Friday, August 11, 2017 Surprise Shorebird Sighting

Seward, Alaska

I wasn’t birding on my way to the post office. But when a small, unidentified bird flew up and landed in the lawn next to the road, I immediately veered into the unsuspecting homeowner’s driveway, parked and grabbed my binocs.

What?!! A LEAST SANDPIPER! I have never seen this species in Seward away from the wetlands and tidelands. Yet here it was, across from the post office, walking through the clover, asphalt chunks and grass, busily picking off tiny tidbits.

Whenever a vehicle passed, it flew up in alarm, then landed right back in the yard. Several times, it flew across the road, landed, then walked back as if drawn by a magnet to the same place. It looked SO out of place walking on the black asphalt!

How simply astonishing that this little guy chose to dine here, of all places. I hope he gets back to his buddies soon with stories to share!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter








Monday, August 7, 2017 Great Horned Owl

Seward, Alaska

A GREAT HORNED OWL has been hooting sporadically in the late evening from the slopes of Mt Marathon, noted on July 28 and July 31.

On an overcast, mystery-shrouded evening on August 7 at 10:45 pm, I heard him on Little Bear Mountain, just south of Mt Marathon. His low query rolled down from the black spruce trees silhouetted against the gray sky.

“Whoo, hoo-did-did-dee, whoo, whoo? Whooo?”

I walked up as close to the base as I could and listened, enthralled. Who, indeed? After long pauses, he repeated his question, but no one answered.

So I tried, attempting to replicate the syncopated part in the middle, get the pauses right, and the appropriate pitch. It wasn’t very good, but after a long silence (consideration, deliberation, and rating of the effort?) I SAW the owl fly from one hidden perch across the darkening sky to another spruce on the skyline. What a thrill!

I waited for a long time, savoring the quiet of the evening at the edge of the heart of town, hoping for another question. But none came, and so I turned back and walked the rest of the block home, feeling enriched. Whooooo?

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter   

Tuesday, August 1, 2017 Tern Lake Scaup and Dipper

Mile 38, Seward Highway

Sunrise 5:39 am, sunset 10:27 pm for a total day light of 16 hours and 48 minutes. Tomorrow will be 4 minutes and 54 seconds shorter.

Cool, cloudy weather with sprinkles; temps in the mid-50s. Feels muggy with 92% humidity. Forecast about the same for the next few days.

I had an errand up the road today and birded Tern Lake for an hour and a half. Just as I turned off the Seward Highway to the Sterling Hwy, I caught sight of a mess of little ducklings diving in a tiny slough across from Tern Lake. They popped up and dove down like downy popcorn. Between the three SCAUP moms, I counted 28 cute ducklings, all about the same age.

I find Scaup identification very difficult. Size is relative, the head shape varies based on the bird’s activities, who knows if the bill nail is larger or smaller? The white patch at the base of the bill was diffuse and not even that obvious. Finally, one hen stretched while preening. Based on the white stripe on the primaries extending into the secondaries, I’m calling these GREATER SCAUP. I would appreciate any verification, corrections, and ID tips!

In the back, three much older AMERICAN WIGEON juveniles preened, their mom ever watching nearby. A single older NORTHERN PINTAIL juvenile dabbled by itself.

The calm water reflected the green trees and grasses from the adjacent hillside, spangled with the bright magenta of the blooming fireweed. A lovely swimming hole for the duck families.

As if on cue, all the little bobbers and moms bee-lined for the single log protruding from the water at a perfect angle. Whether waddling, hopping, flapping, or flying, all abilities were able to access a perch out of the water. Wing to stubby wing, they immediately proceeded to preen furiously. A timer went off, and suddenly it was naptime. A small raft of about 9 dozed nearby, drifting in lazy circles. ZZZZZZZ. So peaceful!

Trying to blend in with the intermittent traffic, I eased my giant car-blind away, hoping to leave them snoozing.

I glassed the quiet waters of Tern Lake. No Arctic Terns graced the sky or fed their begging young. Nope. All gone by now, heading to the other hemisphere. So quiet without them! Only a few MEW GULLS remained to try to fill the vacuum; I found one gray baby waiting quietly for food.

Two long white necks rose up like periscopes from the middle of a sedge island. I hoped the single TRUMPETER SWAN cygnet was with them, hiding in the greenery. I did not see the Common Loon family, but there were plenty of places to hide.

Next, I visited the USFS Day-Use Only Picnic Area at the west end. Dave’s Creek flows out of Tern Lake here, and thence to the Kenai Lake system. I did not see any adult salmon yet, but a juvenile DIPPER proved very interesting and entertaining.

He didn’t seem to mind my watching him at work in the rushing, clear stream. Plunging his head, and sometimes whole body, underwater, he held on tight to the slippery rocks with his sharp claws, the water pouring over his waterproof plumage.

The aquatic insect expert probed and found invertebrates that were also trying to hold on tight and be invisible. Caddisflies, mayflies, stoneflies, craneflies; I hope many were biting fly larvae!

An excellent resource, Aquatic Insects in Alaska by John Hudson, Katherine Hocker, and Robert Armstrong, gives us a peek at the dipper’s dining menu with excellent photos and descriptions. It’s a glimpse of the fascinating world of aquatic life hiding just under the water.

Happy Birding!
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter
Carol Griswold



















Sunday, July 30, 2017 Black Turnstone

Seward, Alaska 

I watched a single BLACK TURNSTONE pecking at tidbits on a log encrusted with barnacles and seaweeds out in the tide flats. Two GREATER YELLOWLEGS fed nearby in a temporary stream. 


From reports posted in Homer and Anchorage, looks like the Black Turnstones are starting to migrate.

Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter