Thursday, June 29, 2023 Killdeer!

Seward, Alaska

While birding the tidelands, I heard a piercing, clear call behind me that I didn’t recognize. I turned to see a shorebird flying towards me and started snapping photos as it flew overhead and landed beyond in the mudflats. 

Zooming in, I noticed two breast bands: a KILLDEER! Killdeer are uncommon in our area and this is my first summer finding. Previous sightings were in the fall and winter.

Luckily, I managed to refind it feeding with a small flock of LEAST SANDPIPERS and SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS between two intertidal streams. The large plover loomed over both species. I caught a flash of rufous on the rump when it leaned forward to feed.

On my way back, a hen COMMON MERGANSER hustled her darling brood of five ducklings away, ever watchful. A peeping MALLARD duckling was not so lucky, somehow separated from mom, but valiantly sped into the sedges along the bank as fast as its little webbed feet could paddle.

High in the sky, a hopeful and tireless WILSON’S SNIPE repeatedly stroked skyward then plummeted to earth, tail feathers vibrating with its unique love song. I hope he’s not too late; summer is racing along!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter 




Wednesday, June 28, 2023 Trumpeter Swan family update

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 4:37 am, sunset 11:27 pm for a total day length of 18 hours and 50 minutes. Tomorrow will be 1 minute and 20 seconds shorter.

Rain continues in the forecast with a break on Saturday, then back to rain and showers including the Fourth of July celebration. The temperature hovers around 50.

I got my second peek at the resident TRUMPETER SWAN family this afternoon. As the parents emerged from the tall water horsetails at the far end of the Nash Road Mile 1 wetlands pond, I strained to see the almost two-week old cygnets. Only three. Was the errant Peter Rabbit cygnet still exploring away from the family? I kept watching and hoping.

The family continued to forage among the horsetails, disappearing into their greenness, then emerging into view in open water. Still only three. My heart sank. As they gradually approached, with many detours for the babies to glean invertebrates off the stems, and the adults to stretch deep for salad, my concern was confirmed. Only three, but looking very healthy, alert, and well-guarded by the parents. 

While watching the Swans, I saw a male ROBIN futilely chase a dragonfly over the pond. The portly Robin was no match for the zippy insect, but he sure tried!

I heard a WILSON’S SNIPE winnowing, and the lovely song of a SWAINSON’S THRUSH. A drake GREEN-WINGED TEAL napped on a partially sunken log, seemingly oblivious to the Swan family cruising by, the Robin chasing an elusive prey, or the pattering rain.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter






Wednesday, June 21, 2023 Happy Summer Solstice!

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 4:33 am, sunset 11:28 pm for a total day length of 18 hours and 54 minutes. Length of visible light is 22 hours and 34 minutes. Tomorrow will be a negligible four seconds shorter.

'Twas a misty, moisty, foggy day, this first day of summer with a low of 47 and a high of 52. Rain is in the forecast for the next week with similar mild temperatures.

Conditions were ideal for perfect water drop spheres to adorn spruce needles and cones like jewels. The faintest quiver collapsed the surface tension and the fragile riches quickly slid off. I wandered from one wonder to the next, marveling at the beauty of ephemeral mist transformed.

An AMERICAN CROW, SAVANNAH SPARROW, and a SONG SPARROW popped up to watch me, anxious about their young families nearby. 

In nearby Spring Creek pond, a diligent mother GADWALL hustled her ten tiny ducklings to shelter, all paddling furiously in her wake. A GOLDENEYE hen briefly checked on the passing parade then disappeared back into the sedges, hiding her own babies.

A pair of Gadwall, the same pair seen here for the past month, swam over to me, just as before, the hen more bold than the drake. They did not seem to have ducklings to worry about. A female BELTED KINGFISHER perched on old snags in the pond; I wonder where her nest is? 

Next, I checked out Fourth of July Beach and found a COMMON LOON paddling serenely just offshore and preening. As hoped, after a leisurely leg stretch, it spread those star-spangled wings, then resumed diving and feeding. Nearby, a PIGEON GUILLEMOT, three MARBLED MURRELETS, and five drake HARLEQUIN DUCKS. Two BALD EAGLES flew overhead surveying the red salmon and fresh seabird menu.

’Twas a calm, gray, “misterious”, first day of summer, full of unanticipated wonder and hope. 

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter 

Sunday, June 18, 2023 Spruce Pollen Everywhere!

Seward, Alaska

It’s been fascinating watching the buds swell on the area’s Lutz Spruce this spring and shed their protective brown papery covers.

Some emerged as upright greenish female cones with a beautiful Fibonacci spiral design. These soon turned pink as they became receptive to the pollen from the male flowers, and then flaming magenta as they matured. As summer progresses, they will harden, turn brown, and gradually turn upside down. Then the bracts will open and the tiny winged seeds will fly away, or be eaten by many species of birds.

The male cones resembled little pinkish footballs at first, then elongated and disintegrated with the slightest breeze, shedding yellowish pollen at a touch. A good wind like today sent clouds of pollen everywhere, coating land, water, town, everything. Truly massive amounts. Should be a good cone crop coming up!

Soft, light-green needles at the tips of the branches tossed off their bud covers next. This is the only time spruce needles won’t prick your fingers. The light green tips contrast with the mature, darker (and sharp) needles creating a lovely pattern. 

Vibrant greens, pinks, and magenta, Fibonacci spirals, upright then upside down, unbelievable explosions of pollen, flying seeds: lots going on with the staid ol' spruce trees!

Happy Birding when those cones ripen!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

                                                Female Cones

Male Cones

New Needles

Spruce Pollen Clouds

June 18, 2023 Devil's Club, Alder, and Silver Maple leaves

   And a few more beautiful origami buds unfolding:

                                                              Devil's Club leaves 

Sitka Alder
female cones developing
male catkins full of pollen

Silver Maple

Saturday, June 17, 2023 Trumpeter Swan Family

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 4:33 am, sunset 11:26 pm for a total day length of 18 hours and 52 minutes. Tomorrow will be a scant 40 seconds longer.

Phenomenal sunny summer day today, finally, after so many cool, rainy days! It felt much warmer than 58ยบ. Mostly sunny is in the forecast for Sunday, with a high of 66, then sliding back to mid 50s and showers on Tuesday for the next week. Rain is the color green.

I hoped to get another glimpse of the TRUMPETER SWAN family at Mile 1 Nash Road today. After searching far and wide without success, a flash of white caught my eye behind the vegetation near the road. The whole family was RIGHT THERE!!!

Egads, they’re cute, those perky little fuzz balls! They paddled close to mom and dad, picking tiny morsels for breakfast. The parents do not feed them, but take them out to eat for every meal and show them the buffet. Alert and curious, they catch on fast.

One seemed very independent, even at two days old, striking off to check out the water horsetails or open water by itself.  Reminded me of Peter Rabbit; the parents had to keep an eye on it and herd it back to the others. It will be fun to watch them grow this summer.

I only saw two adult Swans on the east side of the road, far back. I wonder where the three evicted young adults went? I hope they don't make trouble for this precious family.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter