Friday, December 11, 2015 Highlights of the week

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 9:51 am, sunset 3:50 pm for a total day length of 5 hours and 59 minutes. Tomorrow will be 1 minute and 47 seconds shorter, but who’s counting such minutiae only ten days from Winter Solstice?

The days are much longer when the sky is clear, even in the heart of winter. After several partly sunny, mostly calm days with temps in the upper 30s, the rain and sn’rain returned this afternoon, changing to sleet this evening. More snow showers forecast for the next week.

Monday, December 7:
I counted 48 nervous SNOW BUNTINGS in the distance, flying like a highly localized snow flurry, blowing from one location to the next. I couldn’t get close enough to check for McKay’s, but that’s always a tantalizing possibility.

Also spotted, at the last minute, 20 sandpipers. It was too dim to discern the details, but likely ROCK SANDPIPERS and DUNLINS. So nice to see them, even from afar!

Tuesday, December 8:
Three BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS surprised me at Fourth of July Beach, perched momentarily in a cottonwood tree. This is the most BOWA we’ve had this winter. There isn’t much to attract them, or other fruit lovers, as very few Mt Ash trees produced berries this fall.

Just as the light was fading at 2:45 pm, I paused to watch my feeder before I went inside. The usual CHESTNUT-BACKED and BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEES flew in to snatch single sunflower seeds then dashed away to break them open with their tiny beaks. RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES clung to the ¼” feeder mesh like magnets, right-side up, up-side down, or sideways, it didn’t matter, as long as they got their sunseed. An occasional DARK-EYED JUNCO hopped up on the feeder tray, while others feed on the ground below.

Then, a white flash! A BROWN CREEPER landed on the feeder, its white belly glowing in the dimness. It seemed a little puzzled by this tree of wire filled with sunflower seeds. I was amazed to see its thin, curved bill reach in between the wire and actually extract a seed. The Creeper turned the seed this way and that in its bill, then dropped it.

I don’t know how it could physically crack one open. But undaunted, the little bird reached in again and pulled out a sunflower seed heart that was somehow mingled like a gold coin in the rubble of unhulled seeds. THAT it could eat, and did. The Creeper managed to get one more tidbit before the more aggressive Nuthatch returned and drove it off.  I hope the shy Creeper will return and find more bits, and the suet. It is such a pleasure to watch this diminutive forest bird.

Wednesday, December 10
Another first, a HORNED GREBE hanging out with seven BUFFLEHEADS, four handsome drakes and three demure hens. Neither species seemed to mind, though both might be competing for the same menu items.

Two LONG-TAILED DUCK drakes at Spring Creek.

PACIFIC WRENS continue to scold in my neighborhood and at Two Lakes Park. I may not be able to find them, but they sure are loud!

I spotted a SHARP-SHINNED HAWK sitting in a tall cottonwood, right above a BALD EAGLE behind Ava’s Place. Her birds were very nervous, and with good reason!

Thursday and Friday the low sun peeked through the blue-gray clouds like a spotlight, illuminating first one snowy mountain then another. Truly spectacular lighting and scenery, only possible in the northern winter.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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