Saturday, June 18, 2016 Caspian Terns, peeps, and swallows

Seward, Alaska

The clouds rolled in on a south wind Friday night, ending the hot sunny stretch. In the afternoon before the big storm arrived late Saturday, I checked the tidelands. It was very quiet without the Arctic Terns after the devastating egging incident of May 13.

About a dozen GADWALL and a pair of PINTAILS quietly dabbled in the pond. A flock of 20 MEW GULLS flew past, no youngsters with them. It seemed unusual to see so many not tending nests or fledglings.

Six SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS, a species that struggles to nest on Seward’s increasingly popular beaches, stop-started along the tide line. One LEAST SANDPIPER, one SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER, and one WESTERN SANDPIPER (in order of minutely increasing size) poked and prodded through the beach wrack. I haven’t seen many shorebirds since spring migration, though it is possible that these are local breeders.

Just before I headed back, I heard the exciting, harsh cry of a CASPIAN TERN. I spun around to find two terns circling around, very likely the same terns I spotted from Tonsina Point on Tuesday. What an impressive bird, larger than many gulls, with such a huge red bill and black cap.

I wonder if they were surprised at the absence of the much smaller, buoyant, graceful, and territorial Arctic Terns? Hmmm, nobody home! They enjoyed plunging with a terrific splash into the pond after small fish, unfettered.

Watch and listen for this pair at the boat harbor and along the Greenbelt. Not all gull-sized birds are gulls!

A bit later, I headed to First Lake in town. At least a dozen VIOLET GREEN and TREE SWALLOWS swooped and looped around the small lake, snatching up mosquitoes midair and other insects from the water’s surface. It was dizzying to try to track them in their erratic flights by eye, binocs, and camera, but so rewarding and fun to watch.

Once in a while, I managed to get an image in focus so I could really appreciate their colorful plumage as more than just flashes of color amidst the twisting and turning white bellies and brown wings. The birds, with the Tree Swallow’s metallic blue black, and the Violet-green Swallow’s green head and violet rump, resembled exotic tropical butterflies fluttering over the green water. Such unexpected beauty in this serendipitous moment!

Ringing the lake, I heard TOWNSENDS, YELLOW, ORANGE-CROWNED, and WILSON’S WARBLERS, VARIED and HERMIT THRUSHES, a RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET, and a PACIFIC WREN singing. A DIPPER landed on a rock near my feet then, both of us greatly surprised, flew across the lake. Raucous fledgling RAVENS demanded food from deep in the forest. BALD EAGLES cried out as they rose above the lake higher into the sky framed by Mt Marathon.

Quite a treat, in this lovely little city park jewel.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

No comments:

Post a Comment