Tuesday, February 23, 2016 8 Trumpeter Swans and brown bear tracks!

Seward, Alaska

What an amazing afternoon!

I ventured out to look for the NORTHERN SHOVELER pair that Tasha found on Monday. Instead, I found the six resident TRUMPETER SWANS plus two! I could not get close for decent photos, but they sure were interesting to watch.

When I arrived at the half-frozen pond, the two resident parents were floating side by side, gawking like teenagers at a movie star. The large, magnificent newcomer stood on a small island stage, ignoring them, while he nonchalantly preened his radiant perfection. The four cygnets clustered together, as if instructed to stay a respectful distance away.

Finally, the parents began dipping their long necks up and down, a signal to move, and paddled back to join their youngsters. That’s when I noticed yet another Trumpeter Swan on the other side of the family, quietly resting. She seemed smaller, and much more demure in contrast to the rock star male. Eight beautiful swans! Not wishing to disturb them any further, I backed away. It they stay, it will be fascinating to watch the interactions of this group as the winter progresses to spring.

An entertaining RAVEN put on quite a show for me near my car, posturing and displaying, pulling up tufts of dead grass, vocalizing, and generally having a fine time. It was such a treat to watch and listen to this unconcerned Corvid. Usually Ravens are so wary, I only think about reaching for my camera and they zip out of sight.

I managed to get a photo when the Raven’s nictitating membrane was closed, giving him a weird-looking, blank, blue eye. A short time later, a NORTHWESTERN CROW also flashed its blue third eyelid. There’s an excellent website on the nictitating membrane at “The Ark in Space”
 http://www.arkinspace.com/2014/06/the-nictitating-membrane-third-eyelid.html It makes me want to get more photos of this phenomenon.

Later, on a walk at Fourth of July Beach, I suddenly encountered a long line of brown bear tracks in the crusty snow. Wow! Did I ever feel small! The tracks were not fresh, maybe yesterday, but just to know a large, hungry bear was awake and wandering around was thrilling. I will have to start carrying bear spray now, just in case.

Just as I was about to leave, I spotted two juvenile BALD EAGLES hunting over the rolling waves. One eagle nailed a COMMON MURRE and flew back to shore. Just as it was about to rise up to land in the spruce trees to enjoy lunch, the other one made a grab for the murre. I watched the murre's white body plunge to dramatically to the ground. As the thief circled back, the other eagle flew away, fiercely clutching the head and bloody upperparts. Hungry eagles! 

What a wild and exciting afternoon in an otherwise rather dark and gloomy day!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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