Daily Observations

Snow on Trees

The end of the semester tends to be a busy time and this semester has been no exception. In addition to the normal end of the term tasks that need to be done, I decided it was time to put together a vascular plant list for the Sitka area. I have completed a first draft of it using the sources that I had, Native Plants of Southeast Alaska by Judy K. Hall, and Flora of Alaska and Neighboring Territories by Eric Hulten. Both of those sources are not too recent and there have been many lumps, splits, and shifting names in the mean time. Also, it was not always necessarily clear from either source whether a given plant was likely to occur in the greater Sitka area. It looks like there will be 420-480 species or so. It also appears that I already have pictures of more than half the species.

Tomorrow is the Christmas Bird Count. I signed up to do (roughly) the same route I have done the last couple of years. Unlike the past two years, it seems likely that there will be a fair amount of snow. I’m not sure how that will affect my travel time, so I’m going to try to get a pre-dawn start up the trail (though with the amount of sleep I’ve been getting, we’ll see if that actually happens).

Weather: Tuesday we went out to Starrigavan for a birding class birdwalk. I was interested to note how much cooler it was out there. On campus, the roads were wet, but out there the water had frozen into a glaze of ice. The parking lot at Old Sitka was quite slippery. Temperatures cooled off Wednesday and Thursday we had snow. It cleared up Thursday night and I got to see the northern lights on my way to the CBC organizational meeting. I was wishing I didn’t have tests to write so I could go out and take photos, but I guess that will have to wait. Today it was sunny for most of the day, but the clouds moved in late this afternoon and it snowed a bit.

Birds: The two swans were still at Starrigavan on Tuesday. They appear to be friendly birds. When we were on the road looking, they saw us and swam over below where we were standing. A little later I was with a student on Nelson Logging Road and they swam from the middle of the estuary over to us again. One of them even got up on the grass and took a couple of steps toward us. It makes me think they have been fed out there, or perhaps they nested in a populated area.

There was a fairly large flock of Redpolls at Starrigavan. Later they were joined by Pine Siskins. Both were feeding on the ground and in the trees.

On Wednesday, there was a large flock of crows that descended on the campus lawn and was foraging.

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