Sunday, March 12, 2017 Barrow’s Goldeneyes and Surf Scoters

Seward, Alaska

The north wind abated, at least down to a level where I could sit on the beach at the edge of the receding tide without getting blown away. Just offshore, the sun lit up the gorgeous plumages of BARROW’S GOLDENEYES and a bit farther off, SURF SCOTERS.

As I sat quietly, several approached, intent on feeding. I felt an urge to hold my breath; they were so close, so wild, and so beautiful. Passerines seem to get all the press, which is so unfair.

Look at the bold patterns on the Surf Scoter’s bill: the bright orange base fades to red, pierced by a large nostril opening, then tapers to a curvy tip of yellow with a dash of black. If that were not enough, the artist added a white oblong with a perfectly placed black brush mark at the base. 

But that’s not all! The round eyes are icy white with tiny black radiating lines. A white patch tops the black head, complemented by a long white nape. What a bird! And when they dive, their reddish-orange legs flash for an additional delightful surprise.

Of the group of eight, only one was a female. One of the males lacked the white crown that made him look oddly undressed, as if his hat had just blown away.

After the Scoters and Goldeneyes paddled past, a pair of Goldeneyes flew back. Usually very wary, they must not have noticed me at first as they chose to land right in front. Orange landing gear out, their webbed feet surfed along the water’s surface and they settled down with a splash. 

Hmm, what is that driftwood thingy? They paddled together eying me suspiciously, turning this way and that. The male’s head became an iridescent purple in the light. Then they wisely and sedately paddled away, erring on the side of caution.

All clear, I eased my way back over the snow berm, thrilled with yet another gift from Nature.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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