Wednesday, September 16, 2015 Brown Creeper and Trumpeter Swans

Seward, Alaska

The morning began with remarkably close views of a BROWN CREEPER, busily inspecting my front yard spruce trees for tiny tidbits, likely spiders, eggs, larvae, and insects, invisible to me. It hopped UP the tree seemingly without effort, braced by a strong tail and hooked with long toes. Poking in the cracks of the scaly bark, it went up, and up, and out of sight. Then in a blur, down it flew, sticking on the vertical trunk as few birds can, to repeat the ascent. At times, it detoured onto the branches where it seemed to prefer walking upside down on the underside, no problem!  I watched, fascinated, until it flew off to the neighbor’s spruce trees, then I resumed my work.

Towards the end of the day in dimming light, I received a tip that the TRUMPETER SWAN family was at the Lagoon. I hurried over to find all six cygnets and both parents feeding quietly at the south end.

The cygnets are as large as the adults, and are thriving under the watchful eyes of their excellent parents. While they still appear light gray, when they stretch, the underside of their massive wings is all white. A few white feathers poke through on their backs. Their pink bills are gradually turning black, starting at the base and the tip, each with varying amounts of pink remaining in between. 

Often, all eight swans were busy underwater simultaneously, apparently able to eat their pond plant salad while submerged. They remained underwater for long minutes, popped up, and plunged down again, their graceful, looping necks moving rhythmically.

It appears the adults are showing their babies all the places to feed, just as they did their previous summer’s four cygnets. This might mean that they plan to spend the winter here together instead of migrating. It will be a long, lean winter, but with the exception of the unmarked power lines, possibly safer than migrating.

Two noisy RUSTY BLACKBIRDS cackled and creaked from the leafless trees along the Lagoon. Nice to see them! A BELTED KINGFISHER rattled low across the water; a chittering BALD EAGLE took off from a cliffside spruce and sailed overhead.  

I checked out the north end of the Lagoon and found, to my delight, a majestic GREAT BLUE HERON standing in the outfall creek with spawning pink salmon, mallards, and gulls. It is remarkable how this elusive, large heron can be here year-round, and yet seen so rarely.

Meanwhile, the whole swan battalion paddled serenely but swiftly from south to north, joining the stealthy GREAT BLUE HERON, noisy gulls, and ducks at the fishy feast at their feet. A perfect ending to a special bird-day.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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