Warm Sunshine

I was interested to note that back in 2007 on this date I noted that it seemed as though the amount of daylight had suddenly jumped to noticeably longer days. I had a similar feeling today. When I was getting ready to head to class, the sun was already well up, and this evening it remained up for quite a while after I was finished with class. I think it has a lot to do with exceptionally clear skies we had today so it’s bright and clear for the entire time the sun is up.

I this morning after class I went for a walk with a friend doing a 1000 species project this year. I think he is probably going to have more success than I did, because of better tools (he’s using inaturalist to help track), and because he’s much better with marine organisms than I am. Today I helped him get a few of the easier bryophytes and lichens.

After that I met with a visiting birder in town from Ketchikan for the Board of Fish meeting. He introduced me to another birder who has just recently moved to Sitka, and we walked around to do a little birding. It was pretty quiet, but a nice day to be out.

I didn’t get to my sit spot until the sun had set. Venus was out, and as I watched and listened for 10 minutes, I was noticed additional stars (and Mars) fading into view. It’s kind of a strange thing to watch the stars come out, as I have the impression of realizing they are there, but without awareness of them becoming visible (even though just a few moments before, I couldn’t see them). While I was sitting, I heard a robin make an agitated sounding noise. It was coming from the spruce tree on the corner of Park and Biorka. I imagine it was one of several in the tree for the night, but I’m not sure what got it riled up enough to call out.

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Morning Walk to Totem Park

I spent some time down at Totem Park this morning. I had hoped to get a picture of the Spotted Sandpiper that’s been around this winter, but by the time I arrived (a little before 9am), the tide was already out a fair bit. The bird has been seen as far up Indian River as the road bridge, and at various places in the estuary and on the shoreline. Last I saw it was a little over a week ago during high tide at the end of the park.

While walking out on the beach I noticed what I took to be an aerial predator alarm call coming from the woods. It took me a couple of minutes to get back up to the forest edge, and once there, I only heard it a couple more times and was unable to locate the alarming bird. The only time I’ve previously noticed this alarm call is from robins during nesting season when they make it as a response to (nest robbing) ravens. I do not know what was making the call (perhaps a Varied Thrush?) but I suspect it was not as a response to a raven. I did look around in the trees to see if I could spy a goshawk or Sharp-shinned Hawk, but I did not find either of those, so it seems this alarm will remain a mystery for me.

As I was heading back toward the park entrance, I noticed a heron at the edge of what, at a lower tide, would be one of the large tide pools. It was reasonably cooperative and I was able to get some decent photos of it standing as well as catching and eating a fish. A little further down the beach, I was able to get some nice looks at Golden-crowned Kinglets. They’re often kind of difficult to see well, but this small flock was moving through the thick branches along the shoreline, and from time to time one would pop out where I could see it.

On my way home I stopped briefly to get pictures of Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus, a moss that is common found in lawns which I had (apparently) never bothered to photograph before (or it’s buried in the large backlog of yet to be processed photos). I got it into the wiki, and it happened to be my 999th species documented there. Perhaps the next 999 will come a bit more quickly (I first decided to try for 1000 species back in 2007, but my next species in the wiki will be the first time I’ve actually compiled a list of 1000 documented species).

Shortly after 5pm I did my sit. It’s getting distinctly lighter in the late afternoon, it’s easy to not realize how late it is (in the afternoon, anyway) with light now persisting to near 6pm. I think the juncos may have already moved on to their evening roost by the time I started, as I never saw any. A lone (most likely) Song Sparrow flew from brush pile to the salmonberry thicket. Not long after I started sitting I noticed 15+ robins fly up to the alder trees south of me (on the other side of Biorka Street). They mostly remained perched up there for the remainder of my sit (though I saw a couple moving around). I don’t really think this was sentinel behavior, but rather just a gathering up before going to roost. I’m not really sure why they spent so long in the alder, though. A few minutes after my sit was done (perhaps 15-20 minutes after they first flew into the alders), they started flying out, and as best I could tell, they were headed for the spruce tree on the corner of Park and Biorka Street. I sent Rowan on a scouting mission after she got back from her paper route, and she confirmed they were in that spruce tree, mostly being quiet, but occasionally making some noises. She was pretty sure they were in there to roost for the night.

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Pigeon Remains (a mystery)

When I got back from class this morning, Connor asked me if I had seen the pigeon under the porch. I had not, and so went to look with him. Sure enough, there was a pigeon carcass laying there under the stairs. It was in such an obvious place, it seemed nearly impossible that we wouldn’t have seen it yesterday, though where it was laying was not quite in the photo I took yesterday. Connor said it would have shown up in the photo he took yesterday, but it was not there.

As you can see in the picture with this post, the pigeon is partially eaten. It’s not so much a mystery that the remains were not there yesterday, but that they were back there today. I have no idea why something would have brought them back there (or how we could have missed seeing it if it had been there all along).

On another introduced yard animal front, Connor has been wanting to (kill) trap a rat he has seen a couple of times. I don’t want him to accidentally catch a bird, so he has to take some care with where he sets it. Today he found a well-worn run towards the chicken coop and another place where there’s something of a rat latrine. He’s planning to set traps along there, so it will be interesting to see if he meets with success.

Weather today was partly cloudy and calm. For much of the day the sun was shining, and I enjoyed a 10 minute sit on the deck with the sun in my face. It felt novel (and nice) to have my eyes closed and still feel like the sun was almost too bright.

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Kill Site Under the Porch

When I got home from class this afternoon, Connor excitedly relayed that he had just scared a Sharp-shinned Hawk from under the porch. He seen pigeon feathers outside and wanted to check them out, so he stepped outside on to the south porch and was surprised when the hawk flew out from right under him. By the time I arrived a few minutes later, things had settled down a bit, but the hawk was still flying around our part of the neighborhood. I even saw it do a flyover of the house after I went out to start my sit for the day.

It appeared the hawk had probably first caught the pigeon over by the brush pile, then carried it over to consume under the porch. There were quite a few feathers left, but no body when I looked. I’m not sure where the hawk might have carried it off to, whether it did so when it was initially startled by Connor, or whether it came back for it. Connor said he thought he saw the pigeon under there when he first looked, but when he looked later, he didn’t see it. I suppose it’s possible the pigeon wasn’t actually dead and was able to fly away, though I might have expected it to be stunned for a while. Had it the pigeon been carried away by the hawk, I would have thought the hawk wouldn’t have continued flying around the house for so long.

With the hawk activity immediately preceding, I was a little surprised to see the juncos in the yard shortly after I started sitting. At first they were just in the salmonberry thicket along the fence, but it didn’t take long until I saw more flying in from the east side of the house. A few sat perched in the spruce tree (sentinel?) watching before they finally ventured more into the open and started feeding around the brush pile and the feeder Connor built.

Soggy weather continued today. It wasn’t quite as wet as yesterday, but I got pretty wet (or my rain gear did) on a walk through the park this morning. The rain contined through much of the day, but the clouds finally broke a bit this early this evening as the sun was setting. Later I was able to see the moon and stars.

Today was the first time I’ve noticed a blueberry blooming near the Sitka Counseling housing.

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Slime Mold

While working on my photos from a couple of days ago, I noticed some interesting looking structures near the orange polypore. Of course I hadn’t noticed them at the time (in my defense, they were small), but I now wish I had. Fortunately, I had enough resolution that a tight crop showed them reasonably well. Creamy looking droplets on the end of thin black stalks, I believe they are fruiting bodies of a slime mold. This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed something interesting (but small) in photos after I got home. Occasionally I manage to catch such things in the field and get better photos, but not often.

Today there was a lot of rain (2+ inches). I stopped by Moller Park for ultimate, but only ended up staying for a little while to throw. The swans were not out at Starrigavan. I spent a good chunk of the remainder of the day working on some old photos and making progress with summaries for plant species on the wiki.

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Gavan Trail

Although I was not feeling especially motivated, the weather was still pretty decent, with partly cloudy skies giving way to overcast as the morning wore on, so I told Connor and Rowan that we would go up Gavan Trail to the junction with the upper cross trail. When I had last been up that way, I had noticed a bright orange polypore, but did not collect it. It turns out, that in order to get it identified, it needed to be collected, so I figured this would be a good opportunity. At the same location just across the trail, there were some other small fungi growing on the cut end of a log, so I took pictures of them (and made a quick collection).

I checked the ibuttons, and other than a bunch of water that had seeped in to the bags that were supposed to be protecting the ground ibutton, there weren’t any issues. I replaced the rusting wire (so squirrels don’t cut the string, which they had before) with some scrap trolling cable that Connor had. It will be a much simpler process to retrieve data from the ibuttons from here on, so that is nice.

I heard from someone today that the swans had left Starrigavan.

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