March 23, 2006

Birding Seward

The seabirds recently discovered that one of the canneries in town has been busy bringing in some fish, so they've begun to congregate just south of the Alaska Sealife Center. This afternoon, Sonja and I stopped by with a spotting scope to look for a couple uncommon visitors this close to shore. After scanning the flocks of gulls, mergansers and assorted ducks we finally managed to zero in on a beautiful pair of Ancient Murrelets. These tiny little birds spend 99% of their life at sea, only coming ashore to lay and incubate their eggs. Once the chicks hatch, they make a mad dash over logs and through bushes, into the surf, and then finally out to their calling parents, who have been swimming farther and farther out to sea calling for the chicks the entire time.

There's a fantastic clip of this exact behavior in an episode of David Attenborough's Life of Birds series, from the BBC. I would strongly recommend watching this entire series, if you haven't seen it. One of the best documentaries ever.

While we were looking for the murrelets, we ran into one of the local birders we hadn't met yet. Birders are a strange bunch. They tend to be incredibly hospitable. I've even had experiences where total strangers have invited me along on their own birding adventures, just to share the experience and have another set of eyes to keep watch for interesting species. They also tend to talk about each other alot...but not in a Melrose Place sort of way. This was demonstrated by the fact that this guy knew who we were, where we lived and what we did for work. He was rather excited to have finally met us.

I also find it interesting how blase' we're becoming about marine mammals while living here. I noticed a couple Stellar's sea lions swimming around while we were looking at the birds, and neither myself nor Sonja even commented on them, let alone take the time to look at them through the spotting scope. And the other day I was out watching the Crested Auklet that's been hanging around when these two women from Florida stopped to see what I was looking at. I started talking about how cool the auklets were and offering to let them look through the scope when they told me they were really only interested in watching the sea otter swimming around right below me that I hadn't even noticed. I think I even said something like, "Oh, yeah. That's an otter." Then went back to looking at the auklet.

Ok, there. I made a blog entry about birds. Now hopefully I can get those stupid oil spill ads to go away and perhaps be replaced by something more neater. I figure between this bird post and the whole skunk ape thing yesterday, I should be able to come up with some pretty nifty ads.

We'll see...

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