Sunday, February 19, 2017 FOS Kittiwake, and great whale

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 8:23 am, sunset 6:00 pm, for a total day light of 9 hours and 37 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 25 seconds longer.

Mostly sunny today and much cooler with a low of 15 and a high of 32. The north wind kicked in and stirred up the bay, hiding many of those tiny Marbled Murrelets behind the waves. Tomorrow is forecast to be sunny and even more chilly with a low of 9 and a high of 21, and stronger winds at 10-14 mph. 

I spent some time at the beach below the Alaska Sealife Center parking lot this morning and was rewarded with a marine mammal show. While waiting for the big boy, I watched a Sea Otter tear into a large skate. The pink-tinged white meat seemed rubbery, and he peeled it off the skin with great relish. At one point, he dropped the skate buffet and swam away to preen and clean. Refreshed, he returned to the site, dove, and came up with the leftovers to continue feasting. A few GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS hovered nearby, eager for any scraps.

A pod of Steller Sea Lions boiled through, swimming in tight synchrony, their collective breath vapor trailed off in the breeze. A shiny Harbor Seal head popped up and peered around like a living periscope, then silently submerged, nose last.

Then I heard the explosive baritone breathing of the Humpback Whale, close to shore. Wow! The massive back rose up and arced, with the dorsal fin on top, and wheeled majestically back underwater. What a pleasure to hear and see a whale in the winter! The great whale swam back and forth for quite some time, surprising and delighting me every time it surfaced.

I noticed several gulls circling overhead, looking for leftovers. One gull was distinctly different from the MEW and GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS: a first-of-season BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE! When the seafood processors get back in action, there will be more, but it’s always fun to see the first ones. Another sign of spring, I saw a pair of BARROW’S GOLDENEYES mating. With all the snow piled high, it seems early and a bit optimistic.

The whale grabbed my attention again, swirling around and waving its giant, white pectoral fin in the air. How cool is that? The fin gradually sank and the whale rambled away from shore.

I rambled down to the boat harbor just to see what was happening. Many boats had been shoveled, but some looked like they would appreciate a lightening of their weighty white load. A few NORTHWESTERN CROWS took advantage of the shoveled dock and dropped freshly harvested blue mussels on it to open them up. Pretty smart birds.

The south part of the harbor was encased in soft ice with interesting cracks and promising holes, but I didn’t see any otters or seabirds there. A COMMON GOLDENEYE male swam in the middle open part as well as an otter, but they were too far to photograph.

Back on the Uplands, more Crows fed on cracked corn and birdseed, a winter bounty. Two Ravens joined them on the outskirts, ever cautious, and two SONG SPARROWS darted in for a snack where they could.

On the way home, I spied a STARLING awkwardly attacking a suet feeder at my neighbor’s. He was very pretty with all his polka dots, but I do not wish him well, as his nasty reputation for destruction precedes him.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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