Saturday, August 19, 2017 Peregrine Falcon and other delights!

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 6:22 am, sunset 9:38 pm for a total day light of 15 hours and 15 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 18 seconds shorter.

Sparkling day! Blue sky and sunshine! Crystal clear air cleansed by recent rains. Low 48º at 7:30 am, rising to a very pleasant 59º high by 12:30 pm. Today was a day of many discoveries at several locations.

Blue sky framed Mt Marathon, Phoenix Glacier, and Mt Benson, bathed in bright sunshine. Reluctant gray clouds lingered at the peaks, unwilling to move along. Phoenix Glacier continues to retreat, revealing more rocks between the deeply crevassed ice lobes.

While examining a pink salmon carcass at the tidelands, I heard an odd cry behind me. I looked up and to my amazement, saw a juvenile PEREGRINE FALCON flying past! As quick as I could, I switched cameras and shot off a few images of the fantastic falcon. It stroked powerfully with purpose, heading for a tranquil gathering of gulls resting on a small spit.

Instant pandemonium! It flew through the blizzard of screeching white feathers, but did not succeed in striking any. I lost it in the melee but was thrilled at the sighting. This is the first Peregrine of the year for me.

Overhead, first one BALD EAGLE then another and another began spiraling up into the blue sky, taking advantage of the south breeze. Several juveniles were missing so many feathers due to molting, it was surprising they could even fly. Their wings reminded me of a child’s gap-toothed smile. Soon, there were at least a dozen eagles plus speck-dot black RAVENS and white gulls soaring ever upwards above me in a lovely ephemeral mobile, dancing between the wisps of clouds.

A few SAVANNAH SPARROWS flitted along the beach, and two LEAST SANDPIPERS. Shorebird-wise, it continues to be pretty quiet.

Another surprise awaited. The good dog sniffed out a small mammal carcass. I checked it out and found an inch-long SEXTON BEETLE, or Burying Beetle at work. This impressive stout black beetle sported brilliant orange and yellow patterns on its wing covers.

They are famous for finding carcasses, suddenly appearing where they have otherwise not been seen. They can bury the carcass if not too large, or move it to a more suitable spot on their sturdy backs. Then they advertise for females to lay eggs near the future food source.

This one carried mites as most do, serving as taxis, delivering the mites to carcasses where they reproduce. Such a fascinating story, right before my eyes!

Check out these links for more information by ecologists Mary Wilson and Bob Armstrong at

Also check out this link showing spectacular photos of hummingbird flower mites hitching a ride on the bills of tropical hummingbirds.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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