Sunrise 8:51 am, sunset 4:31 pm for a total day length of 7 hours and 40 minutes. Tomorrow will be 4 minutes and 45 seconds shorter.
Mostly sunny and cooler today. The strong north wind continued at 20-35 mph with gusts to 45 mph, blowing all the loose snow off the mountains and sublimating most of the snow on the ground. High today of 29, low of 16, forecast to steadily drop over the next few days, accompanied by strong wind.
I found respite from the wind at our local state park at Lowell Point Beach. As I parked, two adult GREAT BLUE HERONS flew in from the beach and landed in the shelter of the nearby spruce trees. They watched me warily with their yellow eyes as I walked past them to the beach. It always seems odd to find this long-legged, long-necked, long-billed wading bird perched in a spruce tree.
A large raft of BARROW’S GOLDENEYES slowly paddled away from the beach, glossy purple heads and golden eyes gleaming in the sun. Three female HARLEQUIN DUCKS swam in a tight trio farther out. A single MARBLED MURRELET fished parallel to the beach as I trailed behind it. Two SONG SPARROWS scavenged along the wrack line.
I watched a pair of COMMON MURRES paddling along. As they got closer, suddenly they turned and made a beeline for me. Closer and closer! I wondered if they might just walk up on the beach. My young dog could not restrain herself any longer and chased them off just before they ran out of water. I was so sorry to not find out how close they might have gotten. What WERE they thinking? That was a very strange and wonderful encounter.
On the way back to the parking lot, the two Herons launched and flew in a wide circle, then headed right back where they started, bouncing up and down on the branches upon landing.
Hoping to get a look at the new seals at the Alaska Sealife Center, I headed there next. How wonderful to view the seabirds out of the blast of wind! The KING EIDER is once again in fine breeding plumage, as is the male SMEW.
The seals were concealed, but the two young Steller sea lions were exuberant in their outdoor habitat. They raced from a small pool to the larger one, zipping around and around, lithe and alert, then shot out on the walkway and back into the small pool. An adult female, Tasu, accompanied them like a dutiful nanny, back and forth. Very entertaining to watch.
Ellie and Forrest are the daughter and son of Woody, the ASLC’s first Steller sea lion. Woody died on Monday at 22 years old. His legacy lives on in his beautiful children.
The Alaska Sealife Center is open daily from 11 to 3 pm, with free admission on Wednesday for Alaskans this winter through February 25. Drop by to get out of the weather and be prepared to be amazed and inspired!
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter