Saturday, December 12, 2015 Yellow-rumped Warbler and Yellow-billed Loon!
Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 9:52 am, sunset 3:50 pm, for a total day length of 5 hours and 57 minutes. Tomorrow will be 1 minute and 35 seconds shorter.

Last night’s sn’rain morphed into fluffy snow overnight, transforming the world into a winter wonderland. A parade of dark, blue-black clouds rolled in from the Gulf of Alaska then burst like a piƱata loaded with snowflakes over Seward. The weather was dramatic and so much fun! More snow tomorrow with temps below freezing to enjoy it.

Ava called this morning to report a YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER, aka MYRTLE WARBLER, at her suet feeders. On my way, a large, dark, raptor stroked powerfully across the road in front. A PEREGRINE? I tried to follow it, but failed. The bird-in-the-bush to look for later!

I dashed over to Ava’s in time to witness the astounding bird-in-the-hand. What was this summer warbler doing in Seward NOW? Where was she during the extreme cold a few weeks ago? How did she survive?

The SHARP-SHINNED HAWK sat in a tree behind the house, after stirring up the PINE GROSBEAKS and about 40 PINE SISKINS. The warbler did not seem particularly or appropriately nervous, which may spell disaster for her. Instead, she checked out the sunflower feeder briefly (nope) and then went straight for the suet feeder as the best substitute for her normal diet of insects. The bossy Nuthatches drove her off, but whenever she had an opening, she took it. It will be interesting to see how long this lost bird stays at Ava’s Gourmet Bird Diner. Coming here was one smart decision!

As Ava dutifully refilled all the feeders, I headed south toward the beach and the alluring blue-black skies. By the time I arrived, so had the snow. It fell fast and thick like a snow globe. I left my camera but compromised by bringing my binocs, just in case.  

A juvenile BALD EAGLE flew overhead, enveloped in snowflakes. Four Steller Sea Lions lolled about, barely visible in the heavy snowfall. Resolute COMMON MURRES putted along like little motorboats. A few HARLEQUINS flew through the snow seeking better fishing spots. Other than that, it was hard to see anything.

As I walked down the beach with the good dogs playing “find the ball in the snow” a YELLOW-BILLED LOON suddenly surfaced in front of me, not 10’ from the beach! What a sight, this magnificent Loon paddling slowly along, snowflakes falling like confetti all around.

ABC: Always Bring Camera! Well, I didn’t, but I enjoyed watching, even closer, with my binocs.

Despite the human and two dogs, the Loon calmly continued to snorkel, moving its massive, half-submerged head back and forth, searching the shallow water for fish. It dove, surfaced a short distance down the beach, and continued fishing.

We walked the other way and after wrapping up the swimming/snow play, I circled back to the car and nabbed my camera. The snowstorm had mostly abated by then, and the Loon was still there, fishing. It graciously allowed this grateful paparazza to take photos while the good dogs watched patiently.
I felt like I was in the presence of royalty; very honored indeed. Wow.

I headed over to North Dock/Spring Creek Beach to check out three sea otters and a few HORNED GREBES. The grebes were very amusing as they leaped into the air as they dove. It reminded me of how kids at the pool are taught to dive by pretending to jump over a barrel. These little grebes did it perfectly without using their wings at all, their pointy bills entering first, and their large lobed feet following last with a splash.

Another snow squall hit as I drove away even as the sun shone brightly on the mountains to the north. What an interesting and exciting day for birds and weather!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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