Friday, April 15, 2016 Harrier
Spring is spurting! Around 6 pm this evening, I saw my FOS NORTHERN HARRIER, a handsome silvery-white male with jet black wing tips hunting for voles. He was first reported yesterday.
Shortly afterwards, I heard my second flock of SANDHILL CRANES flying across the mountains west of Seward. Another birder was lucky to see them emerge from the clouds and estimated between 150 and 200 cranes. It seems late to be on the move, but maybe they touched down in Kenai or Anchorage later tonight.
Sarah the birder also reported large numbers of GREATER YELLOWLEGS yesterday, which were FOS by Tasha on Monday. I found my FOS, a noisy one on Tuesday with a loud, ringing “TEW, TEW, TEW!” This evening, two were flying, adding “Riddly-riddley-riddley!” She also found FOS two AMERICAN WIGEON yesterday, joining the PINTAILS, MALLARDS, GADWALL, COMMON MERGANSERS, and BUFFLEHEAD.
MEW GULL numbers are increasing around the usual nesting areas, with stiff competition for the best sites. All this posturing will be for naught when the Arctic Terns return and establish dominancy!
I watched a pair of BARROW’S GOLDENEYES in a local pond. It was interesting to watch them in freshwater after a winter of living almost exclusively in the ocean. The female mostly napped or occasionally dove while the male patrolled around her.
At one point, he lowered his head until it was just above the water and paddled quickly, leaving a wake as he snuck up on a pair of MALLARDS that were feeding quietly. With his unsuspecting quarry in range, he dove and goosed the drake underwater, resulting in a loud eruption and relocation. Pretty funny to see the sneak, as if he were invisible, but it worked. Given this evidence of territoriality, maybe they hope to nest here, which would be awesome.
Ava reported FOS WILSON’S SNIPE winnowing yesterday evening, and the FOS RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD was reported from Salmon Creek Road. Last year, the earliest report was April 15, so it’s pretty close. Kate in Prince William Sound emailed that her earliest sighting is April 22. It is interesting that Seward may have them before PWS. I’ve got my feeder up and ready for whenever they arrive.
A friend kindly shared this link to a Tundra Swan satellite study that USGS did in 2008, involving capture/release of the swans in Cold Bay as part of the avian influenza study. http://alaska.usgs.gov/science/biology/avian_influenza/TUSW/TUSW_research.php
On the way home, a very small yearling Moose grazed on fresh greens near the road. Momma must have given him the boot as she gets ready for his siblings’ arrival in May.
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter