Sunday, April 10, 2016 Tundra Swans!

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 6:53 am, sunset 9:05 pm, for a total daylight of 15 hours and 43 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 27 seconds longer.

White slush covered the ground this morning. The migrating earthworms picked a bad night to move, almost frozen in their tracks. As the day warmed to a high of 44ยบ, the ice soon melted. Squall after squall moved in from the Gulf of Alaska; the sky was a quilt of grays of every hue and tone.

Just before noon, I heard something more musical than the background sound of gulls crying. Then, 15 TUNDRA SWANS materialized out of the gray sky, flying in a long line, eager to splash down. What a beautiful sight! They stretched their mighty wings, and settled down to feed. Among them was one light gray cygnet.

The Sibley Guide to the Birds notes that the Tundra Swan cygnets acquire their 1st summer white plumage by December, and all do by April. This one is just a little bit behind.

In contrast, the resident Trumpeter Swan cygnets still have some gray-brown. Sibley notes this plumage lasts from October to July. The last photo shows the male Trumpeter Swan at his Nash Road wetlands for comparison to the Tundra Swan adults.

The birds were very wary, watching me. I gave them a wide berth and tried hard to not disturb them. About an hour later, they suddenly took flight, stroking back up into the swirling clouds, and disappeared.

According to ADFG, the western population of Tundra Swans nest along the west coast of Alaska from Kotzebue Sound to the Alaska Peninsula. They migrate coastally through Cook Inlet and also through the Interior from wintering grounds in southern BC to central California. These birds may be part of that western population.

I received a report about 8:30 pm, that 30 swans flew over Seward but did not land. 

Those dark clouds may be full of migrating birds, glad to be back home in Alaska. Get on your rain gear; it’s happening!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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