Starrigavan Valley

While my dad was here for a short visit, I thought it would be interesting to go up to see the Starrigavan landslide with him. Overcast skies hung over the mountain tops, but we did not experience any significant rain while out.

There were relatively minor changes to the washed out section of ATV trail since the last time I had been out there. It seemed as though some sections had become more firmly established as channels than they had previously been, but overall it was pretty similar. Upon reaching the lower end of the big log pile, I stopped to record a Fox Sparrow that was singing from a branch on one of the partially upright alders. While there, I was interested to see how many little seedlings are growing up on and around the logs. Within a handful of years, it could be quite a thicket of young alders and other vegetation.

When I caught up with everyone where the trail goes into the washed out zone, I had paused to look at a nice orange-peel fungus when I heard Connor say something about a swift flying around with the Tree Swallows. When I asked him about it, he said it looked smaller and had a different wing-beat pattern, plus it was all dark. Based on past experience (down south), he thought it was a Vaux’s Swift. Vaux’s Swifts are uncommon in Southeast Alaska generally, but there are very few reports from the Sitka area. We were able to watch it fly loops around a handful of times, and even got a few pictures as it flew overhead. Before long, the birds had mostly moved down over the trees down-valley from us, and from that point we didn’t see the swift any more.

While we were watching for the swift, a pair of Tree Swallows perched on the battered roots of one of the logs that had washed down with the slide. It was interesting to see that they (or a different two) perched in the same location again later when we were on our way back. They were quite tolerant of Rowan and I going near them to take photos.

We did walk up to the base of the landslide to look around a bit. There is still does not seem to be much growing in the churned soil, though I wouldn’t be surprised if later this year there are many more seedlings. Most obvious growth in the washout zone below the slide was in places where it looks like roots and/or tops of plants had ended up near the surface and were able to regrow. This was especially noticeable around the bases of some of the stumps that withstood the debris flow in the valley bottom.

There were many small orange nodules that I think are the same thing I noticed before in churned landslide soil. I assume they are some sort of fungus, but I do not know for sure.

I had gotten Rowan to wear her boots for this hike (which she did not prefer to do), so she very pointedly made sure she didn’t get her feet wet all the way up. On the way back she waded in the water, but told me that next time I should let her wear her shoes instead.

(pictures to come)

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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