Windy Day

I woke up this morning hearing the wind blow through the trees. It was only intermittently gusty at the house, but when I was down near the water a couple of different times during the day, I saw that it was a pretty steady strong breeze raising white caps. I was also struck by the sculpted look of the clouds – perhaps some could even be considered lenticular clouds, but it was difficult for me to capture what I was seeing in a photo that effectively conveyed a similar sense.

Connor and Rowan checked on the dipper nest at the Sawmill Creek Road bridge, and said the dippers were still active there. They told me they saw the dippers mating and had a picture of one dipper doing some sort of courtship routine. I kind of wish I had gone down there (perhaps with a tripod). It would have been interesting to see and possibly get some video of the courtship activities.

They also checked on the wren nest I found yesterday and said there was still active work happening on it.

The tide was fairly high while I was down at the park, and I only saw one Greater Yellowlegs, and no other shorebirds. There was a report of Marbled Godwits at the Rec however (also, a report of an Orange-crowned Warbler yesterday at Biorka Island – a very early occurrence for town – but perhaps they show up earlier out there).

Hummingbirds have not been visiting our feeder consistently, but a walk around the corner this evening revealed where they are – a couple of neighbors on Etolin Sttreet have at least 5 or 6 feeders up between them, and I saw/heard several hummingbirds actively chasing each other and visiting the feeders.

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Walk around Totem Park

I took a walk around Totem Park this morning to check on flowers and shorebirds. New for the season was Fern-leaf Goldthread (Coptis asplenifolia) blooming in the spot where they grow behind the maintenance area. It had been a few days since I last checked there, so they probably came up a couple of days ago.

On the way down toward the foot bridge, I happened to note a Pacific Wren foraging on a good-sized spruce (Picea sitchensis). It was acting almost like a Brown Creeper at times. The whole story of the wren(s) deserves its own post, so I’ll save the rest for that, except to note that I did find a nest actively being worked on.

Down at the beach, the tide was out pretty far. I did see 7 Black-bellied Plovers. There were also quite a few Bald Eagles out on the flats. In front of the Visitor Center, the ducks were still hanging out (including the hybrid.

Later in the day I stopped by Swan Lake briefly. There weren’t many ducks in sight. Perhaps some have moved on (or are sticking to the park to feed on the herring eggs) and others are nesting and staying out of sight. One American Coot was still around.

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Mountain Snow

This year has not been a good one for mountain snow. The warm January and extended periods of dry weather throughout the winter and early spring appear to have resulted relatively low snow pack, as these two shots taken on the same day of the year this year (top) and in 2011 (bottom) show. I don’t recall 2011 being a particularly heavy snow year by standards of the past decade.

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First of Season Shorebirds

Shorebirds have been showing up over the past few days, but today was the first time I got good looks at any that aren’t typically seen over wintering in the area. There was a single Black-bellied Plover (though 3 were reported yesterday, I didn’t get a chance to see them), a couple of Dunlin, and a couple of Greater Yellowlegs.

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Winter Moods

I think the interaction of mountains, clouds, snow, and light have many different moods, but some recur in such a way that they become familiar and recognizable. Last week I had that feeling of recognition which caused me to stop and take a couple of pictures as I was heading in to class over at UAS.

The fresh snow on the mountains fading with the still falling snow to the grayness of the clouds behind. With colors muted at best in the dim light, the technically green coniferous forest seems to run through shades of gray, from the dark slate gray of the lower slopes to a lighter ashy color where a thin layer of snow rests on the branches. A thicker layer of clouds overhead makes a darker band to match the darkness of the snow-free trees at lower elevations, providing a frame for the relative brightness of the snowy reaches.

This is one of the darker winter moods in Sitka. It’s not the darkest, I would say that distinction goes to those days of exceptionally heavy, mountain obscuring overcast where, especially in December and January, the low elevation sun can push so little light through the clouds that the ‘day’ is not much more than an extended gloomy dusk. Rather, this mood is the one where the clouds are a bit thinner, or the sun is a bit higher, the snow visible on the mountains lends a little more brightness, but there is still a sense of chilling dampness.

Sometimes it’s not clear why a relatively common occurrence resonates in a particular way, but I think in this instance it was because it’s getting late in the year for this mood to show up. Indeed, as the sun rose higher later in the morning, the mood largely dissipated. Unless there is another last glimpse some morning, It will probably be November before I see it again.

I suspect there are many other moods I recognize, but for whatever reason I just haven’t usually thought about in those terms. I’ll try to pay more attention going forward and see what I notice. I’m also curious what moods others recognize. Feel free to share in the comments.

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Spring Birds and Moths

Despite overcast and light rain, I decided to see if the hybrid duck would be up along the shore with the high tide around noon. It was there, but never came particularly close to me during the time I spent on the beach. At one point I saw over a dozen American Robins fly up to the trees from down the beach, and there were several Varied Thrushes calling from the forest behind me. A few Ruby-crowned Kinglets were singing in various places, but I was a little surprised to see half a dozen or more flitting about the large-ish willow near the ceramics building on the Sheldon Jackson campus. They are constantly moving, so hard to get pictures of, but I managed to get a handful I decided were worth keeping.

During my time out today, I noticed at least four different species of moths, Epirrita pulchraria, Cladara limitaria, Anticlea vasiliata, and a Eupithecia sp.

Today was also the first day I saw a salmonberry blooming, though as I write this, I can’t remember where I saw it. I guess that’s why I record observations as I wander, it will be in the database for future reference. There are also many plants getting going, including a bunch that look like seedlings on the beach. I suspect they are Atriplex, but they’re coming in thicker than I might have guessed, and it makes me wonder how so many seeds managed to not get washed away by the high winter tides. Perhaps they aren’t really seedlings? Now that I’m reflecting on this, I wish I had taken some pictures, so hopefully I get back down there before things get too far along.

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