Mt. Verstovia

View from Mt. Verstovia

I had been asked to work today, but it was Jonathan’s last full day in town, so I told them I would only do tours if he could come along. We went in this morning to find out that one of the charters that had originally been scheduled was canceled, so I was not actually needed after all. After going back home and getting a little more sleep, we headed out for the trailhead around 10am.

The day started quite sunny, but by the time we started up the trail, clouds were appearing around some of the mountain peaks. We took our time going up the trail, and by the time we reached the second view point, a layer of overcast had started to develop over Baranof Island. When we reached Picnic Rock, the overcast had begun to extend out over Sitka Sound. One interesting thing about the overcast was the distinct difference it made in the color of the ocean. Underneath the overcast, the ocean was gray, while further offshore under the blue skies, the ocean was deep blue. This effect is visible in the photo at the top of this entry.

Butterfly

Just after we sat down on Picnic Rock to eat some lunch, I noticed a butterfly that looked unfamiliar to me. I was able to approach it and get some photos. I think it is a Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui). This species is unable to winter in cold areas, so this individual almost certainly flew in and seems unlikely to find a breeding partner around Sitka. Close inspection of the photos revealed its wings suffered some damage. Perhaps it was attacked by a predator or it may have just been the long flight.

After eating lunch, Jonathan and I walked down the north ridge. I was hoping to see some ptarmigan, but there were none in evidence as we made our way down. Much of the ridge was quite wet from recent rain. There was no snow remaining, but it is possible that the last of it melted only recently. Many flowers were blooming including butterworts, sitka valerian, alaska mountain heather, yellow mountain heather, white mountain heather, daisies, alpine azalea, northern star flowers, red paint brush, caltha-leaf avens, louseworts (I’m not sure what species), and shooting stars.

Along the way I heard a pair of juncos calling and went to check it out. The one I got a good look at had a beak full of caterpillars. I assume they were to feed young juncos in a nearby nest.

We left the ridge to go down into the meadow in the flats below Peak 2550 and the main peak of Verstovia. I was thinking there might be some different kinds of saxifrage blooming, but that did not turn out to be the case.

In the meadow at the bottom of the bowl there were at least the following flowers in bloom:
coltsfoot
mitrewort
orchids
shooting stars
brooklime(?)
willowherbs
marsh marigold

There were a couple of Hairy Woodpeckers flying around the bowl area. On the way out of the bowl I saw a couple of juvenile Dark-eyed Juncos.

Just below Picnic Rock, we saw a family of Willow Ptarmigan right beside the trail. There were a couple of chicks that couldn’t fly, so the birds didn’t go too far. They actually did not seem very worried about us at all, so we were able to take some pictures.

We were having people over for my birthday, and I needed to get home to make pizza, so I packed up my stuff, left my tripod with Jonathan and ran down the hill. It took me about 30 minutes to get back to my bike. I was wearing sandals and did not notice that my knees were bothered going down.

About matt goff

I am an aspiring naturalist who seeks to learn all that I can about the more-than-human aspects of this place that is my home.
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