Delayed Storm

Late last week I finally got my primary computer back from being repaired and had a chance to start going through photos that I had accumulated in the 1+ month it was out of service. In the come weeks I’m intending to get many of them posted, but I suspect it will end up being a slow process. Still, it’s nice to be able to start working on getting back into a routine of processing photos and publishing posts again.

The forecast coming into today sounded a little grim, so it was a pleasant surprise to wake up and find partly cloudy skies. There was still hail and/or graupel left over from some overnight showers. We actually had a fair bit of lightning (for here) during the evening yesterday, I saw several flashes through the window to the ESE (maybe over Eastern Channel?), although I only heard thunder a couple of times, so I don’t think the strikes were especially close. There were periodic rain (sometimes with hail) showers, though mostly it seemed like they didn’t move over town too much. The showers, broken clouds, and low-angle sun made for some nice light. As I am writing this, the wind and rain have picked up, but I’m grateful for the reprieve.

I spent part of this afternoon looking for birds. I was hoping I might happen to catch sight of the Band-tailed Pigeon Connor has now seen twice. We had a little conversation after he neglected to let me know it was around on Sunday (only telling me about it Monday when he came over from his mom’s). He posted a picture on His two sightings this fall (possibly of the same bird) are the only records from Sitka. Band-tailed Pigeons nest in the southern part of the region on the mainland and inner islands, but are unusual elsewhere in Southeast Alaska. I had no luck finding this bird, but did see the Hooded Merganser that has been on Swan Lake recently as well as a Red-necked Grebe. Connor had mentioned seeing it there in recent days. It’s the first I remember seeing on the lake, though they’re not hard to find on salt water this time of year.

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Northern Waterthrush in Sitka


Rowan came in from her morning walk a bit earlier than I expected. She told me she had run back from by Sage Beach where she had seen a bird she did not recognize. Rowan’s not quite as excited about birds as Connor is, but even though she doesn’t always remember names, she is still pretty good at recognizing the usual birds around here, so I was curious about what she might have seen. I had a bit of work to finish up, so she grabbed her camera and headed back without me. When I got down to the sea walk between the science center and the park, I found her with her camera out looking intently in the bushes beside the trail.

The bird had still been there when she returned but had flown off. While we tried to find it again, she told me about it. She had first noticed it when she heard a chirp that caught her attention. She was able to see it in the bushes on the upland side of the trail. She described it as mostly brown with pale stripes above and below its eye. Before she could say much more, she caught sight of movement on the beach side of the trail and darted off in that direction. I saw quick movement through the bushes, but nothing that would have let me know there was anything other than one of the several Song Sparrows that winters in the bushes along the shoreline. Rowan was sure however, and a few moments later I did see a different looking bird pop up on top of a log before disappearing again.

I stayed on the trail and watched for it below. I got a brief but good look at it on the rocks below me. It did look unfamiliar to me. I was reminded of a pipit, though I was sure it wasn’t an American Pipit. I’m not sure about other species of pipits, but I tend to think of them as birds of open areas, and this bird was showing a strong preference for dense thickets. It bobbed it’s tail a bit, and gave a sharp call note as it flew off and disappeared. That was the last I saw of it for a little while.

After a few minutes of looking, I took a break to check a bird book and became convinced that what I had seen was a Northern Waterthrush. Before long, other folks showed up to look for the bird as well, but none of us were able to find it. After no success with the waterthrush, everyone other than Rowan and I headed off to go back to work (or get some lunch). I went to find Rowan (who had gone down towards). I found her down off the sidewalk with her camera out concentrating on the bushes in front of her. She had refound the bird by park entrance and was trying to get photos of it. Unfortunately, it flew across the street into a dense thicket of trees and shrubs, so she wasn’t successful in getting a picture (which frustrated her a bit), but at least we now knew where it was.

Over the next little while she and I both were able to watch it and were joined a couple of the other folks who were still in the area and came back to look as well. I was able to get a couple of pictures to document it (the first documented for Sitka – the only prior report I know of is from spring 2007 when one was seen but photographed along Indian River). I went back later this afternoon when the light was better in hopes of getting a better shot. I did find it again in the same area and was able to get another identifiable photo, though not really of the quality I might hope for. I heard that it was still in the area around 5pm this evening, so it seems this bird wasn’t inclined to wander very far (unlike some other vagrants that have shown up and promptly disappeared, never to be refound). I may look again tomorrow to see if it’s still around.

This evening I did a little further research, and it seems this bird is probably the latest record for Alaska. Last year a Northern Waterthrush was seen in Ketchikan on 21 October. That bird was reported to be the latest for the state by a couple of weeks. I was also interested to see that record was Ketchikan’s first for the species. Although considered Uncommon in Southeast Alaska, these birds are primarily found on the northern mainland, as best I can tell.


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Raven Radio Show #91 – Ashley Bolwerk

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The 18 October show featured a conversation with Ashley Bolwerk. Ashley recently took over as the aquarium manager at the Sitka Sound Science Center, and previously had worked as an education specialist there.

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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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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