, stretched and might have even yawned. Maybe there was a little prompting cough. He was soon back at work, cruising up and down, finding delicious, small fish without spines for her enjoyment. Courtship is hard work!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter