Afternoon Showers

Occasional showers seemed to be the weather for today. This morning there was some hail associated with them, but later in the afternoon it was just rain. With the low angle sun, if there’s enough of a break in the clouds between showers it can make for some dramatic lighting. I missed some during a brief walk at the park, but stopped to take pictures of the showers out over the sound when I was out by Sandy Beach this afternoon.

There are still a few yellowed leaves on the red huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium) bushes along the trail in the park. I feel like there’s an at least semi-interesting photo there somewhere, and would like to try and find one before the leaves are all gone. At the very least it would be nice to document the phenomenon.

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Yax̱latit Noow

A prominent feature at the north end of a long sandy beach, Yax̱latit Noow looks out over the northern lobe of Sitka Sound

Over the past few years one of my side projects has been to try and learn to speak/understand Tlingit. There is an active group of enthusiastic learners and teachers of the language in the region, which I am gratified to be a part of. I am sure everyone has their own motivations for engaging in this effort, and for me it is an outgrowth of my interest in natural history. One especially interesting (to me) resource that has been published is Haa Léelk’w Hás Aaní Saax’ú: Our Grandparents’ Names on the Land, an atlas of native place names around Southeast Alaska. The Sitka area has an especially rich collection, which, as I understand it, is due in part to some early (for this project) work to document place names with Charlie Joseph in the early 1980s.

Yax̱latit Noow is at the location called Kamenoi Point on current charts (though strictly speaking I’m not sure they are entirely equivalent – depending on the fuzziness of how feature names are applied). In Tlingit, as I understand it, Noow refers to a fortified place. This can apply both to constructed forts as well as rocky hills along a shoreline that presumably would have provided advantages in defending against attack. An example of the former type would be Shisk’i Noow, the fort at what is now Sitka National Historical Park. It was built to defend against the Russians after the Russian outpost at Old Sitka was destroyed. A more well recognized local example of the latter would be Noow Tlein, more widely known as Castle Hill. Although you wouldn’t know it now, it was formerly a tidewater island.

I do not know if every feature named as a noow actually was the sight of some sort of fort or defended location, nor do I know if Yax̱latit Noow in particular may have been associated with a settlement of some sort. I do suspect that in centuries past, it probably had less attachment with the main part of Kruzof Island. In the picture below you can see young spruce trees growing up in the gap between the hill and the forests of the main island. Relative sea level has been dropping for some time (due mainly to tectonic uplift and isostatic rebound), and it seems likely that within my lifetime or not long before, Yax̱latit Noow was regularly completely surrounded by water at high tides.

As for the name, Yax̱latit Noow is translated as Drifting ashore fort in the book. It’s easy to imagine this might associated with a story (as many names are), but I don’t know whether it is or not.

If anyone knows more about this or other names in this area, I would be grateful to learn more.

Gap between Yax̱latit Noow and main part of Kruzof Island. As the Young Spruce trees grow, this gap is likely to disappear

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Swan Lake Fog and Ducks, Sunset Colors

On my way back from Tlingit class this afternoon, I stopped by Swan Lake to see what might be around. The ice seems to be completely gone, but there was still some fog lingering on the surface of the lake. The male Green-winged Teal was on the peninsula, unusually tolerant for that species, but it ultimately took off before I was able to get a picture of it (originally I had not intended to because the light was pretty dim, but as it continued to stick around even though I was fairly close, I thought maybe I should go ahead and try – it was not long after that it took off).

This evening (later afternoon, really) the sunset developed some pretty intense colors. Before that, I enjoyed watching the changing light on a large cloud formation to the south. As the sun dropped different elements and their associated textures became illuminated.

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A couple of weeks back I had stopped to watch for the Northern Mockingbird and before it showed up, noticed some interesting looking growths. It looked like an overgrown mold (the tallest structures were probably 4-5 cm), so I figured it must be some sort of mold-related fungus. After sending the pictures to a friend, I was pointed in the direction of a zygomycete. Zygomycota is a phylum of fungi that does include some of the molds (‘mold’ doesn’t really apply to any particular taxonomic group, rather it includes things from various different fungal groups). A cursory reading of the wikipedia page reveals several interesting characteristics of some members of this phylum (including a genus that follows the sun and explosively ejects spores). With only 1060 species known world-wide, I don’t imagine there are too many options that are likely to occur here, but I have no idea where to start with getting an identification.

For fun I’ll let folks guess what these were growing from. Feel free to leave your ideas in the comments and I’ll post an update to this post after a while.

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I have seen bats only at dusk or later – so cool t…

I have seen bats only at dusk or later – so cool to see daylight bat photos from Jen and Rick @ Baranof Warm Springs.…

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Yellow Warbler and Fly

Mid-November is very late in the year for a Yellow Warbler to be around. When Rowan and I spent some time watching one she had spotted last week, it was very actively looking for food. It was funny to see its response to a rather large house fly (at least that’s what I’ve always called them) that flew up and landed near where it was foraging. I think in the end it probably decided the fly was not going to be catch-able, but it sure attracted the bird’s attention.

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