Tuesday, September 5, 2017 Trumpeter Swan family update

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 7:04 am, sunset 8:51 pm for a total daylight of 13 hours and 46 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 23 seconds shorter.

The edge of a huge storm brushed against Seward this afternoon, on its way to hammer the Portage and Anchorage area, delivering 1.76 inches of periodic heavy rain on an already soggy landscape. 100% chance of rain forecast for tomorrow, with another inch predicted. Temperatures have gradually dropped to the high 40s, low 50s.

Taking advantage of a lull before the storm hit, I birded with two friends for a few hours this morning. We checked out the boat harbor where a PACIFIC WREN was reported and found a family of the larger SONG SPARROWS foraging among the rocks. Weather permitting, I hope to verify the wren report. A few BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES cruised around the harbor.

We headed over to the Mile 1 Nash Road wetlands to check on the TRUMPETER SWAN family. I haven’t seen much of them recently; either nothing, a white head periscoped above the grasses and sedges far in the back, or napping and preening on the original nest site. Today, they were feeding closer to the road, mostly hidden by the vegetation. Soon, one by one, the two parents and three cygnets paddled into sight, feeding voraciously on the water horsetails.

The cygnets all look healthy and are almost as large as their parents.  They are light gray with darker gray necks and sooty gray heads. Their pink bills are black at the base and tips. When one stretched, the much whiter primary and secondary feathers flashed. I have not observed them flying, but did receive a report that they were flying on August 25th.

By and by, one adult decided it was time to roll, and with a graceful nod, the magnificent family paddled off with all the dignity of royalty.

On September 1st, I was surprised and pleased to find three adult TRUMPETER SWANS feeding in a pond at the head of the bay. At first, I thought they were migratory birds, just passing through. Then, I realized I just might know these swans that were so comfortable at this familiar spot: the original Trumpeter Swan parents and Daddy’s Girl! Now a 1 1/2 year-old subadult, she is indistinguishable (to me) from the parents. If this is true, it is remarkable that her strong bond to her parents (or Daddy) was responsible for the end of a phenomenal streak of raising families at the Nash Road wetlands: four in 2014, six in 2015, and seven in 2016.

It will be interesting to see what happens this winter if both families remain in Seward. Those overhead power lines along the Lagoon should be underground by November; I wish they were now!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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