Golden-crowned Kinglet

Most years Golden-crowned Kinglets are common in the coniferous forests around Sitka. Despite their small size, they manage to find enough enough to keep warm through the long chilly nights of winter. During the day they often seem to forage in loose flocks with chickadees and Brown Creepers. Assuming you can hear the high pitched call notes they constantly make to stay in touch with each other, they are more often heard than seen. If you can’t hear those notes, you may had a hard time seeing them very much at all, as they are constantly on the move and often high up in the canopy. On a recent visit to Sage Beach, I felt fortunate to be able to able to watch and even grab a couple of pictures of some Golden-crowned Kinglets foraging on the spruces and hemlocks overlooking the shore.


  • How long do Golden-crowned Kinglets typically live?
  • Are local birds resident throughout the year, or do they come and go with the seasons, with different birds being present in the winter compared to the summer?
  • What are they finding on the trees?
  • How much do they need to eat each day to survive?

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An Assortment of Observations

My brother departed after a week-long visit yesterday. During the time he was here, my time was filled with newly restarted school routines and spending time with him. As a result I was not able to keep up with posting entries here. I have several photojournal posts to do which will (hopefully soon) be added (though backdated). In addition, there’s the ever increasing list of posts about various observations and/or mysteries that I find interesting or substantive enough to highlight by devoting a separate post to them. In any case, my intention is to get back into routine of daily posting going forward.

Wednesdays are looking like one of the less busy days of my week this Fall, with only the Tlingit class in the afternoon and ultimate (frisbee) in the evening as part of my regular schedule. This morning I went on a walk around Totem Park. On the way I noticed river bed just below the road bridge seemed distinctly different to me. I’ll try to find some reasonable photos from the past for comparison and write up a separate post on that later.

At the end of the walk, I spent some time with Connor and Rowan at Sage Beach. There was an interesting looking cloud in the distance above downtown. It seemed rather sculpted. We also had a chance to watch some Golden-crowned Kinglets foraging in the shore-side conifers. Several (4-5+) Song Sparrows were in the area, with some engaging in territorial behavior (or so it seemed to me). My current best guess is that things are still shaking out between the birds for winter territories. I also wonder if the day length has something to do with it, as the current day length is similar to when they are setting nesting territories in the spring. Perhaps there is a spike of hormones or something.

I heard a report of 50 or more small toads (probably just emerged after transforming out of tadpole stage) seen yesterday along Thimbleberry Lake trail. It sounded like they were in the same area Rowan had previously found toads. Rowan and Connor were interested in looking for them (especially Rowan), so we took a trip out there this afternoon. While Rowan and Connor were looking, I checked out some of the erosion features along the trail. It appeared that an impressive amount of water had flowed along some sections approaching the large hill up to the saddle. In some places it looked like the ditch alongside had mostly held the water, though there was significant erosion. It was interesting to see some of the different layers that had been eroded through. My impression was a lot of the underlying surface was either placed there when the trail was built, or was glacial till. I’m leaning towards the till. In another section where it was clear the water had simply flowed down the whole width of the trail, I tried to imagine what it had been like last Saturday when the water was moving all the rock and pushing down the vegetation as it moved down the slopes towards Thimbleberry Lake.

Rowan found 3 or 4 small toads and Connor another after a half an hour or so of looking. After I had taken photos (but the kids were still taking their’s), I waited along the trail and ended up speaking briefly with someone who was coming up with another person and a small child. One was carrying a bucket, and the other (who was carrying the child) asked me if I had seen any toads on the trail. I mentioned that while we hadn’t seen any on the trail, my kids had found some nearby. I had the impression he had heard about the toads being seen and they were looking to see some, so I suggested they check out where my kids were. He said it had been years since he had seen toads around, and he was glad they were starting to come back.

On a less local note, there was a report of a likely Black-headed Gull in Juneau today. They also had one back in May 2011.

Acting on a suggestion my brother made in one of our conversations while he was visiting, today the kids and I upgraded our routine of pre-meal gratitude by also included one (specific) thing we are grateful for about each of the others. Connor and Rowan both had a little trouble being specific, and were a little prone to the back-handed compliment sort of things (“I’m grateful [my sibling] isn’t always obnoxious”). Rowan especially had a bit of a hard time coming up with something to be thankful regarding Connor (which reminds me that she had a harder time when we first started pre-meal gratitude a year or two ago). I suspect with a little practice it will get easier.

(photos to come)

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Full Moon through the Clouds

It was a pretty full day between getting my brother off to the airport, various classes, and an extra webinar that I participated on. What time I spent outside was mostly going to or from various places. However, while walking home later this evening, I was struck by the full moon shining through a layer of clouds and grabbed some photos (using a nearby bench as support for the relatively long exposures). I’m not yet familiar enough with the cloud forms to say what these are called, though I think I recognize the pattern.

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Yard Song Sparrows

Although the banded Song Sparrow has been around for at least a week, today was the first time I managed to get pictures of it (coincidentally, it was last year on this date that I first saw and photographed the bird after that summer). Ordinarily the sparrow tends to stay mostly concealed in the brush pile or bushes, but today it was acting aggressive toward another bird that was in the yard. I think it was trying to chase the other (which I think was probably hatched this year) out of the yard.

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Thursday Birding

I spent the middle of the day out birding with a couple of folks off the cruise ship who had contacted me about going out. We spent most of our time out at Starrigavan, where they were happy to get good looks at a decent-sized mixed flock of Surfbirds and Black Turnstones. During out time out there we also saw some mixed flocks of small song birds including chickadees and two or three warbler species. Song Sparrows seem to have increased in numbers in the estuary (I saw or heard several), and there were a couple of Lincoln’s Sparrows that popped up to check us out. In the end it was not anything unusual for here, but for a couple of birders from Southern California, there was some novelty.

One thing that struck me was the appearance of the Surfbirds. Perhaps I’ve never really seen (or paid much attention) to them this early in the fall, but I was surprised at how mottled some of them looked. At first I thought maybe they were hatch year birds that were going out of their first plumage, but after I had a chance to check on those in the books, that made less sense. I now think they are adults, though I’m not sure why they don’t still have the rufous coloring in the remaining summer plumage (or at least I didn’t notice any in the ones I got decent looks at).

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End of Noctilucent Cloud Season

I saw on (a site I check daily) that this year’s northern hemisphere noctilucent cloud season is over. There was a somewhat hard to follow, but still interesting, animation of this season’s noctilucent clouds from a satellite view. Centered over the north pole, the extent of the cloud imagery (though not the underlying map) is cutoff a bit in the direction of Sitka on 15-16 July, the night I took these photos.

Although well within the range of latitudes where noctilucent clouds can be seen, this is only the second time I’ve seen them. The clouds are not always present and that, combined with the late setting (and early rising sun) making the possible viewing time later (or earlier) than I tend to be out as well as our frequent cloud cover, makes it a bit more difficult to catch them. (I did notice someone had posted pictures on Facebook earlier this summer after spending some late evening time up on Harbor Mountain and there were noctilucent clouds in the sky then. The time I went up, clouds conspired to keep the skies concealed.)

If you’re interested in knowing more about them, wikipedia has an interesting article on noctilucent clouds.


  • Have you ever seen noctilucent clouds? Where and when? (please leave comments, especially if you’ve seen them in Southeast Alaska)
  • How often are noctilucent clouds potentially visible (that is, they are in the sky) from Sitka?
  • Do they ever go across the sky here like some of the pictures from elsewhere show? (I’ve so far only seen them relatively low in the northwest)
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