Monday, October 30, 2017 Hooded Merganser and diving Mallard

Seward, Alaska

This afternoon, I finally found the drake HOODED MERGANSER first reported by Tasha on October 21. If it’s the same handsome bird, she figured this is his 8th year!

A MALLARD drake joined him at Stash and Store Pond where they both dove for salmon eggs. I have seen Mallards diving before, a surprising sight each time. They really like salmon eggs, but not all Mallards have figured out how to dive.

This Mallard stayed underwater for 5 seconds before bobbing back to the surface. Very impressive for a dabbler! The Hooded Merganser stayed down slightly longer, 7 seconds. At times, it seemed the Hoody just seemed puzzled by this odd diving companion.

A HERRING GULL paddled over and by stretching its neck, managed to gobble up salmon eggs as well.  I finally got a photo of the gull with an egg in its bill. It was tough because the gull was so fast!

Area streams are alive with the splashing and finning of returning Silver Salmon, home to spawn. Their eggs and carcasses provide a much appreciated protein boost for birds and other wildlife, and nitrogen for the land. What a tremendous, beautiful gift, salmon!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

PS No sign of the Olive-backed Pipit today

Monday, October 30, 2017 ANOTHER Cygnet killed by Lagoon power lines!!!

Seward, Alaska

I just received confirmation that a 4-month old TRUMPETER SWAN cygnet hit the power lines along the Lagoon at Dairy Hill Lane on Sunday afternoon and died of its injuries.

Seward power lines have killed eight resident swans since 2014, all but two at the Lagoon power lines:
January 4 and 6, 2015: two of original four died at Lagoon power lines
October 2, 2015: two of original six died at Lagoon power lines
September 8, 2016: two of original seven at Nash Road power lines
October 28, 2016: two more of original seven hit Lagoon power lines, one died, one recovered
October 30, 2017: one of original 3 died at Lagoon power lines

Trumpeter Swans are protected by federal law under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Utilities, including cable companies, can be prosecuted and fined for causing deaths.

Much progress has been made on installing the infrastructure for the much-anticipated underground power lines, but obviously, the killer wires are still in place and will remain a threat until buried.

Completing the installation MUST be a priority before more swans die. Please contact the City Manager and Seward Electric Department and urge them to expedite the underground installation of power lines and cable lines. While you’re at it, encourage them to reuse the deflectors on the unmarked Nash Road upper transmission lines. Time is of the essence to prevent more deaths.

City Manager Jim Hunt at 907-224-4047, Electric Department Utility Manager John Foutz at 907-224-4073,

Sadly submitted by Carol Griswold

Sunday, October 29, 2017 Quest for Rare Bird continues

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 9:15 am, sunset 6:10 pm for a total day length of 8 hours and 55 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 14 seconds shorter.

Gray skies continued with light, intermittent rain, and calm.
The mild temps ranged from a low of 40 and a high of 44. Showers are forecast for Monday, tapering to partly cloudy starting Tuesday with southerly winds for the next week. Maybe we’ll see the sun!

I waited until 11 am hoping for better light and returned to the old horse corral. Tom Evans was already there, after driving through heavy rain all the way down from Anchorage, wandering around as I had the previous day.

It was much more fun to wander around looking for an elusive bird together. Tom had found a FOX SPARROW in addition to the previous day’s species. That is somewhat unusual for this late, but occasionally we get a few on the Christmas Bird Count.

After a while, another car of birders arrived and Chris, Betty, and Cathy joined us. We added a single RUSTY BLACKBIRD, a female DOWNY WOODPECKER, GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS, and a RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH to our species list, but no Pipit.

Around 3 pm, the Anchorage birders had to head home. It was fun even though the Pipit proved elusive. Who knows where this lost bird may be now?

I stayed to collect aluminum cans and trash from this beautiful wetlands, grrrrr!!  Then Tasha and Chuck showed up and we birded the area again with no luck.

Tomorrow is another day, and worth another try.

Check out this link to a video of a Olive-backed Pipit perched in a tree:

Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Saturday, October 28, 2017 Quest for Rare Bird

Seward, Alaska

Overcast with intermittent light rain, calm, 40s.

This afternoon around 3 pm, I received a heads up about a rare, Asiatic OLIVE-BACKED PIPIT in Seward at the former horse corral. (Thanks, Dave!) Ace birders, Scott Schuette and Brad Benter discovered it about 12:45 pm, then refound it about two hours later. This is the first record for the Kenai Peninsula and Alaskan road system. Congrats!

I grabbed my gear and a ride (dead battery of all times!) and rushed down to Dairy Hill Lane by the Lagoon to look along “a small stream that runs through the corral,” as relayed and posted to AK Birding for the birders by Aaron Lang.

Hmmm. There’s Upper Scheffler Creek on the west side, full of spawning silver salmon. There’s Artesian Creek on the east side, also full of spawning silver salmon. And there’s at least two small artesian streams running through the middle.

After tromping slowly all around the property looking for a needle in a haystack near a stream, I emailed Aaron who kindly sent me contact info. I called Brad for more information. As they were just finishing up lunch nearby, they very graciously stopped by.

Brad called this a “Houdini Bird.” When Scott first found it, it immediately disappeared, but just a glimpse was all he needed. Brad got a peek, and though they searched long and hard, it proved very elusive.

They returned about 2:45 pm and refound it in about the same place, a brushy area near some large spruce trees and grass. Miraculously, they were able to get a few photos to document it before once again, it vanished before their eyes.

Brad noted that the Pipit wagged its tail constantly, and when it flew, it flew up into the trees to perch. That behavior was good to know.

After they left to continue birding elsewhere, I wandered slowly, looking and listening. A DIPPER sang cheerfully along the creek amid the splashing of the silver salmon. A female KINGFISHER rattled from above the creek. At least two PACIFIC WRENS scolded from a nice brush pile while a dark SONG SPARROW piped up with its discordant call note. A pair of OREGON JUNCOS clicked back and forth. It was a productive brush pile, but no Pipit.

At least four BROWN CREEPERS called to one another and spiraled up the spruce tree trunks. BALD EAGLES, BLACK-BILLED MAGPIES, RAVENS, NORTHWESTERN CROWS, STELLER’S JAYS perched and commented from the snags, but no Pipit.

As the dim light got more dim, I walked home, marveling at the masses of Silver Salmon in the streams, swimming home at last after thousands of miles at sea and uncountable dangers.

Unlike the salmon, and me, the Olive-backed Pipit is thousands of miles from home and alone. It has no buddies to help watch for hungry predators, no prior knowledge of where to eat, rest, or sleep, and no clue where it is. Being able to vanish is what has kept it alive so far on its long, wild journey from Asia. Although that makes it tough to find, I’m cheering for it and hope it survives the winter.

If you come, park in the large, empty parking lot on Phoenix Road on the north side of the former horse corral. The sighting was fairly close to the road near Upper Scheffler Creek on the west (mountain) side of the property. Good luck!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Friday, October 27, 2017 Tern Lake Swan Family photos found!

Tern Lake, Mile 38 at the Y

I just found my photos of the Tern Lake TRUMPETER SWAN family, taken on my trip to Homer on October 11th.

I was so disappointed to think I had erased them and so very delighted to find I had not!

At that date, there was no ice on the lake threatening the cygnet-who-would-not-fly. Despite having the entire lake for their use, the family fed very close to the road. It was pretty amazing.

I usually stay in my car and use it for a blind, but a woman was kneeling right next to them, then another photographer walked over. The Swans, especially the cygnet did not seem to mind. So I piled out and joined the party. It’s not often that one is allowed to be so close to wild Swans!

It’s always interesting to document the cygnet’s bill changing from pink to black; this one still had a large area of pink sandwiched between the black base and tip.

From this and other viewings, it seemed that the cygnet was in charge. The parents often trailed behind it, sometimes expressing concern in soft honks and ignored head bobbing as it paddled straight for the shore and people.

When the parents finally turned away, bobbing emphatically, the cygnet considered whether or not it wished to leave. I’ve never seen this independent behavior in such a young swan. Could be dangerous.

That day, when the parents paddled away, the cygnet hopped up on a small island and preened, taking its sweet time before finally joining them.

After checking out the silver salmon at the outlet at Dave’s Creek, I returned to check on them. They were again close to the road and no one was around. One parent in particular was in very shallow water. It was just incredible to actually SEE its long white neck like a flexible hose, the white head and black bill probing the bottom as it harvested the aquatic plants. Another first!

Today, I checked the cygnet close-up photos carefully, looking for any evidence of fishing line that might have prevented it from flying, but thankfully found none. 

As the ice closed in on October 19th, the independent and ignorant youngster finally realized it was time to figure it out and they left. I hope it let the wiser, more experienced, but indulgent parents lead the way.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter