Sunday, May 21, 2017 Sooty Fox Sparrow after all

Seward, Alaska

I received a correction to my possible Slate-colored Fox Sparrow from Steve Hampton:

This is actually fine for Sooty Fox Sparrow, based on the brown (not gray) back. Northern Sooty forms show a lot of gray in the face and all forms show red tones in the wings and tail (especially in good light, which they tend to avoid). All Fox Sparrows have yellow in the bill in winter, which becomes pinkish in summer. Slate-colored have much more pale gray in the face, no brown in the crown, obvious gray backs, and more bright orange tones in the wing and tail. See the cover photo at the Fox Sparrows Facebook group for Slate-colored and Sooty side by side. https://www.facebook.com/groups/447117322159681/ 

I wish I had time to record his song; maybe next time. The dialect sure sounded different from the usual Seward Fox Sparrows.

Many thanks to Steve! Check out his photos and explanations on the above link. Always more to learn!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter


Friday, May 19, 2017 Slate-colored Fox Sparrow?

Exit Glacier, Seward, Alaska
Light rain

I drove slowly along Exit Glacier Road this afternoon with my windows open, listening. Fortunately, traffic was very light and so when I heard my FOS NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH singing, I just stopped. I couldn’t see him, well-concealed in the willow thicket, but appreciated knowing he was back.

From here to the parking lot and partway down the main trail, I also heard: ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS, YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS, a WILSON’S SNIPE winnowing, RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS, COMMON REDPOLLS, a KINGFISHER, VARIED THRUSHES, HERMIT THRUSHES, ROBINS. I did not yet hear the Swainson’s Thrush or Gray-cheeked Thrush, but they should be arriving soon.

An unusual clear and sweet song caught my ear. I followed it to a FOX SPARROW, sitting on a willow branch just off the trail. Not only was his song different, HE was different. I took photos and when I returned home, I looked it up. To my surprise, he looked just like a SLATE-COLORED FOX SPARROW from the Interior West. What was he doing here, so far from home?


I’ve never seen this subspecies before, so if anyone has a better ID, I’d be very interested to know more. There’s always more to learn with birds!

For an additional bonus, back at the parking lot, a large black bear sauntered across the mountainside from one greening area to the next.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter





Wednesday, May 17, 2017 Treed Swallows

Seward, Alaska

The continuing rain grounded dozens of TREE and VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS. They festooned the branches of two downed trees like living feathered ornaments, twittering and preening. After a bit of a rest, they resumed sailing over the pond in mesmerizing loops and swoops, snapping up insects while others landed for their turn.

What a marvelous sight on this rainy day!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter



Monday, May 15, 2017 Exit Glacier

Seward, Alaska

Herman Leirer Road, aka Exit Glacier Road opened for the public all the way to the Nature Center on Friday. On a sunny, blue-sky Monday morning I drove out and walked to the Edge of the Glacier trail.

The cottonwood leaves had not yet emerged, but the reddish flower catkins were just expanding. Piles of moose pellets provided evidence of moose along the trails. As I walked, I heard and/or saw COMMON REDPOLLS, RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS, ROBINS, VARIED THRUSHES, HERMIT THRUSHES, ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS, YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS, a DOWNY WOODPECKER, and a RAVEN.

I was surprised by the number of VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS swooping over the Edge of the Glacier Trail, so close to the glacier. Must be insects up there!

I just missed seeing 3 black bear cubs sitting in the trees near the glacier. Apparently the momma got spooked by too much attention and all disappeared over the ridge.

I did see three mountain goats including one yearling kid, resting on the nearby mountainside. While scanning for the goats, I saw PTARMIGAN flying a short distance then landing, tiny white specks.

It was such a spectacular day, I returned in the early evening to look for bears. I refound the three mountain goats, actively grazing plus two more single mountain goats. Just below them in a ravine, a momma black bear slowly ambled upwards, her two yearling cubs following.

I found another single black bear feeding in a green patch of newly emerged vegetation, and yet another large black bear viewable from the parking lot.

It’s always a good time to visit our backyard National Park!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report














Sunday, May 14, 2017 Pectoral Sandpipers

Seward, Alaska
Chilly north wind

Even more PECTORAL SANDPIPERS piled up today, the most I've ever seen. I spotted my FOS SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER, though it’s likely they arrived earlier.

Also heard my FOS TOWNSEND’S WARBLER singing in the spruce forest.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter