Wednesday, April 25, 2018 “Snow” geese and other weary souls

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 6:12 am, sunset 9:41 pm, for a total daylight of 15 hours and 29 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 19 seconds longer.

The rain started innocently on April 20, just frequent sprinkles at first, then spiced with squalls for the next several days. Yesterday, the south wind cranked up. Dark gray clouds burst open and dumped heavy rain mixed with sleet and silver-dollar snowflakes that plummeted heavily to the ground, reverting the landscape back to winter.

Today, continuing rain squalls washed away the snow, peppering the soggy ground with frequent hail; very dramatic! More rain/snow showers with slightly less wind are in the forecast for the next 10 days or more with temperatures hovering in the mid-30s to mid-40s.

Lousy spring weather means great birding as the hungry and weary birds touch down and linger longer. As eager as we are to see them, it is extremely important to give them space so they are not forced to fly or stop feeding.

Wednesday, April 18: last day I saw the two TRUMPETER SWAN cygnets feeding peacefully at the Lagoon. Except for the pair nesting at the Mile 1 Nash Road, I haven’t seen any other adults. PIGEON GUILLEMOT in breeding plumage. BALD EAGLES sitting on nests.

Thursday, April 19: last day I saw the DUSKY GOOSE feeding along the waterfront bike path. ROBIN and VARIED THRUSH singing sweetly after a wet, squally day at 10 pm.

Friday, April 20: report of a RED-TAILED HAWK perched on an upside-down 5-gallon bucket, watching a feeder in the forest at mile 7.

Saturday, April 21: BLUE-WINGED TEAL drake! This is only the second one I’ve ever seen in Seward. Unfortunately, this was a touch and go bird, not seen again. First RING-NECKED DUCK drake! First DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT, flying overhead like a big, heavy-bodied black goose. First GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE. Dozens of GREEN-WINGED TEAL feeding with NORTHERN PINTAILS, AMERICAN WIGEON, GADWALL, and MALLARDS.

Sunday, April 22: Happy Earth Day! First pair of PACIFIC GOLDEN-PLOVERS! Five more GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE, one hopping due to lame foot. Many waves of SANDHILL CRANES, GREATER WHITE-FRONTED and CANADA/CACKLING GEESE flying north. Report of BONAPARTE’S GULLS and BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER pair.

Monday, April 23: First SAVANNAH SPARROW! More flocks of cranes and geese! Two DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS on B Street pilings.

Tuesday, April 24: First NORTHERN SHOVELER pair with many NORTHERN PINTAILS, GREEN-WINGED TEAL, MALLARDS. The flock of Geese looked like Snow Geese thanks to the storm, but no real Snow Geese have yet appeared. NORTHERN SHRIKE hunting between squalls.

Wednesday, April 25: First TUNDRA SWAN pair! Four ARCTIC TERNS, razzing and celebrating despite the weather. About 50 SANDHILL CRANES, 150-200 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE with CANADA and CACKLING GEESE grounded by storm, and pounded by hail. At least one was an ALEUTIAN CACKLING GOOSE with a white neck ring. What a thrill to see them fly and hear them calling in unison when stirred up by marauding BALD EAGLES! Continuing GREATER YELLOWLEGS, PINTAILS, MALLARDS, GADWALL, GREEN-WINGED TEAL, one or two SHOVELERS, and a SCAUP (yet to be ID-ed.

My hummingbird feeder waits, filled and ready, prepared in that hopeful, sunny week not long ago. Now, crocuses and willow flowers (pussy willows) are crushed and bedraggled as are the tender shoots of other overly- optimistic plants. Migrating birds have to be tough to endure these conditions.  I hope the Hummers don’t arrive until Spring gets a grip on her temper!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Photos will be posted later.





Wednesday, April 18, 2018 Dusky Goose

Seward, Alaska

Ava refound the DUSKY GOOSE eating grass along the Waterfront and kindly called to tell me. I watched the dainty goose eating the ever-longer green grass, and then some gravel from the bike path. She watched me taking photos from the car, but did not seem to mind. 

I could tell something was coming from behind me however, as she stopped eating and became more alert. Sure enough, a pedestrian came jogging along and walked right up to her with his cell phone, despite her honking and obvious distress, forcing her to fly. The idiot. Unperturbed, he jogged on to take a bad photo of two Bald Eagles perched high in a nearby cottonwood.

I noticed her tail feathers were quite frayed. Fortunately, the goose circled back and I left her standing in another patch of green grass. It’s lucky that the rain has kept most of the foot and bike traffic to a minimum. Maybe she will fuel up and head over to Cordova to join the other Dusky Geese.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter







Tuesday, April 17, 2018 First Sandhill Cranes!


Seward, Alaska

Around 11 am today, I heard a distant bugling and waited; I was sure, but as the minutes ticked by, not sure. Then 55 SANDHILL CRANES burst through the clouds and rain of an approaching southerly front. They flew high across the gray sky like a long checkmark, the strong V leading the way over the mountains, heading north.

So exciting!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter 

Monday, April 16, 2018 Black-legged Kittiwakes and Ruby-crowned Kinglet


Seward, Alaska

An excited (i.e. noisy) flock of about 20 BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES flew close to shore past the Alaska Sealife Center, heading to the nearby seafood processing plant. These are the First of Season near town for me. 

Also heard, the bright and loud song of the RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET. 

Happy Birding! 
Carol Griswold 
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter 

Sunday, April 15, 2018 Arctic Terns! and Dusky Canada Goose!

Update: The ID of the goose is in question and being researched. According to a goose researcher in Oregon, it could be a female Dusky. Mid-size geese are hard! 

According to Tasha DiMarzio, the Dusky Geese are a sub-species that ADFG is currently studying. They nest on the Copper River Delta and also on Middleton Island, but before nesting, during molt, and wintering, they can show up all over Prince William Sound, down the coast, along the Snow River and sometimes in Seward. They are not common and their numbers are not as high as Lessers and Taverners. 


Thank you for this information, Tasha.

Thanks to Ed for reminding me of Sibley's discussion at <http://www.sibleyguides.com/2007/07/identification-of-cackling-and-canada-goose/>

Based on this information, I'm pretty sure it's a Dusky.

Seward, Alaska

Another bright, sunny, blue-sky day with a high of 50ยบ. A chill in the air and clouds rolling up the bay by late afternoon spoke of the impending week of rain/showers/snow. 

MALLARDS are good birds, GADWALL are wonderful, NORTHERN PINTAILS are fabulous, but expectations are very high. I was resigned to be disappointed with the scarcity of any new birds when I heard a distant “chirp, chirp!” I instantly stopped and scanned the bay, not breathing. YES! Two then three then five ARCTIC TERNS swooped and sailed over the bay, chirping and razzing with excitement. Welcome back, amazing travelers!

A short time later, I scanned the area south of the Uplands for more. Instead, I watched a heavy-set dark bird chased by gulls land at the Uplands. It landed at the grassy edge, its distinctive white chinstrap visible through binoculars. A CANADA GOOSE! I watched and took distant photos, then decided to drive around to chance a closer look.

Fortunately, the Goose, though wary and alert, did not seem to mind me clicking away in my car. As a few other vehicles pulled up, it walked closer and even closer, grazing hungrily on the tiny new green grass shoots. Occasionally it stepped over to take a drink from one of the many puddles of melt water. How fun to observe its behavior from my car-blind!

When I got home, I got out the bird books, knowing there are a zillion subspecies of Canada-type Geese. The best I can figure is a LESSER CANADA GOOSE (parvipes), though the size seemed only slightly larger than the nearby pesky GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS. The relative size of the bill and length of the neck was hard to judge, and the breast didn’t seem particularly pale. If anyone can verify the identification from the photos, I’d appreciate your help.

Out on Exit Glacier Road, at least three VARIED THRUSHES were heard singing. Although several Varied Thrushes overwintered, it is possible that these are newly arrived. In a few weeks, every tree should have a Varied Thrush in residence.

As for the Western Screech Owls at Lost Lake, the pair has not been heard this past week. Hopefully, these secretive owls are now nesting.

I’m hoping the clouds will deliver more migratory birds this week, with or without the rain.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter