Windy Day with Mountain Snow

It’s been a busy week for, me, with little time outside.

Mostly the weather has cooperated (i.e., not made me feel too bad about staying inside to work), though the clouds did open up from time to time to let some direct sun through.

So far this year I don’t think there has been a single day since the sun started dropping below the horizon far enough to the south that it was no longer behind Kruzof Island where the horizon has been clear. There have been a few days where it was mostly clear around the time of sunset, but there has not been much opportunity to chase a green flash.

Temperatures have been relatively warm, though a couple of days dipped into the 30s, and snow levels dropped a bit.

A couple of time this year when I have noticed another peak that looks like it is north of Annahootz, and I decided to stop today and get a picture.

The peak is less dramatic looking in profile than Annahotz, but it has stood out with the amount of snow there appears to be covering it. Looking on the map, I suspect it is a 4300+ ft peak that rises over the Fish Bay watershed. It may be standing out due in part to lighting, but it’s enough higher, more north and further inland, that it also wouldn’t surprise me if it just has more snow.

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Morning Downtown

This morning there were blue skies around the sun rise, though considering the lack of any frost, I am guessing the clouds must have parted only a short time before I first stepped outside.

I stopped by Castle Hill around 9am, and was not surprised that I didn’t find much bird activity. The leaves are mostly off the maples now.

It was a nice view from the top of the hill, and I did notice quite a few minute dots bouncing around on the cement in multiple locations. A closer look (closer than I can see with my bare eyes) revealed little yellow-orange globular springtails. I didn’t check many of them that close, so I can’t say for sure, but my guess is they were mostly similar. Perhaps next time I should attempt to verify this presumption a bit more.

Later in the morning after I was back home and into my work day, I noticed a layer of clouds overhead. It seemed to me that they had more formed in place, rather than moved in, and that caused me to wonder a bit about the way I see clouds. It’s easy to imagine they are cohesive structures, but time lapse videos I’ve seen pretty clearly indicate that many of them are in a state of constant formation, even when they appear to be reasonably static. I know that with changes in temperature or pressure, moisture will condense out of the air to form clouds, so I suppose in a way clouds in someway are like tracks in the atmosphere.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Wind and Late Rain

I was planning to stay at home doing catch up work until going to Moller Park for Ultimate at 4pm – which, this time of year, is after the sun has set.

Plans were changed when I received a text about a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Unfortunately, it was no longer around when I got to the location it had been seen, but I spent some time looking around the broader area.

Connor let me know there were a couple of Dunlin near the Turnaround, so I decided to stop by and check them out. There were 3-4 that spent the winter in that area last year, so I’m curious if these are two of the same birds. Some other locations in Southeast Alaska host a fair number of wintering Dunlin, but they are not found here most winters (or even in the fall migration).

There were gusty winds out of the East (or so it seemed to me) while I was out, and those persisted through the afternoon. We picked a more sheltered part of the field to play, but still had to deal with some strong gusts on occasion.

Later in the evening the gusts seemed especially strong at the house, and some rain had started to fall. I woke up overnight a couple of times to heavy rain hitting the roof.

By this morning, the winds had settled significantly and there were only periodic rain showers.

Later in the morning there was even a break in the clouds and some interesting looking light, though I didn’t have a chance to get out and check it out. By early afternoon it felt like sunset was coming a couple of hours early when some heavy clouds moved over.

My iNaturalist Observations for Yesterday

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Sitka Nature Show #172 – Gwen Baluss

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The November 25th show featured a conversation with Gwen Baluss. This was the 7th year Gwen has come to Sitka to band birds as part of the Sitka Winter Birds banding study. We spoke about highlights from this year’s banding efforts, as well as some of the things we’ve learned from this effort.

If you are in Sitka or elsewhere in Southeast Alaska and observe color banded Dark-eyed Juncos, Song Sparrows, or Chestnut-backed Chickadees, we would love to hear about it.

You can learn more about the project here.

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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Noisy Steller’s Jay

With a forecast for rain, and the radar showing heavy rain offshore that appeared to be moving towards town, and I have been feeling a little bit off (maybe fighting illness), it seemed like a good day to get caught up on email and other various tasks that I fell behind on back in September when trying to take advantage of the sunny weather (and didn’t catch up on in October or November because I spent too much time chasing rare birds).

This morning I heard a Steller’s Jay calling out in the yard (or somewhere nearby), and as that’s one of the species I hadn’t yet photographed and put into iNaturalist for the year, I went out to try and get pictures. It didn’t really cooperate for a nice portrait, but I fortunately it doesn’t take much for a Steller’s Jay picture to be identifiable. Since it wasn’t a good photo to start with, I decided to play around with the noise and sharpness to give it a different sort of feel.

Connor told me there was frost first thing this morning, but by the time I was up and about, clouds had rolled in more fully and the temperatures had warmed enough to melt the frost. Connor also told me he saw two Palm Warblers and a Wilson’s Warbler in the neighborhood – they’ve been around for several days at least (and the Wilson’s Warbler a couple of weeks, or so).

Rowan and I went to see a movie this afternoon, and were a little surprised that the rain still hadn’t started when we got out around 3:30pm. It did finally start raining a bit a little later, but it seems the heavy rain stayed offshore.

I did get my email inbox trimmed down to under 15 (which is where I like to keep it), and made good progress getting photos from the last quarter of 2013 into iNaturalist. (I’ve been working on getting all my photos which could reasonably serve as iNaturalist observations added to iNaturalist. I didn’t start using iNaturalist extensively until 2017, so most photos from 2017-2018 were added as I went. In the backlog going back to the 1990s I’ve completed everything up through 2012, and am almost done with 2013. I’m hoping to get through 2014-2016 this winter.)

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Indian River Valley

With sunshine in the forecast, it seemed like a good day to get out.

I considered going up a hill, but ultimately decided to head up Indian River valley with a replacement ibutton (temperature datalog). I bought my first batch of ibuttons and started deploying them about 10 years ago. The batteries are supposed to last about 10 years, so I suspect I’ll see a number of additional failures in the coming months.

Rowan and I started out after lunch, and with the sun now setting around 3:30pm, we kept a pretty good pace in order to minimize the chance of coming back in the dark.

I’ve fallen off the routine of getting up hills over the past month, with my outside primarily devoted to looking at and for rare birds instead. Fortunately, Indian River trail is relatively easy to travel, and I made it up to the first bridge without any trouble.

For the off trail portion, I opted to take us along well-worn trail (probably regularly used by hunters this fall) that ran along the west fork. Usually we go along the falls fork, but I was hoping to avoid some of the muddy sections getting into the muskeg, and thought there was a chance of finding a different way in.

Before we had gone too far up this way, I had Rowan go in front and asked her to lead me to the muskeg. She ended up taking us almost directly to our regular path in, but since I only needed to visit the muskeg ibutton, we took a variation that more easily allowed for moving around the edges of the mud holes.

Upon reaching the muskeg, my shoes were still relatively dry, so I opted to walk barefoot. It turned out the water in the muskeg was quite cold, and my feet became uncomfortably chilled while walking. However, as I’ve experienced previously, when I stopped, my feet would warm up (well – probably not actually get warm, but they didn’t feel uncomfortable anymore).

Deciding that stepping around the mud holes was too much effort, Rowan led us back yet another variation. This one had less mud but more brush. Walking barefoot, I would have preferred the mud, but I made it through mostly unscathed and put my shoes back on in the forest. (As it turned out, my shoes and feet ended up getting soaked later on, as a foot slipped off a root into a puddle on the trail, and catching myself with my other foot landed it in the water as well.)

With snow down to 2500 feet or so, I was curious to check the water temperatures in the falls fork and west fork. For the first time (I started measuring in the summer), the falls fork (42F) was cooler than the west fork (44F). The falls fork was down 10 degrees or so from the warmest I measured it last summer, and the west fork was only down about 1 degree from its summer temperature. If we get a cold snap, I’ll definitely want to head back up there again and see what the temperatures are.

On the way back, I wanted to stop by the bench in the bench muskeg. I reflected with Rowan on how much the muskeg in the immediate vicinity of the bench has become torn up and turned to mud. While people walking into the muskeg have no doubt contributed, my suspicion is it’s mostly due to dogs.

The air temperature up at the bridges had registered 39F, and I suspect it was similar at the bench muskeg, though I didn’t measure. I was interested to notice that ice was already forming on the boardwalk spur leading to the bridge. With the surface exposed to clear skies above, and the sun basically down, I guess it doesn’t take long for it to freeze, especially when the air temperature is getting down towards freezing.

This evening Rowan and I went downtown to checkout the fall gallery art walk. I didn’t think about the clear skies and the nearly full moon, but ended up wishing I had brought my camera and taken some time to get some photos of the moon coming up over Verstovia.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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