Rain and Blue Stain


Although there were periodic showers today, I didn’t notice any exceptionally heavy rain. Winds were also calmer than I had expected based on the forecast. Now the big wind and rain is forecast for tomorrow, especially south of Sitka. It will be interesting to see just how much it impacts Sitka. I do enjoy windy weather, although I know there is some risk with strong storms and hope that folks remain safe and relatively unscathed (property-wise) from strong winds and rain.

I’ll need to re-upload the picture I’ve included with today’s post when I get a chance to process my photos right, but liked the blue staining fungus (Chlorociboria sp) with the corroded penny and wanted to share it sooner rather than later. This is one I collected yesterday from the Causeway. It was dry, but freshened up when I sprayed some water on it. The fungus is fairly easy to find as a blue stain on rotting wood, but I’ve so far not managed to find many nice fruiting bodies. They tend to be small and I wanted to include something for scale. Then it occurred to me that an oxidized penny would be fun to include with its very similar color.

I spent some time at the airport today and did see a small flock of juncos but not the White-throated Sparrow.

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Wind and Warmth

After some frosty days, I was a little surprised to step outside this morning and find relatively warm temperatures and only dew on the windshield. I wonder if perhaps there had been enough cloud cover to keep temperatures from dropping quite so much, or maybe the winds shifting in advance of the weather change had brought enough warm air from the south to keep the temperatures up. It was partly cloudy for much of the day, though as the afternoon wore on, the patches of blue sky got smaller and smaller, especially over the water. By this evening when I was out playing ultimate, we even had a brief rain shower. Temperatures were over 60 during the day. It’s funny how warm that feels now even though we’re not that far removed from July and August when such temperatures were the norm. Winds picked up throughout the day, there were some pretty good gusts later this afternoon and this evening.

This morning I stopped along old airport road to see if any birds were hanging out. There were a few juncos and one rather skittish White-throated Sparrow. This afternoon on a trip to the Causeway, we saw a small raptor, my guess is a Merlin, though I only saw it briefly as it flew away. There were also several Horned Grebes, a flock of ~20 Surf Scoters, and some Harlequin Ducks along the shoreline of the Causeway in various places. Around the house we’re seeing quite a few juncos, at least one Steller’s Jay continues to visit, and there are at least two Anna’s Hummingbirds around as well.

The causeway was fun to visit. Until a couple of weeks ago it had been over 20 years sine I had visited the Causeway (which was sort of hard to believe). Where as last time we got out near the end, explored around and then walked back to near Whiting Harbor for pickup, this time we got on the Causeway near Whiting Harbor and walked toward the airport. It was interesting to see how many mushrooms were out. Granted I’ve not been looking around town that much lately, but it sure seemed like there was more abundance out there than what I’ve noticed in town.

Rowan was reluctant to go because it would mean missing story lab (which she really looks forward to every week), but I told her the Causeway was a pretty neat place and I wanted her to be able to see it, even if she missed a week of story lab to do so. In the end, she did enjoy getting out there and seeing the old bunkers we looked in. She wants to go back (on a day other than Wednesday, when story lab takes place) to explore the rest of the Causeway. Connor is excited to go on pretty much any outing, so it didn’t take any convincing for him to want to go.

I did take some pictures today, but it will be a while before I can really get them posted. I got a call from the repair center and they said the part needed to fix my computer is on back order and not expected in until next week.

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Sunny Update

When I last posted a week ago, we were in the middle of some stormy weather and finishing up a very wet month. The airport did end up getting over 17 inches for the month, but as forecast, the sun showed up as we finished the week, and there’s been some very nice sunny and relatively cool nights and warm days since. With so little sun in September, I wouldn’t be surprised if it did not frost at all. In any case, the first frost I saw was last Friday.

The reprieve from fall rains appears to be over starting tomorrow, with over an inch of rain forecast for Thursday.

Not much to report for birds over the past week, but I got a couple of reports about an Osprey. The first report was from the end of Silver Bay near the Green Lake outfall. A couple of days later another report of one from Salmon Lake, so I wonder if they were the same bird. Osprey are not reported every year from Sitka, but I suspect they move through in small numbers, especially in the Fall.

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Stormy Update

I’ve been a little quiet here recently. It’s been due to a mixture of things, including some busy times with work, a head cold that laid me out, and finally my main computer (and the one I process pictures on) dying late last week. I think work will (hopefully) stabilize, the cold has mostly run its course, and the computer was under warranty (though it will take a week or two before I get it back), so I’ll try to get back to posting more regularly soon.

I was inspired this evening by the sound of rain hitting the windows and doors on the south side of my house. Looking at the current weather conditions, I see it it’s blowing out of the south at 20-25 with gusts near 40mph. We’re currently in a flood warning through tomorrow, but so far rain hasn’t really been steady enough to really get the river rising. Stepping outside, it feels surprisingly warm. The temperature is currently (at 9:30pm) 55F, so warm for this time of year, especially at night. Looking at the satellite imagery, it’s not hard to see where this warmth is coming from, as a band of clouds extends starting well to the southwest of here is pushing up through our region. It’s interesting to also see the mostly clear skies behind this weather front (seemingly wrapping around the same low pressure center, if I’m understanding correctly), which maybe will be the source of the sunny weather forecast for later in the week extending into next week. It’s been a wet month (over 16 inches so far, and given the current conditions, we’ll likely get over 17 before all is said and done – this compared to the average of 11.38 inches for the month), and the last day that rated as partly cloudy was back on the 8th (I’m sure I’ve seen some sun since then, however).

With heavy clouds like we’ve seen lately, the reduction in daylight hours has been almost startling. Of course we’ve passed the equinox, so we’re getting fewer than 12 hours of daylight anyway, but when it seems like dusk is starting nearly an hour before the schedule sunset time, it sure enhances the sense of shortening days.

Bird-wise, the waterfowl have started to move through in greater numbers. A flock of Snow Geese was reported by at least a couple of people flying low along the shoreline of the road system. Connor chased them down as far as he could follow, but lost site of them when he had to walk the trails at Totem Park.

Other interesting birds include a Black-headed Grosbeak that was first reported over the weekend, and a Western Tanager out near SeaMart that was present for at least two days. I was able to see the grosbeak (my third), but not the tanager (still haven’t seen that one, though this was at least my third attempt to follow up on a report).

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Fungi and More along Lower Gavan Trail(s)

After yesterday’s strong winds and soaking rain (4.37 inches at the airport), it was nice to get up and find calm conditions with a light overcast that even had a couple of minor patches of blue showing through. I don’t know that I would say it ever actually got sunny, but the clouds were thin enough that it was possible to feel the warmth of the sun directly at times.

After teaching class this morning and getting a couple of pressing things done for my other work, I caught up with Noah, Alissa, and Kitty who were looking for fungi off of the lower Gavan trail. This was the first time I had been up there since all of the boardwalk and such on the old trail had been removed, and it was much less convenient to get to some of the places that have had a nice diversity of mushrooms in the past not far off the trail. The bigger issue is that this seems to be a relatively poor fall for mushroom fruiting (whether they fruited earlier, or not at all so far, I’m not sure). We eventually made it to the Cross trail, explored around off that a little bit in the older growth stuff (also lacking in mushrooms) and then walked along the Cross trail towards the high school. We saw where the new connector trail from Baranof Street and Pherson street trailheads will come in. It’s not yet completed, but we made our way through the relatively short section of felled trees marking the trail route (it appears these are used as a base, covered with geofabric, then shot rock and finally topped with D1 gravel). Before long we found the end of the current shot rock work, and from there the walking was easy. No one was working on it today, so we didn’t have to do any side trips to avoid the construction.

I was a little surprised to see some pink salmon in a very small streamlet (maybe a couple of feet across). Perhaps recent high water allowed them to access areas that normally would be blocked. I am pretty sure this stream ultimately drains into Peterson Creek, but it might be interesting to follow it down. I have my doubts about how successful these salmon will be in reproducing, as the stream bottom appeared to be mud/organic rather than the sand and gravel it seems like the eggs need to develop well.

On the bird side of things there were several Steller’s Jays around, and I also heard an Anna’s Hummingbird at one point while I was up there. I am not sure if it was the same bird that is regularly visiting a feeder here at the house. Connor successfully got the Steller’s Jay that’s being flying through our neighborhood to realize he had peanuts to offer. Previous attempts at leaving them on the deck rail to be found by the jay were thwarted by crows.

(more photos to come)

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Heavy Rain

By the time a new day begins, it looks like over 4 inches of rain will have fallen at the airport in the 24 hours making up this calendar date. Over 3 inches of it had fallen by 2pm, causing Indian River to swell, but nowhere near what happened during the intense rain which caused the landslides last month. One of these days maybe I’ll sit down and do some back-of-the-envelope math approximations to get an idea of how much water needs to flow out of Indian River to keep up with different rainfall rates, but it is interesting to me how much rain can fall without actually make the river flood (even though levels rise up significantly).

I spent very little time outside today, between classes, calls for work, and recording a conversation for a future radio show, I just had a chance to look around briefly as I was moving between locations. I did stop by Indian River briefly this afternoon and the levels were near flood stage. From the stream gauge I could see the water rose another few inches later in the day, but I’m not yet sure how high. The current forecast for tomorrow is a much lower chance of rain with cloud covers below 100%, so I imagine the water levels will drop significantly once the heaviest of the rain stops late tonight (unless the forecast is wrong, of course).

Connor reported seeing a Townsend’s Warbler today. It seems like it’s getting on towards the end of their time here, though it’s by no means a late date for them. I’ve been seeing at least one male Anna’s Hummingbird and another (probably Anna’s) hummingbird visit the feeder regularly. The junco flock continues to grow, and Connor let me know he saw both White-crowned Sparrow and Golden-crowned Sparrow juveniles visiting the yard.

This afternoon I was able to speak with Noah Siegel and Alissa Allen and record a conversation for an upcoming show. Noah is in town to give a talk (which took place this evening) and Alissa will do a mycopigment workshop this weekend. The talk was about fungi of Alaska and I found it pretty interesting. It was also pretty fascinating to see how many different colors various mushrooms could dye wool or silk. Another tidbit of information I learned (that I don’t want to forget) is that the fungal species in a forest can be very different as forests go from young growth to old growth. I think it would be interesting to learn more about that.

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