Tuesday, November 28, 2017 Waxwings, Rainbow, Shark, Swans

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 9:29 am, sunset 4:05 pm for a total day length of 6 hours and 35 minutes. Tomorrow will be 3 minutes and 33 seconds shorter.

Mild weather returned with temps hovering around 32 and a light north breeze. The sun shown bravely and briefly in the morning, then ignited a rainbow to the north over the Seward Boat Harbor as light rain eased in.

Shortly after the sun lazily peered over the mountains to the southeast, I heard the joyous tinkling of tiny chimes. I looked up and counted 15 BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS perched at the top of a cottonwood. First of the season! They gathered and conversed musically, then flew off, perhaps heading for breakfast at a Mt Ash tree. Seward doesn’t usually get many of this gorgeous species, so it’s always a thrill.

Midday, I headed back to Afognak Beach to check on the Sleeper Shark that was salvaged there on Sunday by the Alaska Sealife Center. An excited group of BLACK-BILLED MAGPIES alerted me to something edible at the receding tideline. As I drew nearer, I found a 2’ long chunk of shark meat that had been left behind.

The skin was like the roughest grit sandpaper, with sharp, embedded teeth. The white flesh was firm, and smelled faintly fishy, not at all stinky. After my inspection, I retreated so the Magpies could enjoy their unusual feast. A BALD EAGLE watched from a nearby tree until I approached too close and it flew.

About 50 WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS flashed overhead in a scattered flurry. Then I scanned the bay for Swans. Nothing but a harbor seal, looking around curiously.

What’s that? Far over by the Resurrection River tide flats I caught a glimpse of one white head, then another. What could have passed as snow or ice chunks proved to be 10 TRUMPETER SWANS, including the resident Swan parent and two cygnets. Ah! So great to see the little family again, protected by the presence of the other seven magnificent adults.

Afterwards, I visited the ASLC and watched the rescued baby Beluga drink from a bottle. When that ended, I watched Pilot, the Steller sea lion play with an illicit piece of the habitat “rock.”

This is the second time he’s found (or otherwise obtained) a small, flat rock to play with. Again, he balanced it on his nose, slid it down his long body, and caught it with his flippers. As staff scrambled to rustle up some fish to lure him out of the habitat, he figured out a new trick: balance on the nose, then throw it hard.

It hit the glass with a loud BANG! Not good for the glass, but he sure liked it. Fortunately, several more tosses missed the glass. Soon the fish bribe was ready and he loped behind the scene.

According to staff, Pilot is the only sea lion that does this, clever one. Divers will now have to retrieve the rock so he doesn’t do any (more) damage. Very entertaining, however, for him, and the viewers!

What a fun and interesting day!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Tuesday, November 28, 2017 Baby Beluga Update

Seward, Alaska
Tyonek, the rescued baby Beluga whale, is growing! When he was admitted to the Alaska Sealife Center on September 30 at about a month old, he weighed 142 pounds. At 10 weeks, he weighs 205 pounds, and is 5 1/2 feet long.
Experts from facilities all across the country have contributed to his care. Today, a pro from the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut fed him a bottle and played with him. The baby whale is fed a special marine mammal formula blended with fish and medicines about every four hours, round the clock.
More water was recently added to the outdoor pool so now the baby can dive down to 6′. I watched him disappear into the “depths” several times after his bottle feeding. Just like Aku, the baby walrus, he seemed to enjoy sucking on nylon webbing and a post, though he has other toys.
It was amazing to watch him breathe; his blowhole looked like a little mouth, opening and closing as he exhaled and took another breath before he cruised underwater.
The Alaska Sealife Center offers free admission to Alaskan residents on Wednesdays through February 28, 2018. They are open from noon to five daily, closed on December 25.
Donations are always appreciated to support their Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation program.
Carol Griswold

Sunday, November 26, 2017 Sleeper Shark Salvaged by ASLC

Seward, Alaska
A dead Pacific Sleeper Shark washed ashore on Afognak Beach recently. 
On Sunday, a crew from the Alaska Sealife Center was able to haul it above the high tide line and secure it until a boat could haul it to the facility for study. The shark, about eight feet long, was thought to be a juvenile female, about 80, that’s right, EIGHTY years old.  Coincidentally, the ASLC plans to study Pacific Sleeper Sharks next year as not much is known about them.
What a fascinating discovery in Resurrection Bay for the ASLC crew and science!

Carol Griswold

Sunday, November 26, 2017 Northern Goshawk and 8 Trumpeter Swans!

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 9:25 am, sunset 4:08 pm for a total day length of 6 hours and 42 minutes. Tomorrow will be 3 minutes and 46 seconds shorter. Temps rose slightly from 14º to 18º with a light overcast and winds from the north at 12 to 18 mph, gusting to 34 mph. The forecast calls for warming temperatures to just above freezing with variations on snow, snow showers, and rain as the red line rises and falls.

I received a report of a NORTHERN GOSHAWK in the ‘hood yesterday and was primed to see it. Sure enough, I spotted it this morning sitting high in a spruce tree, shining like a beacon against the dark branches. It was a juvenile (first year) bird with a buffy, streaky breast and prominent white eyebrow. His powerful talons were covered by a skirt of fluffy belly feathers in the morning chill as he surveyed the neighboring yards.

He reminded me of the three fledgling Goshawks I watched along the Lost Lake trail in August. I wondered if he might be one from that family. Could be; will never know.


This afternoon around 2 pm, I checked out Afognak Beach. I heard a very familiar, soft honking and counted eight TRUMPETER SWANS paddling offshore in pairs. I looked eagerly for the single parent and two remaining cygnets, but saw none. I hope they are alive and well somewhere. 

Happy Birding!                                          
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter