Tuesday, April 11, 2017 Short-eared Owl and Greater Yellowlegs

Seward, Alaska

Beautiful, bright spring day with temps rising from an early morning low of 34º to a late afternoon high of 47º. Yay! The snow is slowly but surely disappearing, revealing cars that were mysterious mounds all winter and long lost yard items.
It seemed quiet at the head of the bay this afternoon. The majority of the first pulse of Pintails departed, as did the three Tundra Swans. Only two adult TRUMPETER SWANS fed peacefully in the ever-widening pond.
Suddenly, a large bird lifted off ahead of me and sailed across the tide-washed expanse of brown sedges and beach rye grass. A SHORT-EARED OWL! I was hoping to see one soon, but every encounter is an exciting surprise! It flew in a wide circle then disappeared behind a faraway tussock.
In the distance, I heard two RAVENS squawking. I could see even from afar that something was amiss. As they approached, it was clear that they were not enjoying clever aerial stunts. It was a battle!
One Raven viciously attacked the other with its ferocious, strong bill, grabbing the other by the wing, tail, and back. They resembled a black ball of ragged feathers, tumbling through the sky, somehow managing to stay aloft. After they passed me, they fell to the ground in a heap.
When they disengaged, the victim managed to streak off with the attacker still in pursuit. Only they know what incited this unusual violence. I’ll be on the lookout for a disheveled Raven with fresh cuts and missing feathers. Wow.
Peace again. I peeked around the corner and discovered a single GREATER YELLOWLEGS feeding in the shallows, jerking its head forwards and backwards and it waded, those long yellow legs flashing. Two were seen yesterday by Sadie, First of Season.
I carefully backed away and sat down to enjoy the peace and the sun. Ahhhh. But not for long! Here came two TRUMPETER SWANS, flying down to the pond. They landed, but only briefly. Upon noticing the other two swans at the far end, they took off and soon there was another pursuit underway. The second pair drove the first pair up and out and away. At one point, it looked like one of the pursuers physically attacked a fleeing swan before veering back to the pond. At least it was VERY close. I could not tell where the two went, possibly the Nash Road wetlands.
This was all very exciting, but then I got a closer look at the avengers. One was an adult Trumpeter, but the other was a cygnet! My imagination raced; was this Daddy’s Girl? Sure looked like one of the three cygnets with one of the resident adults. How very interesting! Where were “mom” and the other two cygnets? What is going on?
I left the two feeding peacefully. A casual bystander might think that nothing had changed and that these were the two swans first seen feeding. What a drama in between, and what a puzzling situation now!
Searching for the missing swans, I checked the Nash Road wetlands next. There were two adult swans swimming in the tiny open area at the back, maintaining their claim to the future nesting site, but they have been here for days. Preacher Pond is still frozen, so no swans there. The Lagoon is partially open, but no swans there either. It’s a mystery where they went.
Speaking of the Lagoon, work has started to bury the power lines all along the Lagoon. This is exciting news as it will completely eliminate the power line hazard. Hopefully a few of the poles will remain to serve as perches for Bald Eagles and Kingfishers. Kudos to the City of Seward!
Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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