Though it was overcast, temperatures were pleasant and I was able to take advantage and go for a couple of short walks during the day. I noticed several plants that have grown up a fair amount, seemingly overnight. I think it is more the case that it had just been a couple of days since I walked by these south facing locations.
Weather: Skies were overcast or mostly cloudy throughout the day. Holes in the overcast created some nice light on Mt. Edgecumbe in the afternoon. By the evening, the breaks in the clouds lined up right with the setting sun and we were treated to some warm evening sunshine on the hill. Winds were out of the east. At the park there was a distinct increase in wind as you went around the point and got out of the wind shadow caused by the trees. On the estuary side it was a pretty stiff breeze. Temperatures got up into the 50’s.
Birds: On my first morning walk, the tide was up. I noticed a group of about six Common Mergansers resting on one of the smaller parts of Sage Rock. I decided to try stalking up to get a close picture of them (figuring that the larger rocks would shield me from view, but I was not able to take the best route due to the depth of the water and one of them noticed me before I was very close. Later I wondered if they were hauled out on Sage Rock because it was lest windy than over in the Estuary (where I normally see them).
When I got to Totem Park, I started walking down on the beach and noticed a rock moving away from me. It only took a moment to realize that it was a bird on the rocks that was moving away from me. It looked to me like a plover, maybe a Killdeer. I have not previously seen Killdeer in Sitka (though they are fairly common in places I have been down south). It seemed distinctly reluctant to have me be too close, but it did not fly away. If I was too close for comfort, it would bob its head up and down and walk away. Sometimes it would make a peeping sound as it moved. I had previously had success belly crawling toward shorebirds to get close to them, so I decided to try that with this one. Despite my efforts at subtlety, it paid attention to where I was and maintained a constant distance. It finally tired of me and made a short flight across the beach.
After I got back from my walk, I was able to verify that it was a Killdeer. One of the knowledgable local birders told me that Killdeer are reported every couple of years, but probably show up each year. Given the behavior I described, she said this one probably just flew in on migration and was trying to get some rest. On the second walk I went on later in the day with Melissa and the kids, the bird was still on the beach acting similarly to what I had observed in the morning. After accidentally flushing it, we tried to leave it alone so it could rest.
After seeing so many gulls yesterday down at the mouth of the river, I expected there to be a few today as well. There were quite a few of them flying by the beach by the Visitor’s Center, but when I got down around the point, there were no gulls in the morning. On the afternoon walk, there were just a few. Perhaps they preferred to find places that were less windy.
There was an Eagle collecting sticks at the park. I also saw an eagle on a gravel bar in the river not too far up from the estuary.
The Winter Wren in back lost one of his favored singing perches today when the burn pile was burned. I heard him singing later in the day though, so he seems undeterred from the territory.
I heard from a couple of different people that the Ruby-crowned Kinglets are back and have started to sing, but so far I have not heard or seen any.
Flora: Along Lincoln Street the sour dock is showing leaves that are pretty good sized and the cow parsnip has also grown a fair bit. I did not remember seeing either of these getting started the last time I was down that way, so I think the warm weather and longer days have convinced them it is spring.
Many mosses seem to be showing sporophytes. Some of them are brightly colored. Hopefully I will get a chance to get out and take some pictures before they completely mature and dry up.
Other Notes: I saw the first bumblebees I have seen this year. I saw one this morning and a couple of others in the afternoon. All of them were on crocuses (which, along with a few other assorted flowerbed flowers and some blueberries seem to be the only things blooming around here right now). The ones in the afternoon were moving very slow, I think it must have cooled off enough to keep them from flying.