Sunrise 10:00 am, sunset 4:02 pm for a total day light of 6 hours and 2 minutes. Tomorrow will be 2 minutes and 8 seconds longer. The temp ranged from 18º at 10:30 am to a high of 26º at 1:30 pm under clear, sunny skies with a northerly breeze. The streets are icy; crusty snow covers the ground, but surprisingly green grass lies exposed under the protection of overhanging spruce boughs.
Clear skies in the forecast for the next week or more. Amazing forecast!
Just before dawn, Jupiter eased over the western mountains as the sky gradually brightened, turning the scattered thin layer of clouds a delicate pink. Kerry and I headed out shortly afterwards to see what we could see on this spectacular first day of 2017.
First bird, PINE GROSBEAK, second bird, RAVEN, third bird, a ROBIN. Many Robins! At least 50, probably more, still guzzling frozen Mt Ash berries with the Pine Grosbeaks. The berry supply is rapidly dwindling. I wonder what the Robins will eat when the berries are gone. Suet?
We walked around the neighborhood, enjoying the bright morning, checking off birds. Every bird should always receive acclaim as every bird is special, but we tend to get a bit complacent. On this first day of the year, even an expected and common bird like a RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH or a MALLARD gets a hurrah! and a check.
A high “see-see” alerted us to an unexpected GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET flitting in a spruce. Check! A whirl of small birds high overhead eluded us for a time, but finally landed in the tree tops. REDPOLLS! They weren’t here for the Christmas Bird Count; how nice to see them!
We visited feeder hot spots. A normally elusive BROWN CREEPER chowed down on peanut butter spread on a spruce trunk. Check! Bright orange VARIED THRUSHES hopped on the crusty snow, gleaning bits of suet scattered by the DOWNY WOODPECKER and other messy eaters. DARK-EYED JUNCO, 3 WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS, SONG SPARROW, CHESTNUT-BACKED and BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE: check.
A neighbor reported a NORTHERN GOSHAWK flashing through his back yard; I saw this blur chasing another blur, but not well enough to count it. It’s nice to know it’s around and hope to see it better soon.
The ocean is never far away in Seward. A quick trip to the beach added several more species paddling in the calm water: GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL, COMMON LOON, MARBLED MURRELET, HORNED GREBE, PELAGIC CORMORANT, COMMON and RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, COMMON and BARROW’S GOLDENEYE, HARLEQUIN DUCKS, SURF SCOTER, and a pair of GREATER SCAUP, quite close to shore.
Add HARBOR SEAL, SEA OTTER, and STELLER SEA LION. It was so calm, we could see the breath of one Sea Lion hanging in the air, and hear it exhale.
An adult BALD EAGLE sat in its favorite cottonwood, waiting and watching for opportunity to knock. Only a few NORTHWESTERN CROWS scavenged along the beach; the others must be with the gulls at a more lucrative food source.
I was eager to see the ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD, and so we headed to Ava’s Place. As usual, waves of PINE GROSBEAKS surged in and out, spooked by the real possibility of a hawk or Shrike swooping past for fast food take-out. We checked off HAIRY WOODPECKER and GOLDEN CROWNED SPARROW while we waited for the little celebrity.
After a long time, there he was! He flashed his fiery rose gorget and stole my heart again. This sighting was more than just a check, it’s a thrill to witness this tough, handsome Anna’s that has survived yet another long, cold winter night.
The Hooded Merganser was not at Stash and Store Pond so we parked at the Pit Bar to check out nearby Clear Creek. MALLARD! BUFFLEHEAD! KINGFISHER! Yay!
Suddenly a shorebird-type flew quickly downstream, veered around the corner, and disappeared. What the heck was that? We punched through the snow in the vain hope that it might be waiting patiently for us to join it for tea and scones. No such luck. A great mystery to ponder, and seek out.
We headed back to town to the Lagoon and into the shadow of the mountains as the sun hastened away . There, in the steam rising from the cold water, was a lone DIPPER wading around, rustling up some dinner. Yay! It’s always great to see a Dipper!
As the light dimmed further, we rechecked a few spots. I found the WHITE-THROATED SPARROW with his buddies, the White-crowned Sparrows. Yay! A fingernail new moon accompanied by Venus glowed in the deepening blue-black sky, following the sun to bed.
All in all, we tallied 38 species with a few mysteries on this beautiful first day of 2017.
Happy Birding and Happy New Year!
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter