Monday, September 28, 2015 Red-necked Grebe, Common Murre feeding chick

Seward, Alaska

Heavy overcast bordering on fog today with light rain showers, and completely flat calm. Gray skies merged seamlessly with the gray water; a monochrome day.

New to the mob scene today was a RED-NECKED GREBE that cautiously dove at the very edge of the melee. BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES plunged recklessly into the boiling mass of herring, submerging then emerging triumphantly with 2 or 3 herring at a time. Dozens of COMMON MURRES, many more KITTIWAKES, and a handful of PELAGIC CORMORANTS floated all around, seemingly suspended in the grayness.

Through the din of screaming gulls, I heard a different sound, persistent and almost sweet. I sorted through the birds, discounting each until I zeroed in on a miniature COMMON MURRE in typical adult winter plumage. Up popped an adult COMMON MURRE still in breeding plumage, with a herring in its beak. 

This is the famous Murre dad who dutifully attends the chick after it leaves mom and leaps off the cliff nest. I have never observed this behavior, and so far from the seabird colony.  It is unusual, like all the herring and whales so close to Seward.

The dad held the herring for a bit, maybe to subdue it, then handed it over the waiting, begging chick and watched while the chick worked it around and got it down. Then he dove again for more while the chick waited and begged. It was all very charming to watch and hear. That murre chick is so cute! At one point, it dove, but I was unable to see if it successfully caught anything.

All this activity suddenly ceased as a powerful Humpback Whale cruised through the middle, swallowing the entire herring ball in one big gulp. All the birds scattered, nervous about being an entrĂ©e for the whale’s lunch.

May they all find more herring!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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