Thursday, May 31, 2012 Great Egret!

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

On my way to Anchorage to catch the plane to the Yakutat Aleutian Tern Festival, I stopped at Mile 81 to look for the GREAT EGRET. I pulled into the parking lot just before 11:30 am to find several other vehicles and birders all set up with rain gear and scopes. I grabbed my raincoat, camera and binoculars and hustled over to see an amazing sight.

The GREAT EGRET was flying in! It landed in the green wetlands right in front to everyone's delight and stood like a white ghost, peering this way and that. In a few minutes it was off again, a white anomaly against the snowy mountains. We watched as it flapped its angel wings, gained altitude and flew in an enormous arc first south then back over Turnagain Arm to the west and north. Finally, the mysterious bird speck blended with the misty clouds and disappeared. We all waited to see if it would come back, without success. Who knows where it went, why it flew to Alaska, or where it might show up again. Just another magical moment for birders!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Wednesday May 23, 2012 Marbled Godwit and Spotted Sandpiper

Sporadic Bird Report Update from last week

This was the day summer arrived: the thermometer rose steadily to 66º under sunny skies. Bumblebees suddenly appeared, ready to pollinate anything in bloom. Milbert Tortoiseshell Butterflies fluttered in the breeze, always seeming to get where they intended despite their frail appearance.

Birds sang lustily seemingly from every tree. 'Our" FOX SPARROWS dueted the local dialect from one block to the other, "Whip-gee Whillikkers! What a beautiful day!" with slight inverse variations on the melody. WILSON'S WARBLERS sang their staccato tune, ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS tossed out their rapid, descending trill, YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS warbled at a more relaxed tempo. The peaceful, calming song of the HERMIT THRUSH drifted through the air. PINE GROSBEAKS, perched at the top of spruce, sang beautifully but reminded me of winter. I hope they stay and nest.

Dozens of VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS twittered and chirped in swooping flight overhead. A happy couple, accompanied by the third real estate swallow, checked out one of my nesting boxes. I offered white feathers and watched their excitement and twitters increase. The male snatched one from the wind and stuffed it in the box. This does not mean they will actually nest here, often preferring an old dryer vent or other lower rent dive, but I sure hope they stay!

RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRDS buzzed and zinged to and fro from the feeders. The male, especially, with his bright rufous plumage and dazzling crimson throat seems unable to fly quietly. The females can silently appear, tank up, and zoom off without fanfare. 

Later that evening, I visited the tideland beach. Many SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS stop-started along the mud, probing and finding food. A single SPOTTED SANDPIPER fed nearby. Three WHIMBRELS flew along the tide's edge. Eight GREATER-WHITE FRONTED GEESE watched warily from the sedges. Four CACKLING GEESE, including one with a very white neck, probably the same I saw last week, walked with them. What an unusual plumage! I turned around and walked away before they flew.

At the saltmarsh pond, many NORTHERN SHOVELERS napped and preened with AMERICAN WIGEONS, MALLARDS, and GREEN-WINGED TEAL. I noticed a large shorebird standing in the newly emerged sedges. It probed its long, bicolored bill deep into the vegetation. The bill was black at the tip turning pinkish beige about halfway towards the head. When it fluttered a few yards away, its raised wings revealed cinnamon-colored underwings. I was very pleased to find the MARBLED GODWIT and left it feeding peacefully in the evening sunshine.

Around 10:30 pm, I watched a male RUFOUS HUMMER perform his energetic "U-shaped" courtship dance to a female sitting in a willow. Sugar power!

The next day, our cool, overcast spring returned after this tantalizing taste of summer.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Monday May 28, 2012 Barn Swallows and Brown Bears

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Sunrise 4:50 am, sunset 11:00 pm, length of day 18 hours, 9 minutes; tomorrow will be 3 minutes and 34 seconds longer.

Weather: The past week was a mix of sun, clouds, and scattered light rain with temperatures in the high 40s to low 50s. More of the same is in the forecast for the next week. Greens of every shade and hue decorate the landscape. Willow flowers beckon insect-eaters like warblers, kinglets, and hummingbirds. Birdsong fills the air early in the morning to very late at night. With over 18 hours of daylight, it seems they never sleep!

This morning I sat transfixed at the tideland pond, trying to focus on the 50 or more swallows darting and swooping low over the water. It was even more challenging to get photos of the erratic aerialists gobbling recently hatched insects. With patience and luck, I was able to identify all four of our usual species: TREE SWALLOWS with steely blue backs and white below the eye, VIOLET-GREENS with prominent white sides on the rump and white above the eye, the small and slender BANK SWALLOW with a dark breast band, and CLIFF SWALLOWS with a buffy rump and bright white forehead.

Suddenly, I saw a larger swallow with a long, deeply forked tail, pointed wings and orangish underside. A BARN SWALLOW! maybe two or more; hard to keep track of them. This is the first Barn Swallow I have seen in Seward, or the Kenai Peninsula. It will be interesting to see if they stay and nest here. So exciting!

Over at the tidelands, 8 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE watched me warily, with the exception of one who nonchalantly preened. I was able to continue walking without making them fly.

SAVANNAH SPARROWS ran and pounced on small flies at the wrack line, then sang from driftwood nearby. TREE and VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS flew down to the sandy beach to eat gravel, their bellies almost touching the ground on their short little legs. SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS plucked amphipods from the muddy areas. A few LEAST SANDPIPERS zipped overhead. ARCTIC TERNS in small groups sailed overhead, able to vocalize even while carrying small fish in their red bills for their mates.

NORTHERN SHOVELER numbers seem to be peaking with dozens in the pond and at the tideline. Other ducks include GADWALL, MALLARDS, AMERICAN WIGEON, GREEN-WINGED TEAL, and NORTHERN PINTAIL.

A pair of LINCOLN'S SPARROW exchanged their lovely territorial songs. Two SONG SPARROWS enjoyed the view from adjacent pilings. A BALD EAGLE passing overhead stirred up angry MEW GULLS who bravely dove at the raptor from above, driving it off. 

An OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER was reported, heard but not seen.

Back in town, a WANDERING TATTLER was reported south of the harbor uplands by Scheffler Creek.

This afternoon, I visited Exit Glacier at Kenai Fjords National Park. The road was recently opened all the way to the parking lot. Once again, I heard the GREAT HORNED OWL hooting at the parking lot before the last bridge. Broad daylight, mid-afternoon. How odd!

About two feet of snow remain on the main trail, with a narrow track beaten down the middle by eager visitors. Warblers, including YELLOW-RUMPED, YELLOW, and ORANGE-CROWNED sang from the trees, just starting to leaf out. DARK-EYED JUNCOS rang their tiny bell; COMMON REDPOLLS blew raspberries overhead. VARIED THRUSHES, HERMIT THRUSHES, and ROBINS added to the chorus.

At the very toe of Exit Glacier, a dozen or more twittering VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS swooped overhead, eating invisible insects. Such a contrast of spring colliding with winter! I wonder where these insects hatched and what they might be. I turned over several rocks in the icy cold creek and searched the shallow water to no avail.

Two GOLDEN EAGLES soared high above the glacial valley near the cradling mountains, the long tail and short head the best ID clue from such a distance. A fluttering smaller hawk, another speck bird, may have been a SHARP-SHINNED.

Lower down the mountainside, I spotted a momma BROWN BEAR with her two large cubs foraging for greens. The cubs may have been 2 year olds. They seemed so big, but they definitely kept close tabs on momma who seemed to ignore them as she busily fed and ambled across the steep mountainside.

A single BLACK BEAR, visible from the parking lot, also foraged in the fresh greens between snow patches. Binoculars sure make a huge difference; it is easy to miss these exciting birds and bears without them.

This morning at the salt marsh and beach:

And at Exit Glacier this afternoon:

May 23, 2012  
The north-western evening sun backlit hundreds of tiny insects dancing in tight swarms at the beach between the sand and the beach rye grass out of the north wind. Lacking a collecting net, I used my ball cap to scoop some up for a closer look. Bob Armstrong, photographer and co-author of a recently published book, "Aquatic Insects in Alaska" kindly identified them as Non-biting Midges, family Chironomidae. They are about 1/8th to ½" long and resemble mosquitoes but do not seek us or our blood. The males have large feathery antennae. This family is a very important food source for other insects, fish, and birds both in their aquatic larval stage and short-lived adult stage. I was impressed with the variety of websites dedicated to the tiny insects from scientific studies to fly fishers.

Saturday May 25, 2012
A pregnant moose wandered into a yard by the high school and began to munch on the greenery. Her yearling calf stood forlornly in the middle of the next street, wondering where momma went. I was surprised to see little antlers already budding out from such a youngster.  He walked across the street, making little grunting sounds as he circled around the car and then headed back across the street behind me, straight to her. When she gives birth to her next set of twins in the very near future, this little guy is going to be very confused as the light of his life ejects him into the wide world.

Friday, May 25, 2012
Bay tour to Fox Island 6 to 9:30 pm, overcast with light rain
Highlights included a RED-NECKED PHALAROPE, HORNED PUFFINS, DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS, BALD EAGLES perched in spruce tops, Humpback Whale, Dall's Porpoises, and a Mountain Goat with a kid very low on steep cliff near Caine's Head.

Saturday, May 26, 2012
PACIFIC WREN sang from base of Mt Marathon.
Eight WHIMBRELS at tidelands, small flock of about 10 GREATER SCAUP near shore.100 swallows including VIOLET-GREEN, TREE, and CLIFF swooped over the salt marsh pond. A secretive WILSON'S SNIPE creaked from the grasses.

GREAT HORNED OWL reported hooting by Exit Glacier Nature Center in the morning.

Sunday, May 27, 2012
TOWNSEND'S WARBLER, bright male, spotted in yard. BANK SWALLOW added to swallow list at salt marsh pond.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Saturday, May 19, 2012 Black Turnstone, Red-faced Cormorant and a Great Horned Owl

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Sunrise 5:08 am, sunset 10:41pm, length of day 17 hours, 33 minutes; tomorrow will be 4 minutes and 22 seconds longer.

Weather: Cool and overcast continues after several sunshiny cool and windy days. Temps in the high 30s in the morning rose to high 40s. Lawns are greening up and tiny spring green leaves brighten the landscape. The rain held off for the most part, as did the wind, making for a very pleasant day to bird with the Trail Lake Lodge Elderhostel group.

With all the weekend activities and increased action along the beach, it was amazing to find a WANDERING TATTLER feeding at the low intertidal zone just south of Scheffler Creek's outlet.  One led to two, then suddenly there were four WANDERING TATTLERS and a BLACK TURNSTONE (FOS) standing on the same rock! Bright HARLEQUIN DUCKS swam warily along the shore, watching out for dogs and beach walkers. A BARROW'S GOLDENEYE flew past. NORTHWESTERN CROWS ferried morsels from the intertidal zone to the leafing cottonwood trees for lunch.

Just offshore, we spotted a PIGEON GUILLEMOT in full breeding plumage, a dashing black body accented with a bold white wing patch. Two pairs of MARBLED MURRELETS posed then dove. An ARCTIC TERN landed on a protruding piece of driftwood; a very white-breasted ~2 year old BALD EAGLE surveyed the scene from the old pilings nearby.

Farther out, the gulls feasted at the seafood processor's outlet pipe: GLAUCOUS-WINGED, MEW, and BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES in abundance. A harbor seal poked its head up to look around. Much farther out, only seen in the scope, an adult YELLOW-BILLED LOON in breeding plumage and a juvenile swam together.

The meadow by the airport concealed 4 WHIMBRELS, busily probing for worms and other invertebrates with their long curved bills. They were almost the same color as the dead grasses. A MERLIN flashed overhead, heading for the cottonwoods on the side. Unseen, a FOX SPARROW sang its cheerful song.

Out on the completely thawed pond (about time!) many ducks dove, paddled, preened, and napped: GADWALL, AMERICAN WIGEON, MALLARD, NORTHERN SHOVELER, NORTHERN PINTAIL, GREEN-WINGED TEAL, CANVASBACK (2), GREATER SCAUP, and COMMON MERGANSER.

Several small flocks of shorebirds flew overhead including LEAST SANDPIPERS. Two PECTORAL SANDPIPERS, larger versions of the LEAST, fed busily in the sedges near the ducks. The haunting winnowing of the WILSON'S SNIPE drifted down from the speck bird plummeting from the sky. ARCTIC TERNS flew buoyantly over the pond, diving for tiny fish; a pair rested on the small islet where they may nest again this year. Two VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS flew erratically overhead, snatching invisible insects midair. This cold weather has been hard on them; I hope they find plenty to eat from now on!

Exit Glacier/Herman Leirer Road just opened to the Resurrection River Bridge. Another surprise awaited where we parked near the bridge. A GREAT HORNED OWL hooted softly from the dense spruce forest! I have hardly heard one all winter and now, in mid-May in broad daylight, it's hooting!

A pair of SOLITARY SANDPIPERS frolicked on the bank across the river near a large patch of snow. A GREATER YELLOWLEGS called from its spot nearby. Two COMMON MERGANSERS dove in the river at the bend. Moose tracks decorated the silt beneath the bridge. ROBINS and VARIED THRUSHES sang from the treetops. A bright male YELLOW-RUMPED "MYRTLE" WARBLER warbled and gave us very good looks, including a brief landing on top of the "Welcome to Kenai Fjords National Park" sign. I learned that this species eats myrtle berries on at least part of its wintering ground, hence the name. Overhead, a COMMON REDPOLL blew raspberries as it flew, but regretfully, did not land. Tiny RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS belted out their impossibly loud song. How do they do that?

An inky black bear was spotted on the recently thawed mountainside; 4 mountain goats adorned the opposite heights. Scopes sure are handy for not only bringing in the details, but for showing others the hard to describe wildlife locations. The trails at Exit Glacier remain under 3-4 feet of snow so we didn't go there.

Back on Nash Road at the mile 1 wetlands, two adult TRUMPETER SWANS stretched down deep, accompanied by a pair of AMERICAN WIGEONS grabbing scraps.

Out at mile 5 Nash Road, a cormorant rested on the pilings near the public boat launch. Closer inspection revealed a light-colored bill, slightly thicker than a Pelagic's. Sure enough, it was a RED-FACED CORMORANT nervously watching us, but not willing to fly. Very cool to find this juvenile without having to travel to the Chiswells! The bird book says it takes 2 years to maturity so next year it should be an adult. A single WANDERING TATTLER rested quietly on the rocks near the cannery, almost invisible. Also spotted offshore, a nice PELAGIC CORMORANT with its thin dark bill and "pencil neck" for comparison, an adult COMMON LOON in breeding plumage, and more HARLEQUINS.

What a great day to bird with a wonderful group of folks!

After dinner, I drove out to Lowell Point in hopes of seeing the Humpback whale that was reported earlier. No luck, but I did find about 10 surging Steller's sea lions, and a sea otter eating dinner. A pair of BLACK OYSTERCATCHERS worked along the low tide zone accompanied by many GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS. Dozens of HARLEQUINS swam close to shore.  A pair of MARBLED MURRELETS and a PIGEON GUILLEMOT paddled farther out. I heard the euchalon (hooligan) are in, so it will be interesting to see if the whale hangs around and if more sea lions and seals come to the moveable feast.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Thursday, May 10, 2012 Snow showers and tsunami debris

Soggy Seward Birding
Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Sunrise 5:29 am, sunset 10:20 pm, length of day 16 hours, 51 minutes; tomorrow will be 4 minutes and 55 seconds longer.

Weather: Unbelievable! It was snowing rain or raining snow this morning, enough to tinge the ground white. As the day warmed up to a whopping 40º the steady precip became invisible, but wet nonetheless. More sn'rain in the forecast for the next several days with strong wind as a bonus.

Thanks to the series of storms and brisk south winds, the birds continue to blow in. In weather like this, car birding is much easier on optics and provides a great blind. Today I parked along the beach south of the Scheffler Creek bridge. The WANDERING TATTLER was joined by a LESSER YELLOWLEGS and several WESTERN SANDPIPERS, poking and picking through the intertidal zone seaweeds. HARLEQUINS took a break from the ocean to nap in the rain on the slippery rocks while MEW GULLS stood guard nearby.

Several NORTHERN SHOVELERS paddled close to shore with their heads low to the water, their over-sized bills straining the nutrient-laden water. A small raft of SURF SCOTERS dove in synchrony; a nearby flock of GREATER SCAUP echoed their movements.

A BALD EAGLE stood smack in the middle of Scheffler Creek, up to its pantaloons in the current. Every now and then, it lowered its head, scooped up a beakful of water to drink, and then looked around regally, a soggy bird surveying its soggy kingdom.

A bit farther from shore, BARROW'S GOLDENEYES paddled and dove, keeping an eye on the eagle.

Out at the tidelands, a large flock of about 100 DUNLINS swooped overhead, with WESTERNS and LEAST SANDPIPERS. A few WHIMBRELS toot-toot-tooted flying from here to there. Clouds of gulls rose and fell at the mouth of Resurrection River, probably hassled by an eagle. A single TUNDRA swan pulled vegetation from the pond bottom, surrounded by a host of GREATER SCAUP, AMERICAN WIGEON, and MALLARDS. NORTHERN SHOVELERS, NORTHERN PINTAILS, and GREEN-WINGED TEAL fed throughout the recently thawed pond. ARCTIC TERNS zipped overhead.

Yesterday, Jim H reported, in addition to the above birds, a pair of BRANT out in front of the river, one BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER, 5 SEMI-PALMATED PLOVERS, and a wet MERLIN perched at the top of a spruce.

The RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRDS have arrived in force. I have received many happy reports of this tiny, tough, traveler visiting feeders all around town. I was pleased to watch a male and several females tanking up on sugar water. How they survived the migration and then this miserable wintery weather is just beyond imagining.

The GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROWS, FOX SPARROWS are migrating through in numbers. For an interesting report on the Golden-crowned Sparrows' 3,200-to-5,000-mile roundtrip migration from California to Alaska go to,0.
The article says in part, "The one-ounce birds had taken an average of 29 days to travel north, eventually spreading out into four areas along 750 miles of coastal Alaska. Their trips ranged from 1,600 to 2,400 miles in length. When they flew back to California, they traveled somewhat slower, averaging about 53 days in transit." Thanks to Jim for that link.
My FOS LINCOLN'S SPARROW popped up in my neighborhood on May 8th, sat in a leafing young cottonwood and even sang briefly before flitting away.
Other news of note is not a bird, but a red, 12" float I spotted on the beach. I don't recall seeing a red buoy or float here before; this one says "Sanshin Kako Co LTD". In addition, someone hand-painted a pair of spouting white whales. I suspect it is from the March 2011 Japan tsunami. 

I reported it to More information is available at Innocent debris like this is fun, but I shudder to think what might be hitting our coast next. Yikes!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

May 8, 2012 Least Sandpiper or Long-toed Stint?

Here are some observations and thoughts from excellent and expert birders regarding the correct identity of the tiny, 6" shorebird that is going about its business, totally unconcerned about the fuss. After all, IT knows exactly who it is, where it came from, and where it's going. It's a fun puzzle for us humans to try to figure out. 

For further discussion, please go to AK 

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

May 7, 11:57 pm from Steve Heinl
Separating Least Sandpiper and Long-toed Stint in alternate plumage is extremely difficult.  The call notes are very different (Least is a bright, rolling, upslurred "breeep" with a strong "ee" sound, and Long-toed is a rougher, lower trill).  The other main characteristic is that Long-toed really does have longer toes, particularly the middle toe.  The toes on this bird look normal for Least Sandpiper - they don't look long to me.  Long-toed Stints also nearly always have dull yellowish or olive at the base of the lower mandible, and this bird's bill looks like it is entirely black.  There are some other subtle plumage differences between the two (but those characters can overlap), but given the fact that the bird doesn't look long-toed and has an entirely black bill I think that the bird is a Least Sandpiper.

May 8, 8:08 am from Buzz Scher Anchorage
I agree this may not be your 'typically' plumaged Least, but that's what I believe it      is -just a slightly brighter, fresh plumaged one. I don't have a lot of experience with   Long-toed, but what I remember most (in fresh alternate) was that the bird reminded me of a small, juv Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (although I may be the only one on the     planet that thinks that); with bright orange-brown fringes to the tertials, brighter (less chocolate colored) back, slightly brighter orangish crown (which helps 'set off' the     supercillium), and particularly distinct broken streaks over a buffy-orangish wash      across the upper breast - all lacking in the Seward bird. Also, as Steve said earlier,      the middle toe is VERY long - what I recall it seemed longer than the bill - and the   base of the lower mandible is pale; again both lacking in the Seward bird. That said, did you happen to see it next to a Least (LT is longer-legged and slightly greater in mass).

May 8 at 9:30 am from Tasha DiMarzio and Seth Seward
Just a quick update:
As of now the species ID has yet to be confirmed.
Seth went back out this morning and found the bird in the exact same spot, no other birds with it; the bird was still bathing and feeding.

We are aware that the Least Sandpiper and the Long-toed Stint are strikingly similar but the one thing I did not include in the first report was the behaviors that we saw and some other identifiers that can't be picked up in photos.

The reason we thought that this bird could be different is because of its
behavior and it had a feeding style I have never seen before. It was very bent over and kind of squat-like. The movement of the bird had an awkward gait. 2 different groups of Least flew over calling and the bird had no reaction at all to them.

In Carol's photos the beak does look all black but earlier in the day when the sun was on the bird the base of the bill did seem to be two toned. Without having a book in hand right away this was one of the characteristics that was listed. Also in the photos the bird then was in the mud and the toes were spread out. When we saw it earlier when it was feeding on the other-side of the bank in the rocks, the middle and back digits were noticeably longer. It would also hunt over and balance over and balance on its tarsus while feeding.

This morning when Seth found the bird roosted he flushed the bird and when the bird called it was very different call; more sounding like a songbird, more of rolling chirp, not as sharp, or trill as the Least.
When he heard its call he's now convinced it's not a Least.

Given these behaviors we feel it's not a Least. Can any one weigh in on

May 8, 10:28 am from Aaron Lang, Homer
OK, I'll jump in. In all of Carol's photos the posture looks hunched over
and creeping. This crouching feeding style is typical for a Least
Sandpiper. Long-toed Stints have longer legs and necks than Least
Sandpipers which give them a more up-right stance when at rest and alert,
and a more "tipped over" posture while feeding. Your description of the
feeding style seems to support Least. While a single photo can be
misleading, I would expect at least one in 10 photos to show a posture more typical for Long-toed. On Carol's last photo the middle toe doesn't look long enough for a Long-toed, which on that species should be just longer than the tarsus. The best test of this is to see the bird in flight--do the toes project beyond the tail in flight?

Overall, this bird looks too dark and uniform (lacks contrast) to be a
Long-toed. I would expect a Long-toed to have more prominent supercillia
and lighter lores as well as a more prominent mantle "V". The lower
mandible appears to be black, which supports Least. Some bright Least
Sandpipers have the bright, warm tertial fringes that this bird has.

The call of a Long-toed Stint is similar to that of a Least, but it's
lower--about the same pitch as the call of a Pectoral Sandpiper.

Thanks very much for getting my brain fired up this morning with a
stimulating shorebird ID question!

May 8, 10:51 am from Aaron Bowman, Anchorage
Great ID thoughts on these two species, thanks for bringing it up.
I would agree with Aaron Lang about the posture of the long-toed vs. the least.       In Japan near my house I would regularly see long-toed stints in the
rice fields in migration and could pick them out at a good distance
form the other small species based on their upright long-necked
appearance. The long-toed when feeding almost looks like it is using
its height to look down at its prey rather than a least crouching
after it. On my first glance the facial characteristics also looked
somewhat different, and the chest markings also do not quite look
right for a long-toed. Those were my first reactions....

May 8, 12:15 pm from Sadie Ulman, Seward
Overall gestalt of this Calidris seemed off from the `normal' visitors. It was
feeding on small exposed rocky area in sheltered slough bottom (2-3 ft wide, and slough banks ~3 feet tall) bend at outgoing tide. Slough is outflow from big freshwater lake, and inland from mudflats. Bird was walking slowly over rocks and in shallow water, picking forage items off surface of rocks and in shallow water. We watched bird for almost 2 hours of constant foraging. It did not flush.
Behavior: seemed different than a least sandpiper. I have not observed stints, but this bird seemed to be foraging more slowly and w more intent (and in different habitat) than leasts I have observed on vegetated mudflats (very similar to Seward airport) during migration.
I put pictures in "Ulman" folder (on AK Birding website)- these photos were taken a bit earlier than Carol's and had slightly different lighting (i.e. paler lower mandible is shown)
-lower mandible is paler at the extreme base. This was a different field mark noticed before field guide came out.
-plumage: Seward bird appears to have more of a split supercilium, dark cheek patch, and dark forehead (darker crown continues down to bill and lores)- whereas juvenile least sandpipers typically have white forehead. Seward bird appears to to have duller wing coverts compared to scapulars
Question on mantle plumage with this bird- I'm not sure how to interpret scallop (least) vs striped (long-toed). I would think scallop means overlapping feathers in non-linear fashion. By Carol's picture #5- it seems Seward Calidris may have more linear rufous-edged feathered mantle with whitish-V? Also- when Seth went out again this morning he flushed the bird- its posture was more upright when alert walking. Overall, he likens the feeding behavior of Seward bird to red-necked stint he observed in St. Paul. Vocals he heard were not that of a least.

This is a fun, intriguing discussion for certain. The vocalization heard this
morning, observed foraging behavior, some plumage characteristics, and overall feel of the bird seem to shy away from least sandpiper. It certainly helps to have people weigh in that have seen long-toed before.
Any new thoughts?

May 17, 2012 from Martin Renner of Homer
This may be beating a dead horse, but just in case there are still people attempting CPR, here's another feature to add to the beating, that has not been mentioned so far:

Apart from (often subtle) differences in color tone, the rufous fringe of the longest tertial in Long-toed Stint is a smooth straight line. In Least Sandpiper, this fringe has a triangular-shaped bulge towards the center of the feather. This character is nicely illustrated in a landmark volume by Hayman, Marchant & Prater. I don't believe there is any overlap, although it is often difficult to see in the field. The photo in Tasha's album clearly shows this feature clearly, confirming the bird as a Least Sandpiper.

All that said, Long-toed Stint is a common migrant not that far west from us and may be one of the most frequently overlooked vagrants in South-Central.

May 7, 2012 Least Sandpiper or Long-toed Stint?

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

I received a call this evening from Tasha who, with Seth, Sadie and Sean had discovered a small sandpiper that resembled a Least, but could be a Long-toed Stint. I took a bazillion photos and sent them around to a few experts who know far more than I about this tiny shorebird that maybe shouldn't be here.

I have never even HEARD of a Long-toed Stint, but enjoyed watching this bird, whoever it was, immensely. It busily poked and prodded along the gravelly and muddy banks of a small fresh-water stream (tidally inundated.) I watched it pull out amphipods and even a caddisfly larva like a magician pulling rabbits out of a hat. Tasha and her patient crew watched it for over 3 1/2 hours, and finally, as the sun disappeared over the mountain, went home for a well-deserved dinner.

I'll post more when I get more information. Meanwhile, enjoy the photos. 

What do YOU think?

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Sporadic Bird Report Reporter