Thursday, February 23, 2017 Common Murres return!

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 8:12 am, sunset 6:10 pm, for a total day light of 9 hours and 58 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 27 seconds longer.

Mostly sunny, calm, and lovely weather these past three days with temps in the 20s to low 30s. The lack of new snow is a relief as there’s just no place to put it, and road crews are still clearing side roads. The forecast is for a high of 37 tomorrow, which may activate Nature’s Zamboni, before cooling off into next week.

I was very pleased today to discover that the first mile of the Iditarod National Historic Trail, aka the bike path along the waterfront, was plowed but not sanded. I enjoyed a wonderful time kicksledding back and forth in this favorable window of opportunity, watching birds with binocs and camera conveniently close.

A fish event of some sort attracted a host of hungry seabirds, six Harbor Seals, and a Steller Sea Lion right off shore.  Farther out, among the SURF SCOTERS, PELAGIC CORMORANTS, and tiny MARBLED MURRELETS, I spotted at least six COMMON MURRES, a most welcome sight after last year’s wreck. One was in breeding plumage. Dan C, one of the intrepid unAnchorage-Seward field trip birders, first spotted a Common Murre on Saturday.

The drake COMMON GOLDENEYES near shore tossed their heads so far backwards it seemed they might break their handsome necks. I hope the scattered hens among them were impressed, especially with the loud “beep” signaling the display finale. Apparently the BARROW’S GOLDENEYES were not, as they mingled but did not react.

The Steller Sea Lion kept swimming through the rafts of ducks, marked by sudden flights prior to the explosive breath and head erupting among them.


I stopped under a cottonwood tree to admire a young BALD EAGLE perched thereon. Suddenly, he took flight in a beeline for the seabirds. I could not see over the snow bank, but soon he returned with the head of a halibut in his golden-yellow talons and landed right above me. His belly was wet and he took a second to shake off before diving in with gusto. It was exciting to watch this youngster feast on the head, perhaps a scrap from the sea lion or a seal. I left him to enjoy his meal in peace, and hope that the next fish will be bigger.

But not too big! On February 20th, I watched an adult Bald Eagle snatch what appeared to be a Rockfish at Fourth of July Beach. She had a firm grip on the face of the fish; did it come up from the depths to have a look around?

The Eagle struggled mightily to haul this fish to shore, and in a final rise up to the top of the boat harbor breakwater, she dropped it! Alas, I think it sank, as the Eagle landed without supper, and vocalized loudly about her tremendous loss. So close!  

The might be a moral in this story; something about a leftover fish head for dinner is better than a fabulous Rockfish in the water.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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