Wednesday, April 27, 2016 Lincoln’s Sparrow

Seward, Alaska

I heard a rich, liquid bubbling song today at the former horse corral across from Benny Benson Park on Dairy Hill Lane, and came up blank. Who WAS that? The songster proved hard to spot, even as the little skulker flew from one low bush to the next. At least I caught a glimpse of something brownish! Finally, he flew to the middle of a taller budding willow and I recognized the LINCOLN’S SPARROW. Of course! Welcome home!

At Lowell Point Beach State Recreation Site, a bright male RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD zinged past. Yea! My first hummer sighting!

Busily feeding in the shallow water near the beach were 7 RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS including one male, and 8 noisy BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES. I wonder what small fish they were targeting there, gunnels?

Along Lowell Point Road, I found about 20 more Red-breasted Mergansers feeding near the intertidal rocks; numbers are increasing. Farther out, at least 70 SURF SCOTERS swam in long lines. About 30 BARROW’S GOLDENEYES preened and paddled in between. HARLEQUINS dotted the shoreline. I don’t expect many of these sea ducks to stay much longer.

Report of the first COMMON LOON calling at Bear Lake, and dippers nesting.

The alder male catkins are bursting out, dangling like fancy tassels, waiting for the wind to disperse their pollen. Cottonwoods are almost done, their reddish flowers, both male and female, decorate the ground. Insect pollinated willow flowers, both male and female are in bloom, ready for warblers to feast. I’m ready for warblers too, arriving any day.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter














Tuesday, April 26, 2016 MORE Geese and Cranes!

Seward, Alaska

I mistakenly thought the big push was over, but as the dark gray clouds rolled in on Monday, they were loaded with rain, a chilly wind, and birds. As evening approached, the sky was filled with rows and lines of black dots that looked more like swarms of bees than birds. As they grew closer, their glad cries rang out and hundreds of SANDHILL CRANES and GEESE landed, grounded by the weather.

These are the first landed Cranes I’ve had the pleasure of watching this spring. They absolutely dwarfed every other bird around, yet were very tolerant of the various ducks and geese feeding amongst them. Every stately bird was hungry, voraciously finding calories in the soggy but apparently rewarding wetlands. Now and then, a magnificent pair stretched skyward and bugled with excitement, wings outstretched. Spring! Homeward bound!

Tasha counted, a difficult task with this ever-changing feathered landscape, and posted on eBird: 246 SANDHILL CRANES, 77 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE, 327 CACKLING GEESE, and 12 ALEUTIAN CACKLING GEESE.

This morning, as the weather improved, more flocks of Geese and Cranes stroked up the bay and flew over town, funneled by the mountains. One would think all heads would snap skyward at the sound, but most folks seemed oblivious to this wonder of nature right overhead. What a stupendous feat, migration, and what an upwelling of hope, joy, and satisfaction to witness it!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter










April 24, 2016 Gulls close-up

Seward, Alaska

Sometimes, it’s just really interesting to get close-ups of obliging gulls, particularly their heads. Who knew that the eye color of different species was so varied, or that they all have species-specific hot-hued orbital rings? Even the gape, if feathers don’t cover it, are particular colors. Toss in the bright yellow bills with the flashy red spot on a pure white head and you’ll see that the underappreciated gulls are worth a closer look.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter







Sunday, April 24, 2016 Black Oystercatcher, DC Cormorants, peeps

Seward, Alaska

Such an exciting burst of Spring this past week!

In addition to the migrating geese, ducks, and cranes:
Wednesday, April 20: FOS BLACK OYSTERCATCHER napping at Fourth of July Creek.

Thursday, April 21: RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD reports increased after first report of a male at Salmon Creek Road on April 14. Next came a report of a male at Bear Lake, and Camelot. Then reports of a male at Ava’s, and in town on April 21. The first female was reported at Bear Lake on April 22.

Friday, April 22: FOS single DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT spotted sitting on B St piling, sporting its breeding plumage blousy, white eyebrows. The next day, I saw 8 perched on the pilings, preening and napping. A Gray Whale was reported right by the ASLC!

Saturday, April 23: A PEREGRINE FALCON shot out from the spruce trees at Lowell Point Beach State Recreation Site and headed north. Very unexpected and exciting! Tasha reported BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS and 6 sandpipers, likely LEAST but too far to confirm, 100 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE and CACKLING GEESE, and BONAPARTE’S GULLS at Afognak Beach tidelands and north.

FOS LEAST SANDPIPERS (6) discovered in the emerging wetland grasses at the head of the bay. I also caught a quick glimpse of a sparrow. A likely suspect is the Savannah Sparrow. ARCTIC TERN numbers up to 20 and starting courtship, parading tiny fish around.

Sunday, April 24: At least 6 MARBLED MURRELETS, still in winter plumage, and two PIGEON GUILLEMOTS in breeding plumage, dove along Lowell Point Road. Two COMMON MURRES, one in breeding plumage, (yea!) checked out the fish scraps alongside the numerous, noisy gulls by the seafood processing plant.

PACIFIC WRENS, RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS, VARIED THRUSH, SONG SPARROWS, and FOX SPARROWS sang along the road in the spruce trees. I watched a SONG SPARROW collect long, thin fibers for her nest from the gravel alongside the road. It looked like whiskers! A STELLER’S JAY pair also worked on building a nest in a spruce tree.

A Harbor Porpoise arced quickly and quietly just offshore. A Sea Otter harvested mussels from the exposed intertidal rocks, diving in very shallow water, then popped up to crunch on the fresh mollusks. One of the four king salmon trollers caught a large Pacific cod and tossed it back.

Three dainty BONAPARTE’S GULLS paddled over to Scheffler Creek south of the Seward boat harbor, picking tiny tidbits off the water surface in the company of MEW GULLS and BARROW’S GOLDENEYES.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter






















Friday, April 22, 2016 Geese!

Seward, Alaska

What a great 3 days! THIS was the big spring rush for geese and more cranes.

A friend reported geese at the wetlands at the head of the bay around 6 pm on Tuesday, April 19. When I finally got there around 9 pm, it was almost dark, but I saw the solid shapes of about 100-150 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE and CACKLING GEESE feeding voraciously on sedges. It was even more fun to hear their joyous conversations, so glad to feast before their migration continued to the Yukon Flats.

At 9:30 pm, I suddenly heard garbled, high-pitched cries high overhead and looked up in the darkening sky to see hundreds of GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE and likely CACKLING GEESE, migrating overhead in long, wavering lines and curved bows, heading north. I could still hear them at 10:30 pm, though it was too dark to see.

I checked on them the next morning, April 20, and they were still there, feeding, preening, and napping, a wonderful sight! At 9 am, the dark, glowering clouds spit rain and SANDHILL CRANES. They flew high overhead, followed by another joyous flock a few minutes later. Ten minutes later, I heard the faint bugling of yet another flock and watched the long, undulating line of specks grow larger as they streamed up the bay, getting louder and louder until they were overhead and past. What a thrill!

I checked again on April 21, and Greater White-fronted Geese and Cackling Geese were still feeding at the wetlands, though it was impossible to know if these were the same birds. Walking around the block at 11:45 pm, I heard that laughing, garbled cry overhead as several flocks flew north in the dark. 

Maybe those were the stopover feeding geese, as they were all gone by the next day. If we are lucky, we’ll see or hear them in the fall for another brief visit on their way south.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter