The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Carol Griswold
Seward CBC Compiler 

Birders make Christmas count


Carol Griswold

Seward Christmas Bird Count Results

December 24, 2011

61 Count Day species, 6 Count Week species and 2,461 birds in all.

Sunrise 10:02 a.m., sunset 3:52 p.m. for a total of 5 hours 50 minutes of daylight.

Weather: 18 to 20 degrees, brisk 24 mph north-northeast wind with gusts to 24 mph, gray skies, and brief afternoon snow flurries. Sea smoke and 6-foot waves created challenging conditions for the boat crew trying to find birds, hold binocs steady, identify species, and count.

A small but dedicated group of 12 Field Counters, including two young birders, and the four ever-intrepid boat crew, birded the Seward Circle from 10 to 4 p.m. while another 10 Feeder Counters kept vigil at their feeders. The Tonsina Trail Route was not covered this year, usually a good area for Pacific wrens, spruce grouse, dippers, chestnut-backed chickadees and kinglets.

Many Field Counters wondered where all the birds were, finding few to no birds on their routes. The data showed that many birds depended on feeders in this cold, windy weather. Town routes were very productive thanks to several very well supplied and active feeders.

The rest of the songbirds apparently spent the day at Ava Eads’ phenomenal feeder off Nash Road. She counted 22 species and 340 birds including: 14 American Tree Sparrows, 160 Pine Grosbeaks, 30 Dark-Eyed Juncos, 10 Oregon Juncos, 40 Redpolls and 12 Pine Siskins. The raptors knew all about her birds. A Merlin and a Sharp-Shinned Hawk popped in to be counted and check for a snack. Ava noted that the siskin and redpoll numbers have been increasing daily over the past week, and this is the most American Tree Sparrows ever. The birds are ravenous, consuming 40 pounds of sunflower seeds a week! Donations are most welcome.

The Boat Crew found an unusual species for Seward, a Red-Throated Loon, which was not seen before or since. Of the 50-60 Pacific Loons seen earlier this winter, only one remained. Seven Common Loons were counted, but no Yellow-Billed Loons, which are usually present. Only two Marbled Murrelets were found, a low number, and no Pigeon Guillemots.

Other species of note: the male Hooded Merganser, 7 Snow Buntings, 1 Gray Jay, 3 Boreal Chickadees, 13 Brown Creepers, 3 White-Crowned Sparrows, 8 Golden-Crowned Sparrows and 31 Gray-Crowned Rosy-Finches.

Carol Griswold

The last bird of the day was the only Great Blue Heron, spotted at 6:30 p.m. by streetlight at the north end of the Lagoon.

Count Week turned up six species including: American Wigeon, Northern Goshawk, Short-Eared Owl, Northern Shrike, Townsend’s Solitaire and Lapland Longspur.

CBC thanks Capt. Mike Brittain of Alaska Explorer Charters for once again donating the use of the Dora, fuel, maintenance, preparation, expertise, and time for the 23-mile ocean route. CBC thanks Wendy for encouraging her two young boys to explore nature and contribute to citizen science. Many thanks to the folks who feed the birds and to everyone for their time, effort and enthusiasm counting birds on a cold, windy day.


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