Wednesday, November 16, 2016 Slaty-backed Gull!

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 9:00 am, sunset 4:23 pm, for a total day light of 7 hours and 23 minutes. Tomorrow will be 4 minutes and 32 seconds shorter.
Welcome clear skies corresponded with cooler temperatures down to 20º last night, rising to 39º this afternoon. A brisk NNE wind blasted the feeble heat from an apologetic sun as it dashed across the sky in a low arc. The highest tides of the year followed the super moon, the bay whipped to a surging, white-capped froth, redistributing huge driftwood logs from one inundated beach to another. The stage was set for an exciting day!
Shortly after dawn at 9:30 am, the ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD flashed between the spruce tree and lighted feeder, having survived another cold and windy night. Yea!
At 12:30, I spotted a SLATY-BACKED GULL along the waterfront in front of town, standing quietly, facing into the north wind. Its slate gray back and black tail stood out from the light gray cloak of the default, slightly larger Glaucous-winged Gulls. The only winter record I have for Seward is from December 23, 2010 to January 3, 2011; others may have better data.
This gull is native to northeast Asia, breeding in the Russian Far East. According to the USFWS Alaska Seabird Information Series, it is a rare spring migrant and summer and fall visitor along the Bering and Chukchi seas.
Seward is fortunate to once again host this unusual visitor, though the local gulls did not especially seem to welcome it. One GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL landed nearby, close enough to be threatening, but the Slaty-backed held its ground, and the bully soon flew off. Where other Glaucous-winged Gulls sat together in loose groups, hunched against the north wind, this gull toughed it out alone.
The gull’s dramatic black and white patterning when flying was thrilling, though I failed to get any photos. I’ll try again tomorrow, if I can refind it.
Later in the afternoon, I found a young bull moose grazing hungrily on dead grasses. This is the bull that experienced a severe trauma last month that broke off his left antler and blinded his left eye. He seems to be healing, and has lost his right antler naturally. Though his life is far from easy, he perseveres.
Up on the mountain, a band of sure-footed mountain goats grazed on steep, rocky, wind-swept cliffs. From a feisty hummer to a rare gull, huge moose, and white tenacious dots on the mountain; what a great day!
Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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