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