Friday, February 17, 2017 Ancient Murrelet!
Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 8:29 am, sunset 5:55 pm, for a total day light of 9 hours and 26 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 24 seconds longer.

Shovel, shovel, shovel! After clearing the roof, the snow is up to the eaves on my house, and mountains of snow line the streets and form a center barrier like a narrow divided highway. There is no place to put any more snow! I don’t know how much snow we got, but after a big dump of over 2 feet on Thursday, 5 to 8 more inches fell overnight and it kept snowing. The temps hovered around 32, so it’s been a mixed bag of snow and sn’rain showers.

More snow showers are forecast for Saturday with an accumulation of 1 to 3”, then sunny skies and steadily decreasing temperatures down to 11º for the next three days. We can expect more snow starting on Wednesday. O joy!

After so many days of not being able to go birding, I ventured out this noon for a looksee. Visibility was very poor with snow squalls, and driving was challenging. Only the main streets were plowed, many areas remained inaccessible, and parking was almost nonexistent.

Lowell Point Road was closed due to avalanches, but I parked a block past the Lowell Creek Bridge and walked back to access the beach. Plunging over my knees in deep snow, I post-holed up the steep berm and checked the monochrome scene of gray sky and gray ocean. A lively pod of Steller Sea Lions, about 14, surged in a tight knot just offshore, watching my dogs play in the snow.


I glanced down and saw a small seabird about the size of a Marbled Murrelet paddling along just a few feet from the beach. Every now and then it dove with a big splash. It was too dark to be a Marbled, and the white “thumbprint” along the side of the head marked it as an ANCIENT MURRELET. ! I don’t remember ever seeing an Ancient Murrelet from town; usually it’s a boat bird. I wonder if the recent storms delivered him?

I watched him paddle away along the beach to the north, and considered whether or not he would return and if I had time to get my…yes! Camera!

Apparently a slow learner, I had once again left it in the car due to inclement weather and dim light. So, back I went, post-holing in my previous tracks to the car. I cut a new path to the beach on the other side of the bridge and spotted the little alcid far to the north. I took some subpar photos and wandered back towards the seafood processor to play with the good dogs.

By and by, who should come paddling back along the beach? So lucky to have a second chance! As the next snow squall hit, I did manage to get several photos to document this very unusual visitor. Visibility quickly diminished to about zero, so we clambered over the berm and wallowed back to the car.

One never knows who might pop up. That little guy certainly made my day!

In other news, the annual Audubon-Seward Field Trip was cancelled due to poor driving conditions and bad weather. It’s always a tough decision, but I think it was a good call. Hopefully, the disappointed birders will be able to come when conditions are not so challenging.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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