Sunday, March 20, 2016 Northern Pintails, Herring Gulls

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 7:57 am, sunset 8:14 pm for a total daylight of 12 hours and 17 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 29 seconds longer.
Spring got carried away with her celebratory confetti on Saturday and ended up dumping about 8 inches of Spring Surprise Snow. It was a winter wonderland, and after not actually having winter, it made one wonder.
Birding was pretty skinny, but I enjoyed watching a Sea Otter taking a vigorous and thorough bath in the snowstorm. Every square inch was scrubbed and groomed, a long, but necessary process. NORTHWESTERN CROWS sat on shore, wearing snow capes and sporting white bills. Not much action from these normally busy birds.
By evening, the snow turned to rain, which continued all night and into Sunday as the temp rose to 43ยบ.

I headed out this afternoon in the rain to see if the spring storm delivered any other presents. A pair of GREAT BLUE HERONS once again stood on the B Street pilings, preening in the rain, their fancy head plumes awry. It was interesting to watch that long bill reach the neck feathers; quite a feat!

Nothing else new until the head of the bay where at least a dozen NORTHERN PINTAILS, including hens, had arrived overnight. So great to see them, some likely fresh from California. They flew round and round, looking for open water since much of the fresh water was refrozen or still slushy. The overwintering MALLARDS showed how tough they were by resting comfortably on the snow.

Around 3 pm, I heard one avalanche after another, booming down the surrounding mountains like muffled thunder, shrouded in clouds.

The weather began to clear with patches of blue sky peeking around the masses of dark clouds. I heard the excited cries of gulls high overhead. I looked up so high that my hat fell off! But there, flying through the thinning clouds, I saw HERRING GULLS in small groups and singles, heading north. I expect Kenai will have more soon.

The clouds completely cleared by 6 pm, lifting spirits with a brilliant blue sky, snowy mountains, and warm sunshine. Spring smiled benignly at her little winter joke. There are more tricks in store, if the forecast is correct, but that is fickle Spring. Keep an eye and ear to the sky as more migrants ride the spring storms north to Alaska!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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