Friday, November 11, 2016 Sea Ducks, and the Swan Family

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 8:48 am, sunset 4:34 pm, for a total day length of 7 hours and 46 minutes. Tomorrow will be 4 minutes and 49 seconds shorter.

After almost an inch of rain on both Wednesday and Thursday with lashing winds, the weather tantrum subsided to a meek, calm, overcast day. The local temperature sign said 50º this afternoon!

I bucket-washed the road grime off the car then washed the house windows, not my usual November chores. A PINE GROSBEAK repurposed an upturned compartmented hatch cover as a birdbath, so I cleaned that too and refilled it. Then I cleaned both hummingbird feeders and refilled them. A pipe cleaner worked pretty well to scrub the tiny openings of the yellow plastic flowers. For variety, I turned the 40w light back on.

The homeowner on the Cliff reported seeing her male ANNA’S today; Ava’s Place has her little guy, and I believe the ’hood male is still hanging out at my neighbor’s. They all survived a miserably wet and windy several days. I don’t know how they do it!

First bird this morning was a busy BROWN CREEPER spiraling up my spruce tree. Perky CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES conversed cheerfully in the spruce branches. A PACIFIC WREN piped up from the raspberry canes; a PINE GROSBEAK sang from the top of my neighbor’s cottonwood tree. About 25 ROBINS flew from treetop to treetop, clucking. Everyone seemed relieved that the rain stopped and rejoiced in the brand new day.

Though the bay was deceptively calm, the storm still spoke through the rhythmic surf rolling in at Fourth of July Beach. Just outside the curling waves, a small mixed raft of sea ducks bobbed along: SURF SCOTERS, BARROW’S GOLDENEYES, and HARLEQUINS.

The Barrow’s stretched, chased, and a few males threw their heads back with gusto, courtship behavior that looks like it could break their lovely necks. Three HORNED GREBES dove just beyond, and a single RED-BREASTED MERGANSER preened, exposing its white belly. 

At the mile 1 Nash Road wetlands, the water was really high, like high tide, but hopefully this floodwater will soon subside. Four resident TRUMPETER SWANS stood on the old nest site, squeezed together on the almost submerged islet. I panicked at first, but found the third cygnet feeding a short distance away, partially obscured by the dead vegetation. Whew!

How fun to watch these giant birds peacefully preening, long necks looping and arcing to reach and rearrange all the feathers. Knowing that preening often leads directly to that magnificent angel-wing stretching, I eagerly waited with anticipation.

Yes! First one cygnet, then its sibling, then one parent, and finally the other stood tall and unfurled their enormous white wings. It’s a wonder they didn’t lift off to the moon with such vigorous flapping. It was also amazing that they managed to execute this maneuver so gracefully, without knocking anyone into the water.

I wished I could stay forever to watch them, but instead wished them well on this remarkable November afternoon as I drove away.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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