Sunday, September 27, 2015 More Humpback Whales, Goldeneyes, GBH

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 7:53 am, sunset 7:42 pm, for a total day length of 11 hours and 48 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 25 seconds shorter. Temps in the mid-40s, calm, frequent rain showers. More rain is in the forecast for Monday and Tuesday.

Supermoon lunar eclipse was totally obscured by a thick, gray blanket of clouds.

Today was whale day as Humpback Whales, from 2 to 5, feasted on herring right in front of town. Delighted visitors and locals alike stood in the mist and rain, waiting expectantly. We were not disappointed!

Hoards of excited BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES plunged headfirst into the boiling bait balls, emerging with 2 or 3 herring in their yellow beaks. COMMON MURRES, MARBLED MURRELETS, and PELAGIC CORMORANTS dove and feasted nearby. The first BARROW’S GOLDENEYES, a small flock of 5, and HARLEQUIN DUCKS whizzed past. Three Sea Otters cruised past, paddling nonchalantly backwards. A Harbor Seal popped up and slipped quietly back down; a Steller’s Sea Lion porpoised past.

Then, WHOOSH! a Humpback surfaced nearby, startling everyone, including the birds, who instantly scattered. Sometimes the whale surfaced and blew in a predictable line; other times, it spun around, flukes flailing, water churning, throat pleats visible as it lunged for the herring. Finally, the whale presented its iconic tail and disappeared for long minutes, often reappearing a mile away.

Just as people began dispersing, back it would come, (or others) putting on another impressive show. Five photographers stood ready when suddenly a Humpback cleared the water, revealed its entire massive body, then slammed back with a fantastic boom and huge splash! Not one photographer got a photo. It was so fast, and so incredible! 

ASLC marine mammal researcher, Dr. Russel Andrews, noted the “North Pacific Super Blob” may be the cause of this unusual herring/whale activity in the bay. According to the NOAA website, the ocean is exceptionally warm, as much as 5.4ยบ F warmer than normal, all the way across the North Pacific to Japan. Not since records began has this region been so warm for so long. The implications are huge.

On a sad note, later in the afternoon, a dead GREAT BLUE HERON was reported at the base of a power pole on the sidewalk near the Alaska Sealife Center. Cause of death unknown at this time. The ASLC staff collected the unfortunate bird.

Happy Whale Watching!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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