Saturday, March 12, 2016 Shrike, Swans, Glaucous Gull

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 7:21 am, sunset 6:54 pm for a total daylight of 11 hours and 33 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 30 seconds longer.

The 28º low this morning turned yesterday’s rain/slush to slick ice, but it melted under the gentle warmth of the smiling sun by mid morning. It was winter in the brisk northerly wind’s company, and spring without it as the thermometer rose to a high of 48º.

The shift of seasons was also evident in human activities: an open convertible passed a car topped by skis; bundled up bicyclists pedaled past red-faced joggers. Hikers hauled snowshoes up the surrounding mountains, buried in snow, while crocuses bloomed at sea level. Spring is in the air!

The juvenile NORTHERN SHRIKE left its comfortable perch on the power line to hunt, flying quickly from one spy perch to the next. I received a report of a recently fledged BLACK-BILLED MAGPIE family; talk about early!

The four stately, almost 10-month old, almost white, TRUMPETER SWAN cygnets (hatched around May 25, 2015) spent the afternoon fending for themselves while the parents took a break at the Nash Road wetlands. This is the first time I have seen them without the parents nearby. It may indicate permanent eviction, as nesting started in April last year. I did not see the “intruder” pair.

The second winter GLAUCOUS GULL, resembling a large, white snowball with pink legs, seems to like the historic pilings in front of B Street. It was there yesterday in the sleet. Today in the sunshine, it was even more brilliantly white. I enjoyed watching it stretch one wing, like a yoga pose shortly before flying off to join the screaming BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES and other gulls at the fish processing bird feeder. A large line of SURF SCOTERS, and several PELAGIC CORMORANTS patrolled the edges of the melee.

Nearby, two NORTHWESTERN CROWS, (a pair?) poked industriously in the brown and greening grass. I did not see if they found anything of interest, but maybe they were just testing the suitability of the nesting material.

While watching a swirling mob of at least ten sleek STELLER SEA LIONS, (hard to count noses!) four BARROW’S GOLDENEYES flew in front of me, extended their bright orange webbed feet, and coasted in with a splash. Several more flew in to join the small flock. Their golden eyes glowed in the sunlight; such beautiful ducks!

A Sea Otter bobbed in the wavelets on its back, munching away without a care in the world. A curious Harbor Seal repeatedly poked its shiny head up like a periscope, looked around and slid stealthily back underwater. I wonder if it too, saw Spring?

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter 

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