Windy Day

Today’s gusty winds didn’t hit town evenly. It was breezy with some intermittent gusts here at the house, but when I went out to sandy beach and SeaMart, it was interesting to see relatively calm water, with minimal swell making only small waves coming into the beach. I did notice cats paws blowing across the surface in places, but the rougher waters were clearly further out. From the bridge it appeared there was much more wave action in Crescent Bay, with even more out towards Eastern Channel.

My dad is in town and he went cranberry picking with the kids. They had some success as they picked nearly a gallon in a morning and afternoon trip.

Tomorrow the dock construction projects starts driving new piles (previously it’s just been removing of old ones), so I will start the boat-based part of my observation work. It will be interesting to see if I can wear enough clothes to stay warm for the multiple hours out on an open skiff. Hopefully conditions are calmer than they were today.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Termination Dust

Today offered a brief interlude between rains, with clouds breaking up this morning and partly cloudy skies prevailing.

While checking things out over by the airport after a meeting downtown this morning, I noticed a little bit of fresh snow showing Bear Mountain through a brief break in the clouds. It was hard to say for sure, but I suspect the snow level had dropped to 3500 feet or so. This is the first termination dust I’ve noticed so far this year. It seems a little bit late for that (often I first see it the last week of September), but it’s possible I missed some short-lived new snow previously.

Later this evening just after the sun set, the clouds finally started clearing away from the mountain peaks. The apparent snow line was higher by this time, but it was still nice to see the fresh snow on the rocky ridges.

On a related note, there hasn’t been much clear weather for getting good shots to update my mountain snow minimum photos, so I’m not sure I’ll get any of those this year.

This evening I decided to check where the sun was setting from the bridge. It’s getting close to the time of year when I like to watch for the green flash. There was a bank of clouds on the horizon today, but the sun would have set behind south Kruzof Island anyway. I can’t remember exactly when the sun should start setting far enough to the south to see it drop below the horizon from the bridge, but I’m pretty sure it will be within the next couple of weeks (weather permitting).

There was a report of a White-throated Sparrow over at SEARHC today. First I’ve heard of this fall.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Heavy Clouds and Showers

Last night I woke up a couple of different times to the sound of heavy rain showers. I think they were mostly short-lived, but they were quite loud.

I spent most of the day inside getting some work done, but did make a trip out to the industrial park to take care of some paperwork for a job as a marine mammal observer. I’ll be keeping an eye out while they’re doing the pile driving for a new dock out there. It will be interesting to see what turns up while watching the waters in Silver Bay for hours at a time.

As the weather has turned with the season, I’ve slowed down on the big year project. I’m still hoping to make it to 1200 (identified to) species for the year, but at just under 1050, that will take some concerted effort with intertidal organisms and or bryophytes and lichens. 1200 total unique taxa is much more achievable, as I’m currently at 1150+.

More generally, I was happy to see the 10th person make it to 100 different species for the year, and we’re up to over 1500 unique taxa (approaching 1400 identified to species) with 58 people contributing observations to the project. I think it’s been a reasonable success.

I took a brief walk late this afternoon in the fading light too see if any different birds might show up (with some small hope of maybe finding the House Finch reported yesterday). No luck, though.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

I’m curious about the breakdown of the leaves – are the brown spots from the leaf dying on its own, or where opportunistic fungi come in as the leaf senesces?

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Fall Weather

It wasn’t full on fall storm, but at various points during the day, the rain fell hard and it was quite blustery. Temperatures are still holding in the 50s, but I suspect that will end soon. As of a couple of days ago, termination dust had yet to arrive, but heavy clouds obscured the mountaintops today.

A couple of years ago I noticed the large shore pine tree in the yard had many yellow needles. I wasn’t sure at first what was going on, but before long figured out they were the prior year’s needles that were dying. I had intended to take a picture, but before I got around to it, we had a good blow and almost all the yellow needles came off. A few days ago I noticed the yellowed needles again, and this time managed to get a couple of documentary photos. Conditions weren’t optimal, as the wind was blowing and heavy clouds made for a dim day, but I didn’t want to miss again, so got what I could.

There were still White-speck moths (Mythimna unipuncta) on the exterior wall near the light. I don’t remember ever seeing them before, but they seem common enough this year. I did a little reading about them and learned they do migrate, and can have population booms at times. They eat grasses as caterpillars, and can be crop pests in some locations (but that’s not so much of an issue here). As far as I can tell, the first record of this species in the state was just last year in Wrangell, so it’s interesting that they are so common here this year. Time will tell if they are a one-year-wonder, or if they will become an established part of our moth fauna.

There was a report on ebird of a House Finch not far from where I live. No photos or recording, but it was reported by an experienced observer to be singing with the song matching the recording on an app. As far as I know, this is the first report for Sitka.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Afternoon Walks on Sunny Fall Days

Yesterday morning Connor texted me from the park to let me know he had found a Warbling Vireo. It’s a bird I have heard a couple of times, but never had a good look at (though Connor had previously found and photographed one in the park).

I was on a call for work, but thanks to the miracle of wireless communication and blue tooth headsets, I was able to bike down to see if I could get a look at it while remaining on the call.

I arrived to see Connor standing out on the beach, and asked if he still knew where the bird was. He pointed up to three small birds flying over towards Jamestown Bay. One looped back towards the park, and he told me that it was the Warbling Vireo.

It disappeared behind the trees, and Connor continued on and said he would let me know if he saw it in the direction it had flown, while I decided to wait for a few minutes to see if it might come back around to the side where he had mostly observed it.

I didn’t have much time, but it was a pleasant morning with warm sun shining on the tide flats. I did not see the bird again, though as bad as the view was (and I’m taking Connor’s word that what I saw was a Warbling Vireo at all), it was still a better view than my previous one. Unfortunately I heard no distinctive song or call, a recording of which allowed me to identify the other Warbling Vireo I observed in Sitka.

With more time and pleasant weather, I decided to go back down to the park with Rowan to spend some time this afternoon.

Rowan showed me a dead sea otter she had found washed ashore. It had no obvious (to me) signs of trama, so I’m not sure what the cause of death was.

We spent a little while sitting on some of the older strand logs in an area they’ve been clearing out to open things up. While watching and listening, things were pretty quite for song birds (the gulls were plenty vocal down on the beach, however). We did notice a couple of Brown Creepers, uncertainly at first as they were calling to each other while moving through the stand of alders. Eventually they reached a tree within our sight, and first one, then the other hopped its way up the whiteish-gray trunk.


Today was forecast to be the warmest of the week, with clouds and rain expected to return tomorrow.

Connor and Rowan had a simultaneous appointment with the dentist which took up much of the morning. So after a quick stop by the channel to check gulls, we went home for lunch.

I had been invited to go along on a hike with a visiting group from Exeter University in the UK. I’ve gone on similar walks previously, but this was the largest group by a good margin.

Our route took us up from Baranof Street to the cross trail, which we followed down to Indian River trail. We went up Indian River trail nearly to the muskeg before cutting down to the river at the place which, nearly 20 years ago used to be called (by some) ‘the nets’.

It was interesting to visit with some of them and share a bit of what I’ve learned about Sitka. It was also a very nice day to be out for a walk.

My iNaturalist Observations for Yesterday

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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Western Tanager (only five tries needed)

This morning I was interested to get a text from Ryan C. about a bird that sounded suspiciously like a Western Tanager (he didn’t have binoculars to be certain). After multiple previous attempts to get a look at (and picture of) Western Tanagers over the years, I was hopeful maybe this one would be cooperative.

After a short ride down to Kelly Street (not far from Totem Park), I started watching for the bird. Lincoln Street has been under construction from Jeff Davis to nearly the park for much of the summer, though the work is nearing completion. Mike B. was working as a flagger for the construction work near where the bird had been seen, so I asked him about it. He hadn’t noticed it, but said he would keep an eye out for it.

I started up Kelly Street and caught sight of a yellow bird flying up and back to some brush like a flycatcher. A couple minutes later, it flew up and perched on a utility wire where I was able to get some photos before it flew across Lincoln Street.

As I started back across Lincoln Street (after sending a text about the bird to a couple of people), Mike got my attention and pointed out where the bird was in the branches above the seawalk. I was able to get additional photos of it there.

I had work to do, so couldn’t stay long, but before I left, I almost got hit by the ends of hemlock branches being trimmed by a squirrel right above the seawalk. I looked up and could see the squirrel looking right down at me as a short section of branch dropped right beside me. It would have been difficult to get a picture, but the image of the squirrel was peering down from the end of the trimmed branch as the removed part fell was amusing to me.

Later in the day, Connor texted me about a Pacific-slope Flycatcher behind the Hames Gym. I had basically given up on photographing one of those for the big year project, so I was happy to find Connor watching it sitting very cooperatively in an alder tree when I arrived. It stayed long enough for me to get a couple of photos before taking off.

Weather today was mostly sunny and fairly warm, but even during the middle of the day, it still had the feel of fall. I’m not sure what exactly conveys that, but I suspect it has to do with the lower angle of the sun, but perhaps it’s more than just that.

This was at least my fifth attempt to see a Western Tanager here over the past 10-12 years, with all the other reports of birds that either were not refound, or never were around when I was looking for them. I was grateful to have this one be so cooperative on such a pleasant day to be out.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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