Monday, November 2, 2015 Hooded Merganser and Fox Sparrow

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 8:23 am, sunset 4:58 pm, for a total day length of 8 hours and 35 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 10 seconds shorter.

The temperature dropped to 29º this morning around 5 am; thin ice formed on the Lagoon. With a high of only 37º, not much melted. The cheery morning sun lasted until early afternoon as a familiar, soft gray blanket bearing snowflakes crept in from the Gulf.

I set off on this beautiful, sunny, calm morning to Lowell Point to look for the SWAMP SPARROW that Scott S. and Brad B. identified yesterday. A Humpback Whale blew and dove just before the Point near a small raft of HARLEQUIN DUCKS and BARROW’S GOLDENEYES. BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES and GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS flew past PELAGIC CORMORANTS, a MARBLED MURRLELET, and a few COMMON MURRES.

The first bird at the Point was a GREAT BLUE HERON squawking in complaint as it ponderously flew off. Walking the Pinnacle View Drive-Beach Drive-Shady Lane loop I found the usual residents including CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES, GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS, SONG SPARROWS, DARK-EYED JUNCOS, RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES, BLACK-BILLED MAGPIES, STELLER’S JAYS, RAVENS, NW CROWS, and BALD EAGLES. One of the eagles sat high in a spruce in the sun, red blood on its golden beak from a recent meal. But no Swamp Sparrow.

Next, I headed to the Lagoon by Benny Benson Park on Dairy Hill Lane. To my delight, the HOODED MERGANSER drake preened in the middle of the Lagoon surrounded by COMMON GOLDENEYES. He was first spotted on Saturday by Aaron B, Tim S, and Enric F. It is very possible that this is the same individual that has visited Seward for the past several years. Two much smaller male BUFFLEHEADS provided a nice comparison of puffy heads with white patches.

The resident TRUMPETER SWAN family of six was at the north end, preening and resting on shore. It was so great to see them! A young BALD EAGLE cried out from a nearby spruce. That, and unfortunately, my presence proved unsettling. After several minutes of head bobbing and quiet honking, the stately parents led the cygnets into the water. One more eagle cry, and the whole family took off, wings beating furiously as they ran across the water, gathering momentum and lift-off.

The Hooded Merganser, caught in their takeoff, turned to paddle away as twelve pairs of powerful wings and strong, black, webbed feet surged towards, around, and past like a freight train. I think he forgot to dive!

As the excitement subsided, two young DIPPERS raced past and flew through the culvert to the salmon stream. Silver salmon are still spawning, trying to beat the icy grip of winter. As I left, one Dipper sang contentedly, his voice amplified by the great acoustics in the culvert.

The next stop was at the alley feeder north of Madison between Second and Third Ave. Three gorgeous red male PINE GROSBEAKS picked through the green grass, looking for suet bits or fallen sunflower seeds. An olive female scavenged nearby.

Last stop: the red “Accentor House” at the corner of Second and Madison. A steady stream of RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES zipped between the feeders and the spruce trees where they carefully cached each sunflower seed under the bark. BLACK-CAPPED and CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES valiantly tried to sneak in for a few seeds. The owner kindly pointed out the very handsome FOX SPARROW nearby. Although this bird is not as red as some of the bird book photos, I believe it is the “red” Fox Sparrow spotted over the weekend.

After setting our clocks back an hour yesterday, the daylight ended all too soon. In the deepening dusk, I heard a familiar “chip, chip, chip” and caught a glimpse of a tiny, but perky PACIFIC WREN flitting through my yard. It seemed fitting that a bird with so much moxie should draw the curtains of the night, ending a wonderful day of birding.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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