Sunday, December 18, 2016 Seward Audubon Christmas Bird Count update

Seward, Alaska
Updated to account for Northern Shrike on Count Day.

A warm front moved in Friday afternoon, delivering sn’rain on our recent 4” of fluffy, calendar-perfect snow. As I cautiously crept home Friday night on treacherous, icy streets, windshield wipers slapping, I dreaded the next day’s Seward Christmas Bird Count. I packed extra rain gear, umbrellas to share, and warm gloves to replace wet ones in anticipation of the dismal forecast.

In the dark on Saturday morning, I anxiously peered out the window. I was stunned to see the giant orb of Jupiter glowing in the clear sky, and the waning moon heading to bed over the western mountains, with a smattering of clouds. The day continued calm and mild with the temperature hovering around 35º all day. I love it when the weather forecast is wrong in our favor!

Our CBC volunteer numbers were especially low this year due illness, emergencies, vacations, and the absence of several key regulars who now offer their expertise to other lucky Count Circles. Undaunted, the remaining 10 field counters and 4 boat crew headed out at 9:30 am to enjoy a spectacular day, while 5 feeder watchers counted throughout the day.

At day’s end around 4 pm, we reconvened at the Resurrection Art Coffee House to turn in data and share highlights. Hands down, the overall highlight champions were two hardy ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRDS, who have survived cold rain, brutal cold, harsh winds, and most of all, 18-hour nights. This is the first time any hummingbirds made the Seward CBC.

Fifteen ROCK PTARMIGAN were another first, scored by an intrepid mountaineer who snowshoed up and down the mountain for 5 hours and 5 miles for these elusive birds.

The RED-BREASTED SAPSUCKER disappeared on Count Day, but was seen for Count Week, another first for Seward.

The most bizarre sighting was not a bird, but a bird diner: A drowned Mt Goat that likely met its death by a tragic fall off an icy cliff, had floated into the Count Circle. Bald Eagles, gulls, and other birds feasted on this unusual bounty.

Bird highlights for the boat crew: 2 CRESTED AUKLETS, only the second time on the Seward CBC, 99 MARBLED MURRELETS, a high number, 116 BUFFLEHEADS, also a high number, 15 COMMON LOONS, 2 PACIFIC LOONS, 1 PIGEON GUILLEMOT, and 2 GREAT BLUE HERONS.

No Common Murres or Yellow-billed Loons were seen. The Alaska Sealife Center birders noted that after the terrible Murre wreck this past winter, both the Murres and Black-legged Kittiwakes experienced a nesting failure this summer. Very troubling news, and just one of the trends documented by this Citizen Science project.

Thanks to the numerous recent puddles, my team enjoyed watching ROBINS taking baths in the street and in yards. We counted 43, and more were counted elsewhere. RAVENS and NW CROWS feasted on a load of fruit that apparently fell from the sky; very interesting!

Another false herald of spring, the VARIED THRUSH, popped up at several feeders. Two rare, but no longer unusual, WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS were counted by separate Feeder Counters.

One team found an immature BALD EAGLE with a USFWS right leg band, and a single AMERICAN PIPIT, only the second time for this species. Another team was very excited to find a large raptor, but could not nail down the species. They also found 7 RUSTY BLACKBIRDS.

Of note, only 1 PINE SISKIN was counted, and no COMMON REDPOLLS. In 2002 we counted 796 Siskins, and in 2006, 967 Redpolls. The feeders and alders seemed lonely without these irruptive species, though the savings on seed costs are considerable.

Ten more species were found during Count Week (with two more days to go) including:


The TRUMPETER SWAN family was unfortunately not seen on Count Day, but showed up the day after for Count Week, another first for Seward’s Count. The two parents and three cygnets were joined by another white adult, possibly an older sibling. It was exciting to see them after a long absence. This species has shown up for 4 previous Counts.

Summary: 55 species on Count Day, 10 so far for Count Week, with a few reports pending.

Special thanks to Captain Mike Brittain who once again provided the Dora for the boat team survey, and to all the dedicated volunteers who helped to make this count possible, and to Resurrect Coffee House and Art Gallery for their hospitality.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

2016 Alphabetical Checklist Seward Christmas Bird Count
Auklet, Crested                       ­­­                 
Blackbird, Rusty                      ­­­                 
Chickadee, Black-capped          ­­­                  ­­­
         2CW Chickadee, Boreal                                      
Chickadee, Chestnut-backed                               
Cormorant, Pelagic                                            
Creeper, Brown                       ­­­                 
         CW Crossbill, White-winged              ­­­                 
Crow, Northwestern                                          
Dipper, American                    ­­­                 
Duck, Harlequin                                       
Duck, Long-tailed                                     
         Eagle, Bald adult                                                         
         Eagle, Bald immature                                         
Eagle, Bald total                                        
         falcon unknown species                                     
         CW  Gadwall                                  
Goldeneye, Barrow’s                                         
Goldeneye, Common                                         
Grebe, Horned                                                  
Grebe, Red-necked                           ­­­                 
Grosbeak, Pine                                         
Guillemot, Pigeon 
Gull, Glaucous-winged X Herring hybrid              
Gull, Glaucous-winged                              
Gull, Herring                                                     
Gull, Mew                                                         ­­­
Heron, Great Blue                                     
Hummingbird, Anna’s                                                 
Jay, Steller’s                                                              
         CW Junco, Dark-eyed (Oregon)                
Junco, Dark-eyed (Slate-colored)       ­­­                          
Kingfisher, Belted                                                       
Kinglet, Golden-crowned          ­­­                 
Loon, Common                       ­­­                 
Loon, Pacific                                                    
Magpie, Black-billed                                            ­­­
Merganser, Common                                         
         CW Merganser, Hooded                   
Merganser, Red-breasted                           
Murre, Common                                               
Murrelet, Marbled                                     
Nuthatch, Red-breasted                             
Pigeon, Rock                                                    
Pipit, American                                        
Ptarmigan, Rock                                      
Raven, Common                                      
         CW Red-breasted Sapsucker            
Robin, American                     ­­­                 
         CW  Sandpiper, Rock                                                                         
Scaup, Greater                                                  
Scoter, Surf                                             
Scoter, White-winged
Shrike, Northern                                       
Siskin, Pine                             ­­­                 
Sparrow, American Tree                           
Sparrow, Golden-crowned                                 
Sparrow, Song                                 ­­­                 
Sparrow, White-crowned                                   
Sparrow, White-throated                           
         CW Swan, Trumpeter                                        
         CW Teal, Green-winged                                     
Thrush, Varied                        ­­­                 
         CW Waxwing, Bohemian                          
Woodpecker, Downy                                         
Woodpecker, Hairy                                            
Wren, Pacific                                  

TOTAL SPECIES: 55 for Count Day, plus 10 for Count Week

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