Sunday, December 20, 2015 Gray-crowned Rosy-finches

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 10:00 am, sunset 3:50 pm for a total day length of 5 hours and 49 minutes. Tomorrow will be 9 seconds shorter as the Earth creaks around the sun.

It’s not hard to get up before the crack of dawn this time of year! After rolling out after 10 am, the sun tiptoed behind the thick curtain of blue-gray clouds all morning. But by this afternoon, the very shy sun peeked out and scattered its weak but welcome rays around like gold coins. As if to compensate for the cameo appearance, the southern sky and mountain peaks turned a rosy pink at sunset. I even saw a few stars and the moon this evening, already more than half-full with a big ring around it signaling moisture.

The “Accentor House” at Second and Madison was a hot spot today with 5 GRAY-CROWNED ROSY-FINCHES, the most we’ve had this winter.  At least 2 WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS and 1-2 SONG SPARROWS darted in and out of the spruce and alder thicket. DARK-EYED JUNCOS, RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES, BLACK-CAPPED and CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES flitted back and forth. Two BROWN CREEPERS and a DOWNY WOODPECKER were spotted recently as well.

A flock of PINE GROSBEAKS flew overhead and landed in nearby spruces, accompanied by the familiar “chirr” of BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS, number unknown, though likely only a few. The most BOWA we’ve had so far is 5 on December 14.

Not today, but on December 15, a STARLING unfortunately found these feeders and feasted on suet. Nearby, a red squirrel clung to the other suet feeder with an air of desperation. I felt sorry for it when I saw its head was all bloody. Apparently this unlucky/lucky squirrel was attacked previously and after the fur grew back (a lighter color) was attacked again. Perhaps not coincidentally, a MAGPIE missing its tail flew in, rather expertly considering the loss of the rudder. Only mysterious wing prints in the snow offered a clue to these injuries, but one always suspects a loose cat.

Also in the neighborhood, a loose flock of about 20 PINE SISKINS landed in some alders. Siskin numbers continue to be low but seem to be increasing.

While driving down Lowell Point Road, I spotted a juvenile BALD EAGLE eating a Murre in a tree right above the road. I stopped to watch and take photos. It was very interested in lunch and not very concerned about me, though I didn’t crowd it.

At Lowell Point Beach, I again found the COMMON LOON fishing close to shore. A few HARLEQUIN DUCKS, 2 MARBLED MURRELETS, a HORNED GREBE, and a lone MEW GULL were the only other birds.

Back in town south of the Harbor Uplands, I was surprised to see several flocks of up to 40 COMMON MURRES flying from the bay towards the harbor and back. All this action seemed quite unusual, with the usual question, why? Eight COMMON GOLDENEYES paddled close to Scheffler Creek. No Scaup was seen. A hungry BALD EAGLE ate is usual Murre dinner on the dolphin. Murre for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, again?!

NORTHWESTERN CROWS plucked blue mussels from the intertidal rocks and flew up, dropped them, and swooped down to retrieve the morsels in a timeless, rhythmic dance. It’s nice to see they can fend for themselves when not begging and mobbing feeders.

A quick check of the boat harbor turned up a handsome male RED-BREASTED MERGANSER. I caught a glimpse of a LOON diving, but though I waited a long time, I never saw it again.

Over at the Lagoon, several MALLARDS stood on the shore preening. A scattered group of Common Goldeneyes fished in the open areas between the ice.
A KINGFISHER briefly landed on a wire, then shot off, rattling. It’s always great to see a Kingfisher.

The day was very short, but enjoyable and interesting.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter


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