Odd Spruce Growth

Last year I noticed several new growths on the spruce tree in my yard where it appeared the tree couldn’t decide between regular branch growth or making a cone. I thought I had taken a picture, but I couldn’t find one, unfortunately. As winter has wound down, I noticed several spruce trees in my neighborhood with the ends of the branches looking dead. I wondered why, but didn’t look close until recently. I noticed that it seemed to be the strange looking ones from last year that had all not survived the winter. I’m still not sure what was going on with them.

Weather today was fairly wet. There were some fairly heavy showers, though from time to time the clouds broke up and there were glimpses of blue sky. The herring fishery has closed, and It sounded like there might be a bit of herring spawn starting today, but still not a lot.

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Scaups in the Channel

Today was a fairly full day of class and getting ready for class. This evening here was a talk about the Alexander Archipelago wolves. I thought it was interesting, and made arrangements to record a conversation with the speaker for a future radio show.

This morning I took some pictures of a flock of scaups near the ramp. It was mostly Greater Scuaups, but there were a couple of Lesser Scaups in with them. I took some pictures that show one of the Lesser Scaups (a male). Note that it appears smaller, the shape of the head is different, and the vermiculations on the back are coarser than on the male Greater Scaups.

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Song Sparrow Shenanigans

When I got up it was still partly clear, but the wind was picking up and there were dark clouds moving in. Later in the day there was some rain, but not as much as I would have expected, given the forecast and heavy clouds.

I walked by the corner of the northwest of Crescent Harbor a couple of times this morning and spent a few minutes each time watching Song Sparrow interactions. The first time two were up near the sidewalk, and it was sort of hard to tell what they were doing. One was sort of singing, but not a full loud song, while the other mostly didn’t seem to be singing. It was hard to be sure though, as they both tended to keep their bills mostly closed (especially the second one). It almost seemed like they might have been doing a little eating while they were there, but then there was some flapping about and a little bit of combat(?) as they flew up and down breast to breast. It seemed like a somewhat confrontational interaction, though not exceptionally aggressive (perhaps that’s just my impression as a much larger animal, and for Song Sparrows I suppose it could have been very aggressive). They flew between the rocks and the dock and back again. At one point one of them was actually sort of hovering in flight over the other (not a typical Song Sparrow flight pattern in my observation).

When I came by a bit later in the morning, I noticed a third bird. I am guessing this one was a female, as the other two were doing most of the interaction and she(?) was mostly going about her business while mostly seeming to ignore the other two. From time to time one of those two would come and seem to sing to her and then perhaps chase after the other one.

It was sort of hard to describe all that was going on with the birds. Had it not been so windy, I probably would have tried to photograph and/or get some video of what was going on, but it would have been a challenge to capture since they were moving around quite a bit.

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American Tree Sparrow

Another frosty morning and warm sunny day with calm winds, though this could be the last for a while, as clouds are forecast to move in tonight with rain tomorrow.

After class this morning I spent some time over at old airport road. While there I heard and saw the Ruby-crowned Kinglet again, but this time I also saw an American Tree Sparrow. I think it may have been singing, though it wasn’t really a very full-throated song. There was too much noise to record it, then when it was quieter later, the bird was no longer singing.

I forgot to mention yesterday that it looked like there was pollen in the air. I’m not sure if the alders are putting out pollen yet, though I imagine they might be getting close. I have seen willow blooming down the street, so perhaps it was contributing some.

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Spring Insects

Another frosty morning followed by a warm (for the season) sunny day. Connor had an appointment this morning and afterwards he and I stopped by the old airport road to look around for a bit. I briefly saw the Horned Lark and American Pipit that have been around for much of the winter. I did not see the Mountain Bluebird. It’s been a while since I heard any reports of it, so perhaps it has moved on (in one way or the other). Also of note was a singing Ruby-crowned Kinglet. There have been periodic repors of at least one of these throughout the winter, so it’s not cleaer whether this is a newly arrived migrant or an over-wintering bird who is now starting to sing. This afternoon there were at least a couple of dozen American Robins (that I’m guessing are newly arrived migrants) foraging on the ground among the alders between the DOT buildings on Charcoal Island and Mermaid Cove.

This evening I went to a talk about herring fisheries and food culture in Japan. It was pretty interesting. One sobering bit of information was hthe record of herring catches over the past 140 or so years. Even the abundant years of the 1960s had catches that paled in comparison to the late 1800s (when most of the herring was rendered into oil and fish meal which was used for fertilizer).

The moth photos from today are of the ones caught yesterday, as well as one that showed up in the house a couple of days ago. The insect larva was crawling down an alder near old airport road. I suspect it may have been things like it that the chickadees and the kinglet may have been finding and eating as they foraged through the trees and brush.

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Sunny Sunday

It dawned with clear skies this morning. The lack of clouds overnight led to a decent amount of frost, although I don’t think the official temperature dropped below freezing. Once the sun was up, it didn’t take long for the frost to melt off. I’m not sure what the official high ended up being, but I noticed it was at least up to 50F. Winds were down from yesterday, but picked up a bit out of the east as the day went on. They dropped again after sunset.

I got reports of a bunch of robins, so I’m guessing a bunch moved in overnight. Looks like there’s some activity on the radar this evening. I’ll have to check prior years to see if this is early (and I got my radar scripts working again, so will have the archive getting saved going forward).

I was invited to dinner with some folks this evening, and while there saw a couple of moths attracted to the window. They’re the first I’ve seen this year (and it seems a bit early perhaps, though given the warm winter, not really surprising). One was a Tortricid I think, the other may have been an American Angle Shades (Euplexia benesimilis), but I’m not sure.

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