Winter Birding Hotspot: Seward!

Despite the bitter cold and ferocious north wind, about 50 birders beelined to Seward this weekend to look for the rare  Siberian Accentor. Fairbanks, Palmer, Eagle River, Anchorage, Moose Pass, Cooper Landing, Kenai, Soldotna, Homer, Juneau, Kodiak and probably other towns, were all represented.

It was quite a winter adventure. Two drove all the way from Fairbanks, enjoying the northern lights en route. Others drove through white-out conditions along Turnagain Arm, temporarily blinded whenever a semi passed. Several remarked on the beauty of the Scenic Highway and the scenery surrounding Seward.

First Avenue north of the hospital looked like a block party with cars and trucks parked all along both sides. Warmly dressed birders from 11 to 80 years old scanned the mountainside through their binoculars and spotting scopes. First another uncommon bird from Asia, a Brambling, was spotted on the green moss by the cliffs. Then the sparrow-sized Siberian Accentor popped up nearby. Most, but not all, got quick glimpses of the small masked bird, as it scratched for frozen insects and spiders under the spruce trees and brush. This is the first documented Siberian Accentor found in Seward and one of the few recorded on the Southcentral road system, saving many an expensive trip to Gambell or the Pribilofs. It is listed as “casual” on the Checklist of Alaska Birds, a category even more unusual than “rare.”

If you watched the movie, “The Big Year”, you will understand why these sane and accomplished people took time and effort to get to Seward and stand around in the freezing weather to check off another fabulous Life Bird. “Ching!”  Seward is becoming a real hotspot for winter birding with the 2011 Redwing, the 2012 Bramblings, and now the 2013 Siberian Accentor. If businesses are wise, they will welcome this winter business and bring some “Ka-Ching!” to their cash registers!

Happy Birding!


Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter http://sporadicbird.blogspot.com/





  1. I see on today’s photos your water mark, Carol Griswold. Do you have and relation in Dilworth MN. That isn’t the most common name going. I was just wondering. I like the photos. The smaller the bird the bigger the glass

  2. Carol,
    How would some one go about reporting a rare bird in Alaska?
    I have seen a few in my times that I couldn’t find in a book.

  3. To Ted,

    No, I’m not related to the Griswolds in MN. Glad you enjoyed the photos.

    To jna,

    It’s really helpful to document any unusual birds with a photo, or find someone to help you document it. A really, really good description will attract other birders to help. You can contact me at c_griz@yahoo.com and I will try to help. I recommend the National Geographic Field Guide to American Birds as it does include many of our rare birds. The more eyes the better to find these rarities!

    I also try to report the recent local bird sightings with photos on my blog at http://sporadicbird.blogspot.com.

    Happy Birding!

  4. So awesome, thank you for posting. Always wonderful to hear your reports on the bird. Thank you

  5. COOL!!! Birds are AWESOME and I’m glad to see birding is becoming more popular in Seward! It’s a true hot-spot of great wildlife viewing on all levels – bears to birds and everything in between~

  6. Carol, what a great shot (pardon the pun) of winter visitors for Seward! Hope they all had a great time, and will come again next year. I really liked the movie ‘The big year’! Gave me many smiles and laughs and I now understand a little better about the passion of ‘birding’. Think it’s on netflix right now and it’s family friendly.

  7. It’s always great to see birders get together and getting excited about making that next life list discovery. Great photos!

  8. We feed the birds but the neighbors do not not keep their cats in so they are getting some of the birds.. I feel bad,maybe I should take down the feeders. What do you think? Jackie

    • It’s a shame that loose cats are allowed to roam outside, trespass on your property, use your garden for a litter box, kill songbirds, and take away your hobby of bird-watching.

      This is a problem nation-wide. The impact of cats on songbird populations is staggering. Many cat owners now understand that their beloved cat will live longer and be healthier if kept indoors, safe from predators, diseases, and other dangers. Some build exclosures so the cat can enjoy the outside without impacting it. But far too many think it is fine to just let their cat outside, unaware or not willing to accept responsibility for what happens.

      If you are unable to convince your neighbors to keep their cat home, you are allowed to live-trap trespassing cats and deliver them to Animal Control. Sometimes the inconvenience and potential fine encourages the cat owner to restrain their animal.

      You could also put an exclosure around your feeders made of 5 or 6′ high wire fencing to keep unwanted cats, feral rabbits, and dogs out. I wrapped my fence exclosure around an old trampoline frame and it works well.

      Cat owners who won’t keep their cats indoors could buy or make a cat bib that prevents the cat from catching birds. Directions to make your own are on the internet at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dreisiger/sets/72157622626585783. There are several places to purchase the cat bibs on line, such as

      There are many other ideas on the ‘net. It will take a cultural change to recognize that a happy cat is an indoor cat and it is not OK to let them loose outside.

      I hope this helps. Your delightful bird feeders provide a lot of enjoyment to you and many other birders.

      Carol Griswold

  9. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that while trapping your neighbors cats and turning them over to Animal Control is an action you can legally take, it makes you a total jerk.

    The problem isn’t pet cats. Songbirds wouldn’t be killed by pet cats — whose presence among human societies is literally a constant over the course of the past few thousand years — if they weren’t being baited with food into areas where predators are known to inhabit.

    Songbirds are safe from pet cats in hundreds of thousands of acres of land surrounding this town where they are not receiving food from human hands.

    Oh, and for the record, I don’t own a cat OR feed birds. I just think it’s ridiculous to get so up in arms over something that you are also partially responsible for.

    One last thing: PLEASE DO NOT PUT A BIB, A COLLAR OR ANYTHING ELSE AROUND A CAT’S NECK. Cats are notorious for getting strangled to death when a collar catches on something. Never put a collar on your cat.