Saturday, November 19, 2016 Anna’s Hummer, no Cassin’s Auklet

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 9:08 am, sunset 4:17 pm for a total day light of 7 hours, 9 minutes. Tomorrow will be 4 minutes, 19 seconds shorter.

SNOW! It snowed! Overnight, Seward became a winter wonderland with at least 7” of fluffy, white snow hiding the green grass and red Mt Ash berries piled at the base of every tree. More snow or snow showers are in the forecast with nighttime temps in the mid 20s, rising to a high of mid 30s.

I received a report of the ‘hood ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD at my neighbor’s house just after dawn at 9:20 am. Yea! He survived the long, snowy night and a low of 24º! I changed out my feeder with warm solution, but alas, did not see him. 

On Thursday afternoon, the hummer on the Cliff zipped out from a nearby spruce and fed from the feeder as the surprised homeowner was about to rehang it. Close encounter of the most amazing kind!

This noon, I tried to refind the CASSIN’S AUKLET first reported by Sadie yesterday, 50m offshore of Spring Creek Beach. The road to the beach at mile 5 Nash Road was not plowed, but it was easy to drive through the powdery snow. I parked before the sunken parking lot just in case it proved too slippery to get out.

The bay was as gray as wet concrete, with a brisk NNW wind. First bird was an adult BALD EAGLE standing on the rocky jetty attended by NORTH-WESTERN CROWS exploring the tideline wrack. A few GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS poked at dead jellies.

A COMMON LOON stretched and dove not far offshore near a small raft of SURF SCOTERS and HARLEQUIN DUCKS. The first alcid was a single PIGEON GUILLEMOT paddling along by itself.  A pair of HORNED GREBES dove together. Two COMMON MERGANSERS flew downwind.

A small stream gushes out of the nearby wetland pond; knee high boots are necessary to cross, preferably at a low tide. A KINGFISHER rattled from a favorite perch overlooking the partly frozen pond.

As I rounded the point past the old chip mill dock, I saw my second alcid species, two MARBLED MURRELETS bobbing and diving in the waves. I was hopeful that the Cassin’s Auklet might be nearby. Though I glassed the bay for a long time, the tiny gray alcid eluded me.

A single RED-BREASTED MERGANSER popped up then disappeared. More HARLEQUINS and a nice flock of BARROW’S GOLDENEYES busily fed right offshore by the rising tideline. That, and the brrrrisssskkk north wind finally convinced me to turn around. Instead of the needle in a haystack, the Cassin’s is an alcid in the ocean, and as challenging to find.

I stopped at Ava’s Place on the way back. It wasn’t windy, but still cold. Here, the world turned from black and white to color. Red, russet, and olive PINE GROSBEAKS squabbled over the several sunflower seed trays on her deck railing. BLACK-CAPPED and CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES dashed in to grab a single seed, take-out. Both DOWNY and HAIRY WOODPECKERS gobbled down homemade suet. RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES took a turn too.

“Click, click, click!” A tiny, long-billed bump perched on a snowy twig and announced his presence. Ava’s male ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD was as perky as ever, watching over the throng of birds as if snow was completely normal. His green body echoed the green lichens on the tree trunk, but when he turned his head just right, the blaze of fiery, rosy magenta made my heart leap. What a spark of life, this exotic bird, unfazed by winter. Best of luck to all 3 amazing Anna’s in Seward!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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