Thursday, March 17, 2016 Sandpipers, Goshawks, Swans

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 8:06 am, sunset 8:06 pm for a total day light of 12 hours and zero minutes. That’s good enough for me to count as SPRING EQUINOX, despite the calendar, and St Patrick’s Day too! Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 31 seconds longer as the sun races to Summer Solstice on June 20th.

To celebrate, the quirky clouds threw down a mixture of confetti including snowflakes and light rain. Whoopee! Yea, Spring! The thermometer clung to 35 to 37º, but tomorrow is forecast to be “MUCH WARMER” with a high of 42º, with a good chance of rain for the next week.

On Monday, I found a small, mixed flock of 5 DUNLINS and 12 ROCK SANDPIPERS feeding at the very edge of the incoming tide. While this is not unusual for Seward in the winter, these are the first I have found this year. I suspect they have been here undetected, but it’s still fun to find them. As the tide steadily rose, they reluctantly moved, some walking quickly to the next available spot to feed, while the ones that lingered floated and paddled in on the tide.

Yesterday, I received a report of two NORTHERN GOSHAWKS at Lost Lake Trail about 3:30 pm near the Winter and Summer Trail junction. It is possible that these are spring migrants as none have been reported yet this year.

The four resident TRUMPETER SWAN cygnets popped up at the south end of the Lagoon in town, delighting observant passersby. They should be more wary, often feeding with all four heads deep underwater, and seemingly unafraid of humans. They have definitely been abandoned by their once-doting parents who are now staked out at the mile 1 Nash Road nesting grounds. No further sign of the two new swans. I hope they will find a fine place to nest too.

This afternoon, a single, adult GREAT BLUE HERON perched glumly in the light rain on the Fucus-festooned rocks at low tide, just south of the Harbor Uplands near the historic pilings. He reminded me of Eeyore, the gloomy, gray donkey. All around it, NORTHWESTERN CROWS gathered blue mussels from the intertidal pools and rocks. Occasionally, a crow got too close and the Heron drove it away with its long neck and sharp beak extended.

The Crows put on quite a show, flying up high to drop a tightly closed mussel, then quickly chased it all the way down to grab the now opened clam before some other Crow gobbled it up. It was a wonderful rhythmic ballet, and mostly performed silently. Too bad the clam couldn’t enjoy this ride of a lifetime, very short!

In the background, the pod of Steller Sea Lions lazed just under the surface, noses popping up now and then to breathe. One extended his long flipper in the air and just left it hanging there like a flag.

BARROW’S GOLDENEYES rummaged around the edge of the tideline with a long row of SURF SCOTERS. A single BLACK SCOTER joined their company as they dove in synchrony. A few pairs of HARLEQUIN DUCKS also fed along the shoreline.

These beautiful sea ducks will soon be migrating north to their nesting grounds, but meanwhile, it’s a joy to watch them.

The little SAW-WHET OWL beeps steadily at night, more consistently and insistently as Spring approaches. Love is in the air and it’s sweet to hear.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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