Starrigavan Estuary

After the steadier rain of Wednesday, Thursday’s pattern shifted to more showery conditions. As the day went on, the sun broke through a few times, but the trade off was especially heavy showers at times. This lasted into the night, and the snow level dropped to around 2000 feet.

This morning it was mostly cloudy with larger patches of blue sky. Yesterday’s heavy showers were absent, and by late after noon it seemed pleasant (if a little chilly).

I spent much of the day inside (at least somewhat productively), and this evening decided to take a walk around Starrigavan Estuary before heading to the store.

It was fairly quiet at the estuary, though we did hear and see two Greater Yellowlegs, the first I’ve seen this spring (though others have reported them).

I’m not a big fan of how much trimming they’ve done along the Estuary Life Trail. Apparently someone decided the full estuary should be viewable from most of the boardwalk, and shrubs, branches, and trees were all cut way back. This started last fall and seemed to have a negative effect on the wintering bird habitat. They’ve also removed a lot of vegetation from places I’m pretty sure birds have nested previously. More personally, I also preferred the feeling of isolation at the benches where you could look out over part of the estuary, but other walkers on the boardwalk were less visible (and less able to see you) while you were sitting. Now most of the benches are right out in the open, and I have less feeling of solitude.

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Rainy Beaver Lake Loop

I woke this morning to the sound of wet weather – rain drops on the roof, and cars driving on wet roads.

Rain continued through much of the day – with the forecast for more to come into the weekend. It’s been fairly dry here this year (at least by Southeast Alaska standards), so it’s not a bad thing to get some moisture.

Snow levels were down around 2200 feet this morning, but had risen a bit as the day went on.

There was still some ice left on Beaver Lake, and little Beaver Lake was mostly covered, but we Rowan and I didn’t run into any snow on the trail.

I was a little surprised to notice Fern-leaf Goldthread blooming close to the lake shore near where the stones are placed in the water for the trail. On the way down I noticed more of the in the forest, though I was less surprised to see those.

Herring Cove Trail and the Beaver Lake loop seem to have held up well over the fall and winter seasons. No trees downed over the trail, nor any significant erosion.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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A Break from Sunny Days?

Another sunny day with sea breezes during the day. At least I’m guessing it was sea breezes. Tthe overall wind pattern for the broader area showed light winds, and the day started calm (with frost on the ground), but wind picked up in the area around where I live during the day before dying back in the evening.

This morning I went by Swan Lake – didn’t see any migrants other than scaups and a Bufflehead on the water (plenty of Mallards).

I spent some time sitting outside my door enjoying the sun and listening to birds (mostly siskins and juncos). Lately it seems like there is a Fox Sparrow singing for an extended amount of time in the earlier part of the morning (I can hear it from my bedroom), but I’ve not heard it at all later in the day.

There was an e-bird report of Townsend’s Warbers today – this seems a bit early, as I normally expect them the last week of the month.

There’s a certain almost metallic look the clouds get sometimes – usually when the sun has mostly disappeared behind overcast, but some cumulus clouds are still around. I’m not sure if metallic is the best way to describe the color/feel, but it does seem distinctive. There was a little bit of that in the clouds this evening when I went to the grocery store and took the picture for today’s post.

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Starrigavan Loop

This Sunday’s outing was a walk of the Starrigavan Recreation area foot trails.

Starting from Old Sitka parking lot, we walked the Ben Grussendorf (Forest and Muskeg) trail, around the Estuary Life Trail, and then the Mosquito Cove look.

All in it was about 3.7 miles.

Weather was sunny and pleasant, though the breeze was cool. Fortunately, most of the time we were out of the breeze and able to enjoy the warmth of the sun.

It seems like every year the muskegs take longer to green up than I expect – you would think that after 15 years of this, my expectations would have shifted.

At least these days I’m not surprised by it, but spring is slower to arrive. I am uncertain why this might be the case, but perhaps it is due to saturated soils taking longer to warm up and no canopy cover to reduce radiation cooling on clear nights.

Another curiosity I have about the muskegs is how the shore pines grow in the kind of umbrella shapes. In higher productivity sites, they don’t really grow this way.

Along the estuary trail a Hairy Woodpecker flew close and worked its way up an alder tree, but I didn’t spot the Red-tailed Hawk that’s been reported out there by multiple people recently (one person reported seeing one carrying nesting materials).

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Afternoon Sprinkles

It’s been remarkably nice spring weather the past few days, with plenty of sunshine and reasonably warm temperatures (in both cases by Sitka standards, at least), but today started overcast, and the clouds thickened until it started raining a bit this afternoon.

Rowan and I went up Verstovia for the third time this week. We didn’t set out for speed, but I kept a reasonable pace for over half the way, and we had a chance to make a good time. I was feeling good until the bottom of the Verstovia stairs about two thirds of the way to the 800 ft viewpoint. It was here where Rowan passed me up.

Despite the strong start, I started feeling a bit light headed and felt compelled to stop to catch my breath briefly at several points along the way. Fortunately for me, Rowan pushed on and made it under her prior best (or pretty close – I couldn’t say for sure, since I wasn’t there). It took me another couple of minutes to make it.

I was interested to notice that only a couple of mosquitoes were flying around while we were taking a break at the viewpoint. On prior outings there have been many more. It wasn’t especially windy there, so perhaps they just didn’t care for the cooler temperatures.

I didn’t pause to look for the fern-leaf goldthread flowers today, but a few stream violets were blooming at the start of the trail.

Rufous Hummingbird reports have begun to come in the past day or two, but I’ve not managed to see one yet.

A Greater Yellowlegs reported at Eagle Way Beach was the first I know of seen in town this spring.

Rowan told me she had to push through some discomfort to get there, but she seemed happy to have made it and actually gave me a thumbs up.

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Questions About Verstovia Mosquitoes

On this relatively warm and sunny day I decided it was time to go for the second (1200ft) viewpoint on Verstovia Trail for the first time this year.

Distance wise, the second viewpoint is well over halfway to picnic rock, but it just under the halfway point elevation-wise.

We made steady progress up past the first viewpoint, but then Rowan’s mouth and throat started drying out. She stopped several times between the 1000 ft marker and the second viewpoint. Stops were brief – if I didn’t get her started again, the mosquitoes did.

There was just a bit of snow on the trail at the beginning of the clearing that leads up to the viewpoint, most of it was packed on the trail, but there was also a little bit off to the side.

The view was good, and the warm sun was pretty nice, but the mosquitoes were not so welcome, and Rowan was ready to start back down again shortly after arriving. She gave me a sour look when I asked to take her picture, and this outing got a thumbs trending down rating.

Rowan’s mouth was still quite dry, so I grabbed some of the snow that was off the trail and she ate that over the next few minutes. This seemed to improve her outlook significantly, and she resolved to bring some water the next time.

I’m still curious about the mosquitoes in the forest. I’ve definitely noticed them in the early season before, but I don’t remember noticing them during summer hikes in the mountain slope forest. Do they just have generation per year, with adults overwintering? I think mosquitoes generally need standing water to reproduce, and don’t tend to be strong fliers – where are they finding the water? Maybe they don’t need much and here is enough in nooks of trees?

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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