Sitka Nature Show #146 – Seri Robinson


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The December 10th show featured a conversation with Dr. Seri Robinson, expert on spalted wood. She was in town to give a talk as part of the natural history seminar series. You can learn more about spalted wood at her Northern Spalting website.

If you have questions or observations you want to share, please feel free to leave a comment here or on the page I’ve set up for that purpose.

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Dusky Thrush

While standing near the Crescent Harbor shelter visiting with another local birder and waiting to help move some stuff with a friend, I noticed a bird perched in a shrub over across by the sea walk.

Song Sparrows are common at that location, but I could see enough even without binoculars to tell it probably wasn’t one of those.

Taking a look through binoculars, I could see enough to think it was a probably a thrush, but despite trying, I couldn’t quite turn it into any sort of thrush I would expect to see here, especially this time of year.

It deserved a closer look.

Even the brief glance I got as I got a little closer (before it flew down out of my view) was enough for me to call back to the others to let them know it was a bird they probably wanted to get a look at.

I’m not up on my Asian thrushes, but I was pretty sure this was one of the handful that are at least vaguely robin-like.

A very cooperative bird, over the 1+ hours we watched it, it primarily spent time eating rose hips off a feral rose bush growing in the rocks between the sidewalk and the harbor. At one point it did fly across Lincoln Street and spent a little time in the yard of the Hanlon-Osbakken House, and an even shorter time in the yard of the Russian Bishop’s house, before returning to its favored corner in the harbor.

This is the first reported Dusky Thrush for Sitka. In the region it looks like they have also been reported previously in Juneau and Petersburg.

Hopefully this bird stick around for a little bit, but if not, it was a nice one to see on this crisp sunny day between extended periods of warmer and rainy weather.

Thanks to David K., Kitty L., and Connor G. for helping keep an eye on the bird for the hour we watched it (and helping many others to get a look at it). It was great to have so many folks, both birders and curious passers-by, get a good look at this bird (it helps when the vagrant shows up near a popular walking location).

Thanks also to Brad B. for helping me out with an id after I texted him a photo.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Sitka Nature Show #145 – Zach LaPerriere


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The November 26th show featured a conversation with Sitka-based woodworker Zach LaPerriere. We talked about spalted wood and an upcoming talk by Dr. Sara Robinson, as well as his process for creating bowls, and what he learns about the wood he uses and the history of the trees that provided the wood. Zach has a website where you can see many of the bowls he has created.

If you have questions or observations you want to share, please feel free to leave a comment here or on the page I’ve set up for that purpose.

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Blustery Winds

Officially temperatures warmed significantly overnight and through day, but gusty winds out of the east made that less seem less than obvious to me.

Connor found the Purple Finch around mid-morning on Etolin Street today. Later in the day he checked Swan Lake and found a second coot had joined the one that has been there for a week or two.

My outside time consisted of taking pictures of an Anna’s Hummingbird while it perched between visits to the feeder followed by a walk down to the breakwater.

Around midafternoon as the sun was dropping low, it found a break in the clouds and for a brief time shone on the favored perch of one of the male Anna’s Hummingbird that visits our feeders. The magenta flash of its gorget in the warm light is always impressive to me.
Despite an official (at the airport) temperature approaching 40 this afternoon, there was little evidence that ice was melting as I walked down to the harbor. 

Cold swirling gusts were made visible by the leaf litter and other debris pushed in circles over the pavement before coming to rest.

The end of the breakwater was more exposed, but still largely in the windshadow of the mountains. In the distance beyond the point of Totem Park, I could see the choppy waves capped with white where the wind was blowing more steadily out of Silver Bay.

Forecast for the remainder of the week (and maybe into next) is rain, so this may have been the last dry day for a while.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Cold Day, Channel Birds

Clear and calm overnight resulted in the coldest night (and day) so far this season. 

Although the sun was shining for the first half of the day, clouds started moving over this afternoon.

I did not spend too much time outside, but did get out on an afternoon boat trip around the causeway and back through the channel. We cruised slowly, but did not see much in the way of bird life until going through the channel.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Purple Finch

I took a short walk around the neighborhood around noon after dropping my dad off at the airport. I saw no sign of the Purple Finch, though other birds (juncos, primarily) seemed to be acting a little strange. I’m not sure what was going on, but some of them seemed a little agitated.

This afternoon I was walking down to the harbor to help move something and happened to notice the Purple Finch in a mountain ash (Sorbus aucuparia) tree eating berries. Fortunately I had my camera (for just this reason), and was able to grab a couple of photos before continuing on to the harbor.

The bird was still in the same trees eating berries a little while later on my way back home, but it wasn’t long before it flew off. I did talk to one of the residents of the house who said he had seen the bird on at least one morning previously, but did not know what it was.

It’s not clear to me where the bird is spending most of its time (I’ve checked the same trees many other times in the past week without seeing it), but based on what I saw today, it seems like a good idea to focus on mountain ash trees, or other lingering fruit on ornamental trees/shrubs in the neighborhoods between Jeff Davis and downtown (and perhaps even further away).

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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