Friday, September 13, 2013 Seward's Three Western Tanagers, Hummer, and Cedar Waxwing
Another exciting day, birding berry heaven in Seward!
Three WESTERN TANAGERS have now been identified. Using Sibley's Guide to Birds, one is likely a pale adult female, another is likely a bright adult female. The third, and one that eluded yours truly, is a bright yellow nonbreeding male. All three were seen at various times throughout the day by multiple observers. It is possible that there could be more, spread around town.
Of historic interest, Lee Post photographed a WESTERN TANAGER in Homer on June 8th and 10th in 1987, verified by George West, and published in American Birds, Volume 41, Number 3. At the time, it was noted as new to South-central Alaska, and the 4th record anywhere west of SE Alaska.
I noticed the TANAGERS spent a lot of time manipulating the red Mt Ash berries, separating the pulp from the seeds, and, I believe, eating the seeds and discarding the pulp. The Robins and Varied Thrushes just gobble the whole berry right down. The Tanagers were also observed eating Serviceberries, but as the birds were barely visible in the thicket, I could not tell if they ate just the seeds or the pulp.
The whole town is probably a hot spot; there are so many Mt Ash trees! Look for birds flying from one tree to another to get to the scene of the action. One hot spot is at the corner of A and Fifth Ave. Glass through the Mt Ash, birch tree, serviceberry hedge, and adjacent Mt Ash trees to the north. Binoculars yield a lot more action than just casual looking.
Another hot spot is the large Sitka Willow and tall Mt Ash at the corner of Monroe and Sixth. This is where the CEDAR WAXWING has been spotted consistently. Today, it sat contentedly in the middle of the willow, preening. When it looked down at me, it looked like it was wearing designer sunglasses. Very cool looking dude! ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS and RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS flitted through, gleaning insects and spiders off the leaves and twigs. Also check all along Fifth Avenue between these two spots.
Just west on Monroe, along the alley between Fifth and Fourth, check for CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES, LINCOLN'S SPARROW, FOX SPARROW, and SONG SPARROW. Cruise along the alleys from A to Jefferson Street, between 6th and 4th.
Two MERLINS birded with hungry passion and chased each other at high speed when not swooping around the block or perched at the top of a spruce spire. Most bird activity immediately ceased when the Merlin visited.
If you get tired of waiting for life to resume, and want to see another area, check out the Mt Ash trees along Second Avenue by AVTEC, between Monroe and C Street and on the north side of the building and in the parking lot behind. It's not far away, but can be inundated with ROBINS, VARIED THRUSHES, and other birds in the trees and on the ground. GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROWS were found here on a rooftop. WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS may be on the ground. It is astounding how many birds there are!
Another great find today was the HUMMINGBIRD that Ken and Connie found, silhouetted against the sky. We were unable to refind it, but noticed several lilacs still in bloom, and many nasturtiums and other flowers in flowerbeds and hanging baskets. Keep an eye out for a possible Anna's this late in the season.
During the feast, a ROBIN burst out in sweet song, either unable to contain his joy, or attempting to claim the whole paradise for himself and his kin. I don't blame him!
Good luck and Happy Birding!
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter
PS Bring rain gear, just in case...
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