Thursday, December 27, 2018 dead Bald Eagle

Seward, Alaska

I received a very sad report just before noon today about a dead adult BALD EAGLE found near the waterfront just south of the Scheffler Creek bridge. When I arrived, I found the magnificent Eagle lying on her back on a snow bank next to the icy pavement, her head twisted at an awkward angle with an obvious impact mark on her breast feathers.

A short distance away were the treacherous power lines that she did not see on this gray, overcast day as she flew powerfully towards her goal. Just as people smack into invisible glass doors at walking speed and are knocked back unconscious, I believe she hit those invisible lines, was thrown backwards and off balance, and fell to the hard ground where she broke her beautiful neck.

I gently lifted her enormous wing to see her head. The fierce pale yellow eye glared blindly, so fresh and still commanding. Her massive beak would never again open, her wild voice never again echoing off the mountainside. Her huge, impressive, scaly golden claws tipped with sharp black talons remained tightly clenched as in flight, never again to stretch out to snatch a fish out of the bay.

Nearby in a small cottonwood tree, a juvenile Bald Eagle and a male adult Bald Eagle perched quietly, possibly wondering why mom lay so still and did not join them. That was particularly heart-wrenching.

I guarded the fallen Eagle from disturbance until the City Electric staff showed up. Whenever there is a chance that a federally protected bird has been injured or killed by power lines, the electric department is supposed to document the scene, the illegal “take”, and submit a lengthy report to US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Alaska Sealife Center is on call to respond to such incidents and is permitted take possession of the bird for examination and a further report. I was not able to stay until they arrived and have not yet received any updates.

In the unfortunate event that you discover a dead Eagle, Swan, or other federally protected bird, leave it in place. Call the Seward Police Dispatch at 907-224-3338. They should then contact the City Electric Department if power lines are a suspected cause, and the Alaska Sealife Center at 888-774-7325. If you can, wait for the officials to arrive, to protect the bird and provide information. Take photos for documentation in case they are needed.

The only positive consequence of this tragic death would be the installation of bird deflectors on these power lines to help prevent future collisions. I am hopeful that the city electric department will be able to do this soon.

Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

2018 Seward Christmas Bird Count Results

Seward, Alaska

Short version: 56 Count Day species, 5 Count Week species, for a total of 61 species, with 1984 birds in all. 

Long version: 
December 22, 2018 Seward CBC
The sun leisurely rose at 10:01 am, and set at 3:52 pm for a total daylight of 5 hours and 51 minutes. The temperature rose from the low 20s in the days just prior to the CBC to a high of 43ยบ. The day was mostly calm with a 10-mph north wind by afternoon, and occasional light rain/snow showers except on the Lost Lake Trail route where the skiers encountered heavy snowfall on top of 72" of snow. 

One of the highest tides of the year, 13.1’ at 12:21 pm, enabled the boat crew to count close to shore, but hindered beach access for several other field counters, and eliminated intertidal bird habitat. Snow also hindered access due to unplowed peripheral roads, pullouts, and parking lots, and the depth up to 30” made it difficult for those without skis or snowshoes. A few routes were not covered.

Most feeder watchers, with the exception of Ava’s Place, reported few or no birds, not only for the CBC, but for the winter so far. Irruptive species including Common Redpolls, White-winged Crossbills, and Red Crossbills were absent. Pine Siskins just started to show up to feed on alder seeds and on sunflower seeds at some feeders. Normally common or regular winter birds, such as Pine Grosbeaks (3), Red-breasted Nuthatches (20), Black-capped Chickadees (34), Steller’s Jays (10), and Dark-eyed Juncos (38) were notably low in numbers.

Overall, it seemed the seabird numbers were much lower than normal. Regular bay surveys by the Alaska Sealife Center may substantiate the low Count numbers. No Yellow-billed Loons, an international species of concern, were counted, and only 3 Common Loons and 3 Pacific Loons were counted.

The highlights included a first for Seward CBC, a rare Pied-billed Grebe, a continuing bird first reported on November 28 in the boat harbor. I am amazed the juvenile grebe stayed in the harbor throughout the Nordic Viking sinking and subsequent salvage commotion which ended during Count Week with the removal of the vessel.

A male Killdeer popped up to be counted, for the fifth time. A ghostly white male Short-eared Owl wafted in for Count Week, only the third time. Ten Trumpeter Swans graced the Count: 2 adults plus the resident swan family with six, seven-month old cygnets, one swan fewer than last year, and for the sixth time.

A female Hooded Merganser carried on the tradition for the 19th time, as did seven secretive Great Blue Herons for the 26th time.

A surprise was four Green-winged Teal that had not been seen prior to Count Day, and a handsome Glaucous Gull that materialized for Count Week with several Thayer’s Gulls. Robins (6), and Snow Buntings (12) disappeared on Count Day.

Several other species squeaked into the Count with only one individual: Greater Scaup, Long-tailed Duck, Red-necked Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Dunlin, Northern Shrike, and Pacific Wren. The Barrow’s Goldeneye with 278 had the highest count, though far below normal numbers (480 in 2016). Twelve Rock Sandpipers joined the Dunlin and Killdeer for three sandpiper species.

The biggest surprise was a Black Bear wandering down a path by the schools, spotted by an intrepid handcycler. She turned around and sped off without incident. (Whew!) The informal mammal count included 15 harbor seals, 10 sea otters, 14 Steller sea lions, 3 river otters (in the bay), 7 scolding red squirrels, and one Count Week moose.

Many thanks to the 20 field counters and 7 feeder watchers who volunteered many hours and effort to look for birds and keep track of statistics for this citizen science effort. Thanks to Resurrect Art Coffee House & Art Gallery for graciously hosting the birders before and after the Count. Special thanks to Captain Mike Brittain who once again donated the M/V Dora, the fuel, and his time to safely transport the boat team around Resurrection Bay.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward CBC Compiler

2018 Seward CBC List:
Trumpeter Swan 10
Gadwall cw 
Mallard 88 
Green-winged Teal 4
Greater Scaup 1
Harlequin Duck 45 
Surf Scoter 56
Long-tailed Duck 1 
Bufflehead 45 
Common Goldeneye 90
Barrow's Goldeneye 278
Hooded Merganser 1
Common Merganser 110 
Red-breasted Merganser 59
Pacific Loon 3 
Common Loon 3
Pied-billed Grebe 1
Horned Grebe 32
Red-necked Grebe 1
Double-crested Cormorant 1
Pelagic Cormorant 45
Cormorant sp     2
Great Blue Heron 7 
Sharp-shinned Hawk 2
Bald Eagle 32 
Killdeer 1
Dunlin 1
Rock Sandpiper 12
Marbled Murrelet 20
Mew Gull 33
Thayer’s Gull cw
Herring Gull 4
Thayer’s Gull cw
Glaucous-winged Gull 81
Herring x Glaucous-winged Gull cw (not a species)
Glaucous Gull cw
Gull sp 1
Rock Pigeon 175
Great Horned Owl 2
Short-eared Owl cw
Belted Kingfisher 7
Downy Woodpecker 5
Hairy Woodpecker 5
Northern Shrike 1
Steller’s Jay 10
Black-billed Magpie 56
Northwestern Crow 150
Common Raven 164
Black-capped Chickadee 34
Chestnut-backed Chickadee 59
Boreal Chickadee 2
Chickadee sp 3
Red-breasted Nuthatch 20
Brown Creeper 5
Pacific Wren 1
American Dipper 3 
Golden-crowned Kinglet 138
American Robin cw 
Snow Bunting cw
American Tree Sparrow 2
Fox Sparrow 2 
Dark-eyed Junco 38
Dark-eyed Junco, Oregon 3
White-crowned Sparrow 2 
Golden-crowned. Sparrow 2 
Song Sparrow 5 
Pine Grosbeak 3
Pine Siskin 117