Today was the second annual Sheldon Jackson College Environmental Science Program trip to Point Brown. Last year, we went on 29 April and had weather that was a little cool and blustery. This year’s weather could hardly have been more different, with clear skies, warm temperatures, and only a light breeze. Once again, only a couple of us headed in the opposite direction from the bulk of the visitors, and made our way over to Port Krestof (in my case to look for birds). We walked around Port Krestof and then headed inland (the rising tide made prospects for passage along the beach damp, at best) up to a muskeg to look around for a bit before heading back to the Point Brown beach where the Allen Marine boat would be picking us up.
Weather: There was a bit of a swell coming in as we went around Makhnati Island. It was interesting to see large breaking waves as they swells washed over a submerged rock. Over on Kruzof, the breeze was a little bit cool, but the sun felt quite warm. There was still some snow in areas of partial shade, but there was not a lot of it.
I didn’t notice any alcids when we were on our way out. It was a little bumpy, but not bad, so I don’t think I would have missed them if there were many around. All I really noticed were gulls and Pelagic Cormorants.
Although there were nowhere near as many birds in Port Krestof as last year (we went at the time of the early peak of shorebird migration, but were too early this year) there were still quite a few waterfowl, gulls, and Greater Yellowlegs.
The highlight for me was at least two male Eurasian Wigeons (see photo below). They did not allow for much of an approach, but it was definitely clear what they were. Other birds included several Northern Pintails, a couple dozen Buffleheads, Goldeneyes, American Wigeons, a grebe (probably Horned), at least one Swan (with a second one flying over later), two Canada Geese, at least a couple of hundred gulls (we didn’t notice any out of the ordinary), Mallards, several Green-winged Teal, and at least 15 Greater Yellowlegs (probably many more, but 15 was the largest size of a single group). Up at the edge of the forest I saw a bird that may have been a warbler, but most likely it was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.
Flora: Near the falls coming in to Port Krestof, there were a few Fern-leaf Goldthread in bloom, the first of those I have seen this year. There was also a native buttercup blooming.
Up in the muskeg things were quite brown overall, but some things were starting to green up. We looked around a little bit for crowberry flowers, but did not find any (they are quite small and bloom quite early; the next day another group was able to find a patch of them in bloom).
One unexpected, though welcome (and tasty), treat was several Bog Cranberries and Lingonberries leftover from last fall.
Other Notes: The herring were spawning in the Magouns the last couple of days (according to AKF&G biologist Dave Gordon, who was headed out around the same time we were). There was herring spawn on the beach at Point Brown, but not in Port Krestof.
On the way out in the morning, we slowed down to look at a couple of Humpback Whales.
Several seals and sealions made their way through Port Krestof while we were there.