Seward day trip

Last Saturday, a friend and I decided to get one last day trip in to Seward before winter comes in earnest. And wow, did we pick a beautiful day to do it.

Sunrise over the Chugach from Lake Spenard en route to my friend’s house.

It was a gorgeous drive. Seward is about 2-2 1/2 hours away on the Seward Highway from Anchorage which passes a fjord, mountain passes, wilderness. In Resurrection Bay we saw sea otters, harbor seals, and sea lions. We even managed to get a little time in Seward with the top down on the car, which is really great for birding when you may need to look up to see what’s soaring above you. (Bald eagles, mostly).

The trumpeter swans have been migrating en masse so we saw bunches of them at Potter Marsh and at almost all the ponds en route. I always think they’re so graceful, and then I see one come in for a landing and think “not so much.” DSCN2429

But once they’re on the water they really are beautiful. And I always love to see the ducks surrounding them, benefiting from all the stuff floating to the surface when the swans get into feeding. Mostly mallards, but a couple of wigeons, including a male in full breeding plumage (I think he, like me, is in full denial of winter coming).

Trumpeter swans, mallards, and an American wigeon

A visit to Seward is always made complete for me by a visit to the Alaska SeaLife Center. We did one of the behind-the-scenes tours this time, mostly to get somewhat closer to one of their rehab otters. Though we didn’t get to play with/touch them, which is probably for the best since they have some serious teeth and an often nasty disposition, learning a few extra details about the rehab/rescue program at the SeaLife Center was fascinating. I really can’t recommend this place enough.

And here’s a few photos and one video from the Center’s aviary. My friend nearly got taken out by a red-legged kittiwake that strafed her. Which is not completely uncommon, but this one came a lot closer than most do. We decided that maybe the kittiwakes were just having an attitudinal day. The one pictured below was really full of vim: it swam up to the male smew who was resting on a log partway out of the water and started pulling on his tail feathers. The smew, clearly discommoded, moved higher on the log as the kittiwake paddled off a ways and then came back in for another tail pulling. I was laughing way too hard to get any video, sorry. I’m not sure what the kittiwake’s issue was, but it left the female smew alone, and her napping place was a lot more within its reach.

Red-legged kittiwake with an attitude problem. In eclipse plumage.
Pigeon guillemots in eclipse plumage.

The pigeon guillemots were also being a little attitudinal. Verbally, at least. It was ear-piercing. You have been warned, you may not want to turn up the volume on this video. Thankfully the phone doesn’t capture it at full volume.

I didn’t need my hearing in that register anyway. (seriously, I finally had to leave the aviary because the guillemots’ noise was hurting my ears too badly.)

And here’s the sum-up for birds for the day (the ones not at the SeaLife Center aviary): trumpeter swans, black-billed magpies. Steller’s jays, mallards, song sparrows, American wigeons, bald eagles, chestnut-backed chickadees, red-breasted nuthatches, glaucous-winged gulls, double-crested cormorants, and harlequin ducks.

At the SeaLife Center aviary, we saw red-legged kittiwakes, horned and tufted puffins, pigeon guillemots, black oystercatchers, common murres, king eiders, long-tailed ducks, and smews.


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