Tuesday, April 25, 2023 Pipits, Greater White-fronted Geese

Seward, Alaska

After the snowstorm on Sunday, the sky cleared by evening to showcase a fingernail moon hovering above luminous Venus like the Cheshire cat’s smile, chasing the sun. Monday continued fair, much to everyone’s surprise and relief. When I stepped outside, I looked up to see dozens of Gulls sailing low overhead and high above them, two BALD EAGLES soaring and circling in the wind against a blue sky.

I heard my FOS RUBY CROWNED KINGLET loudly singing (only one volume setting), hidden in the forest on the slope of Mt Marathon behind the hospital. Several ringing VARIED THRUSES and a couple cheerio ROBINS joined in. What a pleasure!

A leisurely stroll at the head of the bay produced 8 PLOVERS/GOLDEN-PLOVERS, too fast and far to identify, and a tight flock of about 50 CANADA GEESE wheeling about.

Snow, rain, and wind returned today, covering the ground and hiding the tender green shoots. Despite the abysmal weather, I ventured out, the cold rain stinging my face. It was worth it. Seven FOS AMERICAN PIPITS had arrived at the head of the bay, picking morsels (cold flies?) among the wrack line debris. 

As I headed back, the rain pelting me from the other side, I heard the wild clamor of geese behind me. I turned and saw hundreds (500?) of FOS GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE, flock after flock, emerge from the low clouds and sift down, orange webbed feet outstretched. What a stunning sight on this gray, wintry day! 

Spring storms entice migrating waterfowl and cranes to stop over to wait for better weather, a silver lining. It’s still snowing. Stay tuned for who might join the Specklebellies on their epic journeys home.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Saturday, April 22, 2023 Arctic Terns!

Seward, Alaska

Happy Earth Day!

Sunrise 6:21 am, sunset 9:33 pm for a total day length of 15 hours and 11 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 22 seconds longer. 

Summer arrived on Wednesday, April 19, for a four-day cameo with sunny skies and temps “soaring” into the 40s; balmy without the wind. And with that gift came an even bigger one: the first ARCTIC TERNS! I snapped to attention when I heard their much anticipated mellow “chirp, chirp” followed by the sound of an engine revving. The top guns are back! 

Three at first offshore, then more arrived to cruise the shorelines and along the Waterfront. Their buoyant flight made every other species seem like tanks. The cloud of frenzied Gulls at the fish waste outfall shrieked and shouted without dignity; the Terns did not join them. On Friday, I saw one parading around with a dejected stickleback in its beak; courtship had begun!

Milbert’s Tortoiseshell butterflies emerged from their hiding places where they overwintered as adults and fluttered and basked in the sunshine. I took their cue and basked in the sunshine too! Patrolling their territories, two males often swirled around and around in battle, somehow able to maneuver decisively with those paper-thin wings. 

Only two CANADA GEESE have stopped over so far, continuing from Wednesday. Of the shorebirds, I have only spotted GREATER YELLOWLEGS, in increasing numbers.

Three TUNDRA SWANS linger, a wonderful sight with their “island” eyes and yellow spots on their black bills. 

On Wednesday, one TUNDRA and six TRUMPETERS fed passively in the flooded intertidal sedges and stream at the tidelands. Suddenly a pair took offense at the proximity of another demure swan. They conferred with ominous low posture, fluttering and arcing of their wings accompanied by serious head bowing and plotting. Then one shot off, wings beating furiously, bugling loudly in the charge, driving the target away. It was over in a blink, peace suddenly restored, celebration, congratulations, and much stretching. Incredible power and ferocity in those angel-like wings!

Over at the Waterfront, a single DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT sporting loose, white “eyebrows” stood on the B Street pilings that are so favored by this species they have to take turns. No competition for now.

On Thursday, I spotted a handsome solo BONAPARTE’S GULL, possibly the next most graceful flier, plucking tiny morsels from the water’s surface. Its low, growly voice is always a surprise.

Thursday evening, I heard my first VARIED THRUSH ringing from the mountainside forest, and another on Friday. Love it!

A friend reported a second sighting of SANDHILL CRANES around 5:30 pm on Friday. We’re hoping more will fly our way soon on their way north.

The wind picked up this evening and the forecast calls for snow, snow showers, rain, and wind for the next week. Bah. Yet, the optimistic birds are on their way bringing hope and joy. Be sure your Swallow boxes and Hummingbird feeders are clean, ready, and waiting. They’ll be here soon!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter


Monday, April 17, 2023 Sandhill Cranes, Snipe, Yellowlegs

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 6:36 am, sunset 9:20 pm for a total day length of 14 hours and 44 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 25 seconds longer.

Spring is gently pushing Winter off-stage with temps below freezing at night rising to the high 30s by day. I am grateful for the slow breakup and no flooding. Forecast is for some sunshine all week with a high of 47 midweek, then back to rain/snow showers for the weekend. The steady, strong, and chilly NNW wind remains to remind us to dress warmly. 

Despite that NNW wind, migratory birds are trickling in. Today, I saw my first flock of SANDHILL CRANES, 49 (lucky number!), circling overhead, deciding whether to stop for a rest or push on, ever onwards north. They kept going. I also saw my FOS SNIPE, and my first FOS GREATER YELLOWLEGS, though one has been here about a week, and 7 were reported yesterday. A FOS HARLAN’S HAWK was reported by the Three Bridges.

Two DUSKY GEESE, likely headed to nest by Snow River at Mile 18, stopped over a few days ago and are continuing to feed in the sedges. A larger population breeds in Cordova.

Three adult TUNDRA SWANS, flanked by a bevy of eager ducks, fed steadily at the wide-open estuary pond. Just a few days ago, it was still frozen, then gray-slushy with open leads. 

NORTHERN PINTAILS, NORTHERN SHOVELERS, MALLARDS, GADWALL, AMERICAN WIGEON, EURASIAN WIGEON, and GREEN-WINGED TEAL joined the resident Mallards, BUFFLEHEAD, and COMMON MERGANSERS. Many of the ducks napped, heads tucked under wing, exhausted from their travels.

LAPLAND LONGSPURS continue to pulse through; I spotted about 15 today.

The most numerous, loudest, and most conspicuous migrants are Gulls: GLAUCOUS-WINGED, SHORT-BILLED, HERRING, and KITTIWAKES. They scream all day with energy to scream in the dark after 10:30 pm. The fish “waste” outfall pipe near the harbor entrance attracts a cloud of gulls as does the fish processor on Lowell Point Road.

A SLATY-BACKED GULL was spotted on April 14; still looking for it.


At least 10 BALD EAGLES festooned the nearby spruce trees like Christmas ornaments, lurking and watching, then descending to create havoc among the already chaotic Gull scene. If one got a fish scrap, the chase was on! Stoking powerfully, several Eagles harassed the food-bearer until the prize was dropped or the lucky one managed to outfly, outmaneuver, and outlast its pursuers. Despite their size and bulk, Eagles are remarkably agile. 

I was quite surprised to find a DIPPER on a barnacle-encrusted rock just offshore. They usually prefer fresh water streams, not salt water. I didn’t observe it diving, just dipping, until it flew farther south.

Another sign of spring was a PACIFIC WREN singing its long, intricate song, joyous for this beautiful day.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter