Sunday, June 5, 2016 Trumpeter Swan family

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 4:39 am, sunset 11:14 pm for a total day length of 18 hours and 35 minutes. Tomorrow will be 2 minutes and 31 seconds longer.

After a heavy rain last night, a brisk south wind picked up by mid morning and swept away the clouds. The temperature was a pleasant 57ยช. Rain is in the forecast until Wednesday as the meteorologists throw their darts. Wild iris, lupine, nagoonberries, trailing raspberries, shy maiden, roses, pushki, Mt Ash, apple, and lilacs to name a few, are all blooming; very beautiful!

The ARCTIC TERNS seem to have disappeared from the head of the bay. I have not seen any for the past several days. It is so quiet! If anyone happens to spot them in the Bay or farther out to sea, please let me know. It’d be interesting to document where they went.

As I predicted, their absence had affected the rest of the tidelands neighborhood. I found two MEW GULL eggs that were opened on the side by predators. Without the terns to drive off other gulls, ravens, and eagles, the predators have a much easier time stealing and eating eggs.

No ducklings have been observed at the tideland ponds either. Of note, a female COMMON GOLDENEYE, not usually seen here, no young. Other ducks include a few NORTHERN SHOVELERS, a few PINTAILS, GREEN-WINGED TEAL, GADWALL, and about 20 MALLARDS. I keep hoping the ducklings are well-hidden, and will keep looking.

To cheer me up, I checked on the resident TRUMPETER SWAN family. Sometimes they are impossible to spot in the tall sedges and horsetails at the back of the Nash Road wetlands. Today, I arrived just as one of the parents paddled towards the road with four babies in tow, while the other parent and three cygnets stayed behind. This division was different; usually the whole family stays together.

Now the cygnets are about 3 weeks old. Their tiny necks are getting longer, and they are learning to reach underwater. One even tried tipping up a bit to reach farther. Their sturdy bills are pink with a bit of black on the tip and base. The parent’s neck was discolored brown with the wetlands muck, but these babies can’t reach that far yet and their fuzzy feathers remain white.

They are inquisitive and enthusiastic eaters, snapping at the water horsetails and sedges with gusto. Given that the parent does not feed them, but merely leads them to possible food and demonstrates how to eat, they are all excellent students, and are thriving.

It was a joy to watch this phenomenal family, full of hope, joy, and life. Cheers!!!

I was also pleased to see 3 RING-NECKED DUCKS diving in the far back of the pond. I hope they nested successfully. A proud mamma MALLARD carefully guided her 12 little duckling through the horsetails. A LINCOLN’S SPARROW sang its bubbly song, and a blackbird, possibly a RUSTY BLACKBIRD called. I’ve looked without success to find it. Sometimes we get a RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD.

Over at Fourth of July beach, 3 SURF SCOTERS bobbed in the waves. I don’t usually see this species in the summer, so that was interesting. A SPOTTED SANDPIPER flew off from the banks of the creek.

In town, a PACIFIC WREN gladdened the morning with its cheerful song. VARIED THRUSH, ROBINS, PINE GROSBEAKS, and FOX SPARROWS sang all day. An ORANGE-CROWNED and YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER enjoyed my bird bath. VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS swooped across the sky, but there are none nesting in my bird houses, and numbers overall are low.

Just after midnight on June 3, I heard a GREAT HORNED OWL calling softly from the forest on Mt Marathon. That was a surprise!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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